Conferring with students about their reading is one of my favorite parts of the day. Over the years, my reading conferences have definitely evolved, but I’m always looking for ways to improve them. Just before school got out, I finished reading Jen Serravallo’s book, A Teacher’s Guide to Reading Conferences. I am looking forward to applying her strategies to help me take my conferences to the next level.
When it comes to effectiveness and efficiency for reading conferences in my classroom, preparedness is key. The more prepared I am, the smoother the conferences run. I am certainly not perfect when it comes to planning, but this sheet I made several years ago (and adapted many times since) has been a huge help. The schedule is not written in stone, but I like to make sure I have a plan to see everyone at least once a week in a small group or individual conference. Twice would be ideal, but many times, that’s just not possible. The small group section might be a guided reading group or a strategy group.
If you are interested in using this planning sheet, you can download a completely editable version here. You can fill it in digitally or print it out to use.
Collecting Data to Make Decisions on Conference Topics
Jennifer Serravallo suggests looking at formal assessments, engagement inventories and reading logs to make decisions on topics for conferences.
Formal Assessments – Our district uses the Fountas and Pinnel Benchmark System. This assessment provides detailed information on students’ strengths and weaknesses related to decoding, fluency, and comprehension. I have found this to be a great place to get started! If your district does not provide an assessment, you could use running records, and/or a reading inventory to complete what Serravallo refers to as an Assessment Conference.
Engagement Inventory – I first heard about Engagement Inventories when I read one of Jennifer Seravallo’s other books, The Literacy Teacher’s Playbook. Engagement Inventories are a great way to see who is really on task during reading workshop. I went into detail about engagement inventories on a previous post. You can read more about them here. For the past two years, our awesome instructional coach has come into my classroom and completed this for me while I was working with individuals on Benchmarks. I prioritize students that we flag as being disengaged during reading workshop time. It is important to make sure these students have just right books that they love. It is equally important that they have strategies to help them stay on task (written reminders, reading buddy, timer, stretch break, stop and jot/sketch). These strategies are the focus of our conferences. Staying on task during workshop time is absolutely essential, so I check in with these students frequently, especially in the beginning of the year.
Reading Logs – Reading logs are a tool that I would like to utilize more before and during conferences. This year, I revised my reading log, and I like it a lot better. The key is for students to get into the habit of setting goals and recording their reading every day. Consistency with this is one of my goals for next year. I plan to use reading logs to help monitor and design conferences around choosing just right books, engagement, reading speed, finishing books, and trying to prevent “book hopping”.
You can click here if you would like a copy of my reading log (shown below).
Students have two options for filling out the log. If they choose to read a chapter book, they write the title (abbreviations are fine), and their goal will be how many pages they think they can read in a given amount of time. At the end of reading workshop, they record the actual pages read. If students are reading shorter books, they record the level of the books they are reading, a goal of how many books to complete, and they place a tally mark as they finish each book. Finally, all students complete the check in for whether or not they met their goal. In the beginning, I do need to monitor this closely, but students get the hang of it pretty quickly.
Formative Assessments – In addition to all the information listed above, I also use a variety of formative assessments to guide my conference schedule. I view graphic organizers, lesson participation, and listening in to “turn and talks” as valuable tools to help with goal setting. I create many goals for conferences related to comprehension using these tools.
My goal for next year is to continue improving on incorporating all of these tools to get a clear picture of each student’s strengths and appropriate goals. Next week, I am looking forward to sharing some different types of conferences and how I incorporate them in my classroom.
For more on reading conferences, click on the links below