I had a great discussion with my student teacher the other day. Well, really it was more me talking through a line of thinking and her listening politely as she wondered “why am I stuck with this crazy woman?” I was reflecting on how poorly I felt my conferring with readers was going this year. I just couldn’t seem to get to enough kids! The amount of time between conferences was too long, and even though I have numerous ways that I connect with my readers (like their blogs and a daily check-in) I was really missing that consistent face to face contact. What to do?
I realized that the main thing holding me back was paperwork. Long ago I learned about the importance of taking good conferring notes. I would dutifully fill out my little boxes with teaching points and observation notes, or when I was more ambitious I would do a full page reading interview. But when I sat down to look at these notes I realized a few things. 1) They were a bit superficial and subject to my snap judgements in the moment. 2) They were taking up valuable time that I could be talking to students.
So I came up with a new plan. Use the Evernote notebooks that I created for each student at the beginning of the year to capture our conversations.
Step 1: As I approach the student I create a new note in the student’s notebook and put the date as the title. I then snap a quick picture of their book or them reading with the cover clearly shown.
Step 2: I ask the student “How’s your reading going?” and I hit the little record button and we chat. That’s it. We chat. Sometimes I find a great teaching point for the student and sometimes we just talk about the book. I don’t stress over it. I keep it quick and simple. Then I hit the stop button and move on.
On day one I was able to confer with seven students. Seven. That was about six more than I had been getting to previously. I love my new system! If I need to go back and revisit our conversation it’s right there in my Evernote. I love being able to listen to what the student and I actually said, instead of just looking at my chicken scratchings and momentary thoughts. Oh I almost forgot…
Step 3: At the end of my conferring I go to my clip board and cross off the names of all the kids I talked with that day. I use a typed up list that I’ve placed into a sheet protector. I just cross off the names with a dry erase marker and when I’m finished? Erase and repeat. Thanks Katherine Sokolowski (@katsok) for that great idea!