Purposeful Conferring


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Reading conference workshop to help teachers improve their conferring skills by looking at reading strategies, individual student needs, unit goals, conference formats, conference teaching points, and efficiently tracking conferring notes.

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  • I believe that Debbie Miller’s writings have had the most powerful impact on my teaching. She, a first grade teacher, spends time getting to know every one of her 1st graders. She knows them so well that she can predict the books they would enjoy and the strategies that will benefit them the most. She also knows reading, and what a good reader does beyond their habits and how they select books. In the foreword of Patrick Allen’s book, Conferring: The Keystone of Reader’s Workshop, she shares that when we take the time to listen and put ourselves in the moment with students; we put both ourselves and our students in active roles of teaching and learning (Allen, 2009, pg. viii).
  • When you consider teachers that seem to know how and what to say perfectly in a reading conference, they almost seem to have this angel-halo on their heads and you wonder if they can predict what their students will say. This angelic ability seemed unattainable whenever I sat down with students to confer, until I began researching the ins and outs of one-on-one instruction. I asked questions such as: What allows expert teachers to magically instruct their students using books that the child has selected with strategies that fit that child perfectly to move them forward in their reading?
  • I sought answers from the great teacher-authors that I have heard such as: FrankiSibberson and Patrick Allen, and those that were highly recommended to me by online reviewers and by our literacy coach such as: Jennifer Serravallo, Gravity Goldberg, and Elizabeth Hale. I also looked to the esteemed minds of Gay Su Pinnell and Irene C. Fountas.Through this research, I have found that Conferring isn’t magical. Conferring is purposeful through careful planning and targeted reflection.
  • Each of these texts provided exemplary explanations, examples, and specifics on their conferring process and their journey to get there.
  • Before I share what I found out from these teacher-authors, I want to know what your personal understanding of conferring is.Based on the Survey Monkey questionnaire, everyone here confers with your students. Based on your own experiences with conferring, what do you believe about conferring? What benefits have you witnessed through your conferring?Take a minute or two and write down as many as you can, and then discuss your beliefs with a neighbor.
  • So, what did I come to understand? Although these teacher-authors don’t wave a magical wand whenever they confer, their actions in a reading conference are magical indeed because their conferences are based on the thoughtful reflections and careful analysis. I found common themes across these resources, which I found helpful in developing and establishing reading conferences in the classroom.
  • All of these teachers spent time, preparing and practicing. That’s the magic, ladies. They all put in a lot of time planning their reading conferences out, and then practicing not just for a few sessions…but years. PHEW!! I know that I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I finally realized that I hadn’t been practicing long enough to display the magic of these teachers, nor had I been reflecting and analyzing my students as close as possible.These are ideas for reading conferring that were developed across each of these books. While each teacher-author had their own structure of their conferences, they all incorporated these strategies into their conferring habits.They studied their own reading habits, and also the habits of all good readers.They combined a variety of observations and assessments, and combined them to make decisions about what their students were good at and were they needed support.They created specific unit goals related to their standards, and directed their conferring focus on these goals as well as each students areas of need.
  • Conferring with Readers by Jennifer Serravallo & Gravity Goldberg outlines clear steps for teachers to take in order to both share their reading life and use it as a model of how to read for deeper meaning.One strategy that they suggest is to “Mine the Text” for What to Teach, See page 134.Explain the picture of my own mining of the text, while reading Keeper by: Kathy AppeltLook at the graphic organizer, and consider how this might be helpful to do at the beginning of a Unit of Study.
  • This strategy,as suggested in Conferring with Readers, provided a format to collect my reading strategies in. This could be collected for a different texts across the genres, reading levels, book series, etc., and then kept for reflection as you continue to practice Reading Conferences. You could also collect teaching points from students and put them together in a format that is manageable for reflection.By listing our reading behaviors and matching them with the strategy that allowed us to perform this behavior, we can concentrate on how to teach our students to do the same thing. When we collect our own reading strategies, we can be stronger models for our students, who will recognize that we are teaching them something that we actually use personally. (Read through the text, and focus on the italicized words. Explain how the italicized words were the thought-provoking parts of each section, and from those words I had to think about the text in a new way.)
  • Ask the teachers to participate in “Mining the Text” of either a children’s or an adult text in the genre you intend to teach. For example, if teaching students to read books written in 1st person such as: Dear America series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Diary of a Worm; you could select Mr. Darcy’s Diary by: Amanda Grange (for those of us obsessed with Pride and Prejudice). I thought for a more applicable practice, we could use the opening scene of How to Steal a Dog by: Barbara O’Connor. Ask the teachers to follow this format. Read and Mark up the text extensively with your thoughts and reading behaviors.After reading go back and analyze your thoughts, looking for reading skills.List a strategy to each idea you had by asking yourself, “How did I get that idea?”Use what you’ve learned about your own reading as strategies to teach your students.We’ll plot our thinking on one combined chart on the computer, after we are through reading.
  • On this Slide, the Workshop group will fill in the chart with our reading behaviors and teaching strategies. (The chart will be empty on the original slide, and then we will fill it through out discussion.)We had a great discussion over the first 2 paragraphs of the text, and realizing all the different kinds of thinking involved in understanding the text.
  • Using Observation and Discussion, get to know what your students do or do not enjoy about reading. Strategy #1-Status of the ClassThroughout the year, collect information about your students through various assessments and observations. FrankiSibberson expertly explores her process for gathering reading surveys, word study information, reading habits, reading preferences, etc. etc. etc. She interviews them not only while conferring, but also through the Status of the Class. When I used Status of the Class across one whole year, I couldn’t believe the level of commitment my kids had to their books. They wanted to announce over the class that they were on a certain page.They wanted to read at the restrooms because it was a free moment for them to get through their book more quickly.They wanted to tell me a little tidbit about what they were wondering about. Through Status of the Class, the time issue isn’t as relevant because you are checking-in with every student more than once a week.Strategy #2:Reading Surveys or Interviews. Ask students questions about their reading habits, and what they know about themselves as a reader.
  • Conferring with Readers by Gravity Goldberg & Jennifer Serravallo describes how to compare the Guided Reading levels by looking for the new behaviors that are evident when a student begins reading texts in a new reading level. They chart the behaviors, then they list ways to both question students to assess this behavior as well as listing the strategies used to teach that behavior.*After reading this strategy of identifying the differences between reading levels, I decided to use The Literacy Continuum from Fountas & Pinnell and track the different characteristics they demonstrate across the different reading levels. As I tracked these, I filled in charts for the reading levels that my students were reading at (Guided Reading levels M to S). I also collected the ways that I prompt or question students to determine their ability with each new reading behavior. I left the strategies section blank, so I could add my teaching points and strategies to the corresponding behavior throughout the year. Eventually, I would have a database to pull from. *Teachers should analyze student reading ability from different angles including surveys, observations, and the behaviors they have mastered and are getting close to mastering at their reading level.
  • Based on all of this information that we know about one reader, we can plan effective reading conferences with this student to stretch them in their reading abilities, habits, and interests.
  • Limit the number of things that you are trying to look for in a conference. By targeting whole class strategies, you can use your observations in regards to skill and strategy use when planning for small group or table conferring.Consider the skills and strategies that you will use related to the standards you will cover in this unit.Following these observations, you will have more teaching points to cover in your conferences.
  • The next 2 slides show the Character Unit that I put together when I was working on these strategies for my conferring. You will see in your packet that I have put in some units for the common core standards.
  • After collecting all of this information, reflect on what your goals are for each student. In Conferring With Readers, there are 5 questions to consider as you reflect.What is the student approximating from our whole class study?What is the student approximating from the reading level?What do I notice in read aloud discussions or partner sharing?What do I notice in their logs? (to increase volume, stamina, rate, and consistency)What are my overall teaching goals for this student?After reflecting on these questions, pick one big goal to focus on with this student. As you reach that one goal, continue to refer back to your observations to select another goal and add more information.
  • Activity: Spend some time looking through the data and record what you would set as a goal for your student. Discuss with the group what you would consider important teaching points for this child.
  • All of these teachers spent time figuring out conferring structures and routines that fit their personal teaching style and their student’s learning style /abilities. Each author shared their version of how to organize the notes and the steps to take during a conference.Patrick Allen shared at the All Write conference on June 22, 2012 that teachers need to find the format that makes sense to them, and continually reflect on how effective that format is. We need to consider: What kind of Reading Conference we will have? What the format of the conference will be? How will we keep track of the instruction that we give to our students?
  • A realization that I made throughout my reading about conferring is that each conference doesn’t have to be about a new idea or strategy. As Debbie Miller shared in the quote from the beginning of this presentation, you are supporting the work you are doing in either the small groups or whole group instruction. With this information you have gathered, the Big Goal, and the Whole group study strategies in mind; you can determine very quickly what your next step with this student will be. Conferences that stem from natural interactions with students. (Comprehension or Text feature conferences)Conferences that stem from our observations throughout daily reading work. (Conferences on Theme, new Vocabulary, or Reading New Literacies [graphs, digital] or Conferences to assess, track and improve fluency)Conferences to Build UponConferences to compliment, to support increasingly difficult texts, or to address new strategies, structures, or language in higher reading levels.
  • Aimee Buckner shares that when a conference lasts for longer than 5 minutes, she knows that this skill or strategy isn’t meant for a conference, it is actually a mini lesson for the whole group or a small group. This helps her to pace her conferences. She doesn’t chop kids off, but she does make note when she is going longer to go back to that idea with the whole group or a small group.“Whether it's a deep structure system, whether it's a surface structure system, it's about finding that balance, and making your reading conferences purposeful” –Patrick Allen-Patrick Allen opens up about how finding a structure that suits us, will improve our conferring skills. He also stresses practicing and even inviting a colleague to come in and listen to your conferences or taping your conferences. Small group conferring-when students are all working on the same skills or strategies. Small group conferring, helps you address more students in a shorter amount of time. Table conferring-when you are targeting a few students or you have already met with a student and you want to reinforce a strategy or skill by asking that student to share the strategy discussed with his/her peers. Table conferring is quick, and either serve as a reminder or as a way to support students that are using strategies that other students would benefit from.
  • Patrick Allen jokes in his book Conferring about the number of address labels that he accumulated one year after hearing about an idea to use one page of address labels, and then put each student’s individual label on his/her information page. He claims to have enough labels to wallpaper his classroom because although he took great notes on each label, he never went back to put them in their appropriate spot. After trying to follow someone else’s plan, Patrick realized that he needed to figure out what worked best for him.So, here are a few ways to track your reading conferences. Each of these methods lead to an important part of conferring, reflecting on your students’ needs and making decisions about your mini lessons, small group lessons, and conferring.There are several apps for the iPad that you can use to keep track of your conference notes. I have used Confer, which you can look at on my iPad. I have been recently reading online about the benefits of using Evernote to create a notebook filled with notes on each student. Google Docs now have a way to create a custom form that will compile all of your information when you submit the form after each conference. This would help you create a list of teaching points to choose from when your have your preset list of goals for the unit and goals for the reading level.A T-Chart listing the compliment and the teaching point for each student, just list what you did in each conference with the date.Finally, you will see a variety of forms used in Conferring with Readers. These forms incorporate partner conferences, individual level tracking, along with another version of the T-chart. On the Conferring with Readers chart, you can see how the teacher notes when the teaching point from the previous conference becomes the compliment in the next conference, demonstrating how you can follow up on the previous teaching points.
  • We can collect so much information from our students, and improve our understanding of reading instruction as we collaborate with our students to study our thinking as we read.
  • Phew….even the authors of a book on conferring admit that on some days, there won’t be a magical conference. However, the key for me is that I can’t write off conferring because I don’t think that I have done it justice or because I didn’t have time to meet with enough students. We can modify our structure and tweak our approach, and go back to the drawing board. We must continue with one of the most powerful approaches to instruction, looking our students in the eye and asking them about their reading and their thinking. We’ll build a connect that they will remember far longer than the perfect lesson while conferring. They’ll remember that we listened, and we cared enough to keep asking.
  • Purposeful Conferring

    1. 1. PURPOSEFUL CONFERRINGPresented by Michelle Rohrer4th Grade TeacherMiddlebury Community Schools
    2. 2. “…sitting beside them, shoulder to shoulder.CONFERRING We’re digging deeper now, working hard to individualize our instruction and support children as they apply what we’ve taught them in large- and small- group settings.”IS… -Debbie Miller, 2008 in Conferring, 2009, pg. 21.
    3. 3. “Reading Conferring is a lot like yoga. Those who are excellent at it seem to be performing magic.” -Conferring with Readers, 2007, pg. 131
    4. 4. Read, Read, Read…
    5. 5. ANDLearn, Learn, Learn I Did!!!
    6. 6. WHAT ARE YOUR CONFERRING BELIEFS? What do you believe is true about conferring with students about their reading?
    8. 8. PREPARATION + PRACTICE BY KNOWING… Your Unit Goals Each Student Individually as Your Own a reader Reading Strategies and those ofgreat readers
    10. 10. STRATEGIES FROM MINING THE TEXT … Teaching Point Transcribed Text Skill + by + Strategy When the text doesnt give me clear The old man slumped in his rocking information I try to understand by askingchair, his eyes closed in a troubled sleep. questions about the text. Understand why the author is matchingHe and Sinbad had been waiting for this two events and two characters by reading moon too, the word too with emphasis.waiting for it to shine down on the night- Recognize when verbs are used asblooming cyrus and urge their enormous adjectives by considering what the verb blossoms to break open. tells the reader about the noun.
    11. 11. MINE THE TEXT Your turn…1. Read and Mark up the text extensively with your thoughts and reading behaviors.2. After reading go back and analyze your thoughts, looking for reading skills.3. List a strategy to each idea you had by asking yourself, “How did I get that idea?”4. Use what you’ve learned about your own reading as strategies to teach your students.
    12. 12. ~SHARE YOUR READING BEHAVIORS~ & ~NAME THE SKILL YOU USED~ Teaching Point Transcribed Text Skill + by + Strategy **Writing a great lead sentence by give clues without tellingThe day I decided to steal a dog was the same the whole story. (Show dont Tell)day my best friend, Luanne Godfrey, found out **When we read curious information, good readers try to find I lived in a car. out more by reading on with our questions in mind. *When authors repeat themselves with lots of emotion, good readers connect to the character by imagining or visualizing what this situation would be like for me to be Georgina with So that’s what I did. I stood up there at the dirty clothes and not money or house. bus stop pretending like I still lived in Apartment 3B. I pretended like I didn’t have *When characters are thinking to themselves about past mustard on my shirt from the day before. I events, good readers flashback by visualizing both events at pretended like I hadn’t washed my hair in the once or imagining either a think bubble or a hazy vision of the bathroom of the Texaco gas station that very past or voicing over the present scene. morning. And I pretended like my daddyhadn’t just waltzed off and left us with nothing *When the author gives us both a vision of present problems but three rolls of quarters and a mayonnaise and the characters emotions at once, good readers process jar full of wadded-up dollar bills. through both of those ideas by rereading the text with the views of emotion and the present problems in mind. To instruct this to 4th/5th graders use role playing or drawing to illustrate the 2 ideas together.
    13. 13. EACH STUDENTINDIVIDUALLY AS A READER • Have they had good reading experiences? • What attitude do they have when they read? • What patterns are emerging from their habits?
    14. 14. Look at the behaviors students have mastered at their readinglevel, and those yet to be mastered. These compiled Behaviors are from the Fountas & Pinnell Literacy Continuum
    15. 15. EACH STUDENT INDIVIDUALLY AS A READER What do we know about this student from our surveys, interviews, and assessments? is currently Emily… picking books is a Fantasy Reader that are toodifficult for her, and doesn’t is at Level R and is recognize that learning to discussthe book doesn’t both the plot and fit. text organization. is easily distracted doesn’t like while reading,reading at home. struggles to get lost in reading.
    16. 16. YOUR UNIT GOALS• Use Grade Level Standards to create units of study.• List the reading strategies students will need to understand in order to be successful.• Narrow your focus on a couple of strategies or skills at once for the whole class to focus on.• Observe each student’s ability to use each of the strategies on the whole class unit goal list.• Support students in these goals through conferring.
    17. 17. CHARACTER UNIT GOALSWhole Class Character Study Goals for Readers (4.RL.3)Identify the main and supporting characters and their roles. Use written notes to track new characters and why they are important to the story. Determine who the main characters are, and how the story would be different without any of the supporting characters. “Why are they important to the story?”Inferring character traits and feelings. Use the character’s feelings and traits to predict what they will do in situations. Identify character’s actions to infer how they feel at that situation. Identify the setting and how that plays a role in a character’s life and how the plot changes. Look for specific words or phrases that provide evidence about a character’s feelings, motivations, & traits.
    19. 19. SET YOUR GOALSYour Turn…1. Look through the student data that I placed at your seat.2. As you look through the student’s reading logs, their reading artifacts, their read aloud notes, and their status of the class charts; consider the questions on the goals sheet. What are some things that you see the student doing well? What are the things you know could be address in either a mini lesson or conferring session?3. Answer questions on the goal sheet.4. After you answer the questions, compare what you noticed with the goal sheets that I filled out.5. Is there anything that you noticed that I missed? What did I notice that you missed?6. Share with the group your observations, and what you think about this reflection process.
    21. 21. TARGETED, INDIVIDUALIZED SUPPORT BY PLANNING… Conferences with a variety of Purposes In Flexible Formats to Confer with all Students AndEfficientTracking
    22. 22. CONFERENCES WITH A VARIETY OF PURPOSES Address Student Questions from their reading Through Observations of a Student’s Reading to address theme, new vocabulary, digital texts, or to reassess reading ability.Build Student Reading Ability and Confidence • Support new text level in independent reading • Scaffold student exposure to complex text structures • Compliment student abilities and show their expertise to tablemates
    23. 23. IN FLEXIBLE FORMATS TO CONFER WITH ALL STUDENTS Click here Patrick Allen on Conferring The authors of Conferring with Suggested Schedule Readers present a very specific schedule for their conferences. If teachers were able to confer in a variety of formats such as partner conferring or table conferring, they would be able to hold 59 conferences. Wow, that is a lot!!Click here Aimee Buckner speaks about Time in Conferring
    24. 24. AND EFFICIENT TRACKING Click here A Reading Conference Form in Google Docs Student Name___________Da Strengths Next Stepste (a compliment that I could (whatreader/writer) the give) I could teach See the handout with the forms designed by the authors of Conferring with Readers
    26. 26. “Its’ my best time of the day! I gather my most importantassessment data from conferring. I think it’s the crux, the keystone, of successful reading/writing classrooms. It’s a slow go, as they learn to make more appropriate book choices, learn to talk about their thinking, and so on. I will gain the most valuable assessment data possible –through conferring” –Patrick Allen (Allen, 2009, pg. 190).
    27. 27. IN THE END… In Conferring with Readers, Goldberg &Serravallo admitted that, “On some days a conference or two will flop, just like on some days when I practice yoga my hamstrings are tight, my balance is off,and I fall to the ground while attempting a pose. But I know that with practice,planning, and preparation, my conferring will improve dramatically. (AND my colleagues might even think it’s magic!)” (Serravallo & Goldberg, 2007, pg. 133)
    28. 28. RESOURCESAllen, P. (Author) (2006-2012). Patrick Allen on conferring. Choice Literacy. [Audio podcast].Retrieved from http://www.choiceliteracy.com/articles-detail-view.php?id=921Allen, P. A. (2009). Conferring: The keystone of readers workshop. Portland, Me.: StenhouseAppelt, K. (2010). Keeper. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.Buckner, A. (Performer) (2006-2012). Quick take: Time constraints in conferences(video). Choice Literacy. [Video podcast]. Retrieved fromhttp://www.choiceliteracy.com/articles-detail-view.php?id=578Goldberg, Gravity, and Jennifer Serravallo. Conferring with Readers: Supporting Each StudentsGrowth and Independence. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2007.Hale, Elizabeth. Crafting Writers, K-6. Portland, Me: Stenhouse, 2008.OConnor, B. (2007). How to steal a dog. United States: Square Fish.Pinnell, Gay Su., and Irene Fountas C. The Continuum of Literacy Learning, Grades K-8:Behaviors and Understandings to Notice, Teach, and Support. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann,2007.Sibberson, Franki, and Karen Szymusiak. Day-to-day Assessment in the Reading Workshop:Making Informed Instructional Decisions in Grades 3-6. New York: Scholastic, 2008.