Reading & Literacy Opinion

Conferring: My Goal for 2015/16 School Year

By Phylis Hoffman — July 22, 2015 3 min read
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I’ve been a very reflective teacher this summer. Translation: I have done very little to prepare for the new school year. In past years I may have felt some guilt about this but not any more. Having been an educator for over 20 years now I’ve come to realize it’s important to let go of tomorrow and enjoy what I have now.

However, with only eighteen days left to my summer vacation does mean I need to start preparing. I don’t want to become the stressed out, crazy teacher staying in the classroom twelve hours a day once school begins. I’ve also learned it’s better to focus on a few new things rather than trying to master everything at once.

My goals for the 2015/16 school year are: 1. Conferring with students as much as possible; 2. Diving into cognitively guided instruction for math; and 3. Have the next week’s planning and prep work done when I leave school on Friday afternoon.

Conferring, which comes from the word conference, is meeting with students one-on-one. The goal of conferring is to give feedback to students that will improve their performance usually in the areas of reading or writing. It’s a very focused time so teachers need to be prepared. You begin by gathering as much information as you can on the student in reading or writing. Next you analyze the information collected and select a goal. The final step, which is where conferring comes in, is putting an action plan into motion for the student. Conferring is my number one goal this year. I feel it will truly help my students individually to become the best reader and writer they can be. After all who doesn’t love some one-on-one time with the teacher?

A conferring session follows the architecture of a Lucy Calkins mini-lesson. First you compliment the reader or writer; next teach the reader or writer a skill they need (it’s very helpful if the “teach” is related to the compliment); practice the skill with the reader or writer; lastly link the skill to continued success in reading or writing. Easy peasy lemon squeezy! In theory yes, but time can lay good plans to waste. To help me with this work this year the one thing I am going to do is schedule. I am going to schedule my students conferences just liked I scheduled my reading groups. I tried to do this in reading last year but when I did somehow the writing conferences dropped off the radar. So in addition to reading appointments I will also make a writing appointments poster.

I also need to add this disclaimer. Ideally, who you conference with each day, each week, would change as you collect more information as you move along in a unit of study. But for the sake of time and trying something new I am just going to do conferences as scheduled.

I’ve learned the basics of assessments from reading Jennifer Serravello’s book The Literacy Teachers Playbook. I’ve learned about guided reading from Fountas and Pinnell’s book Guided Reading. I’ve learned about teaching points from Lucy Calkins Units of Study in Reading and Writing and Kathy Collins book Growing Readers. I picked up The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravello this summer to help me with strategy instruction. I’ve also studied conferring with Dr. Gravity Goldberg. (I read her book Conferring with Readers (co-authored by Jennifer Serravello) and completed a 4 day institute with her on “Admiring Readers.”) By the way I am not being paid by Heinemann to promote their authors its just coincidence.

I will be sharing with you my journeys into Cognitively Guided Instruction (Children’s Mathematics, also a book published by Heinemann) later on when the school year truly begins. I am excited for this school year to begin! I wish you all the best for your 2015/16 school year.

The opinions expressed in Teaching While Leading are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.