Ramping Up Reading Conferences

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!

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6 Responses to Ramping Up Reading Conferences

  1. Love it! Thanks, Katie! I was thinking of designing a Google Form to capture my conferences but this just seems so much easier… and shouldn’t it all be about what feels most natural! Thanks!

  2. Emily says:

    I would love to see a video of one of your conferences. Thanks!

  3. Love this! I love that you have removed what was stressing you out, as I think that is true for many of us! I get caught up in the paperwork and what to write that I’m missing out on who is sitting right in front of me and what they need.

    So…a few more thoughts: What about space for all the recording? (Is the space in Evernote or your iPad? How much? When do you start deleting?) Also, I wonder if you’d be willing to share a couple of your conferences. Perhaps one from the beginning of the year that may sound like a struggle and another that went particularly well? I am guessing you have more to say on this topic! :) And I’m ready to listen! I hope your student teacher knows how lucky she is!!!

    Thanks for sharing Katie.

    • Katie says:

      Michelle, That’s a great question. I’m not actually sure if those recordings take up space on my iPad, I do know they are stored in my Evernote account so I can access them from anywhere. I keep the recordings and conferences short for now 1-2 minutes max. Most of my recordings are 1 minutes. I don’t necessarily record the entire conversation if we get going on something big. But for now my goal is to get to more kids in a short amount of time so I’m keeping things short. I’ll revive my longer conferences later.
      I’ll say that I have plenty of conferences from now (not the beginning of the year) that sound like a struggle. I’ll see what I can do about posting some.

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