Last week, I shared some of the ways I prepare for reading conferences. You can check that post out by clicking here. This week, I’d like to continue talking about reading conferences. This time, I am focusing on resources I use to track conferences as well as different purposes for conducting reading conferences.
Many of the ideas I am sharing today are adapted from Jennifer Serravallo’s book, A Teacher’s Guide to Reading Conferences. You will find me referencing this book often and sharing my twist on her ideas. I can not recommend this book enough, especially if conferring with readers is one of your professional goals.
It is important to make sure you reach all students in your conferences. In order to track the dates I see students, I use an app called Confer. Unfortunately, this app is no longer available. However there is an app called Reading Conferences, which looks like it may be even better. (Although I can’t say for sure because I am sticking with what I have for now.) You can check out that app here.
If apps aren’t your preferred way to track your conferences, you can use a planning sheet. You simply add your students’ names in the first column, and then write the date every time you meet with them. I tracked conferences this way for years. I created a fully editable tracking sheet that you can download by clicking here or on the picture below.
Once you’ve decided who you need to meet with and what you need to meet about (last post), it’s time to decide the type of conference that would work best. Serravallo goes into great detail about different types of conferences, and she provides great printable resources for each. Below, you will find a basic definition and how I integrate the different types of conferences into reading workshop.
“An Assessment Conference offers you a little time to study a reader along a number of different dimensions, considering a variety of possible goals.” – Jennifer Seravallo, p. 15
There are many ways you can assess young readers. Our district uses the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark assessment. In addition, I always ask students some general questions to find out what types of books they like and whether or not they enjoy reading/listening to reading. If you want a more formal inventory, I found a couple of good free ones. Click here for one geared toward younger students, here for one that’s more suitable for intermediate grades, and here for one that is suitable across ages. If your district does not use a formal assessment program, running records are a great option. The idea is to make a decision on what goal will move the students forward as readers.
I conduct an assessment conference with all students at the beginning of the year. At mid-year, I conduct another one for any student who I need to progress-monitor in one or more areas. Otherwise, they are conducted on an “as needed” basis – mainly if a student is progressing faster or slower than expected, or if they are showing some inconsistencies. I want to make sure students always have “just right” books on hand for independent reading.
The purpose of a Goal-Setting Conference is to work with students to create an appropriate goal to move them forward with their reading. I do believe that the more the student is involved in choosing the goal, the more meaningful it will be, and the more likely they will be to achieve the goal. Having a goal setting conference will help make the students more invested and accountable to reach their goals. Having said that, one of my goals is to resist the urge to tell students what I’ve noticed and what I think their goal should be. Next year, I will be more intentional about scheduling this type of conference. I will still make sure the goal is what is most appropriate, but my role in this type of conference will be more of a guide.
The point of a Compliment Conference is to name a strategy that the student is already doing to move forward with their reading. The idea is to state the strategy, explain why it is helpful, and tell the student when you noticed them applying the strategy to their reading. This is my favorite type of conference. I love seeing the students’ faces light up when they hear a genuine compliment. Because these conferences are usually quick, I like to do one with everyone within the first couple of days of reading workshop. I use the data as a means to move the students forward by building on what they can already do as a reader. Plus, it is a great way to build rapport with your students.
When conducting this type of conference, Serravallo recommends keeping two questions in mind as you meet with each student. “What is the student doing, and what is the next step?” Use what you already know to be a strength for the students as well as what you discussed the the Goal-Setting Conference and decide how to proceed. Start off by listening to the student read, asking them for a summary, or some other prompt related to their current goal. Next, offer a compliment (what they are doing and why it is helpful). After the compliment, give the student a strategy that will help them move forward. If you need a resource for strategies, Jennifer Serravallo has anther great book called The Reading Strategies Book. I constantly refer back to this book for both conference strategies and small group strategies. As you can tell from the Table of Contents, there are a wide variety of strategies for each reading goal. She included 13 goals in all.
The Reading Conferences book also goes into detail about conferring with partnerships and small groups. I am saving those topics for future posts, as they deserve a post (or series of posts) of their own.
I was originally planning to make this a two part series. However, I would still like to share some organizational changes I’m planning to implement next year. In an effort not to make this post too long, I am going to add a part three to this series next week. In part three, I will share ideas for students and teachers to keep track of progress on individual goals. In the meantime, enjoy your week!
For more about reading conferences, click on the links below.