Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Conferring, not conferencing! Conferring Part 1

This week, our Blog Bookchat revolved around Part 1 of Patrick Allen's Conferring book. The links are hosted this week by Cathy Mere at Reflect and Refine. Hop over and check out other blogs and reflections on this week's reading!
My overall reaction to the first part is a feeling of relief and optimism. Relief that Patrick says the art of conferring takes time; optimism that I can (and will!) be able to do this! That being said, here are my "A-ha" moments for Part 1 of our Conferring #cyberPD.  
*I have noted the difference between "conferring" and a "conference." I love Patrick's explanation! I never thought about this before, just simply used the words interchangeably. I now know and vow to use the correct term. Conferring = verb. Conference = noun. Noted. :)

*"Learning to confer is an art; we know that. It's not easy; it takes practice. But it's one of the most important and beneficial instructional moves I use with my students." (Allen, p.8) I believe this! I need to post it somewhere where I will see it often to encourage me to keep going.
* I need to do more exploring with the Confer app for iPad. I've attempted to use all sorts of recording tools while I've conferred with small groups and individuals, but I haven't found anything that works well for me! One challenge for me is going to be to use the Confer app for iPad to hold me accountable for information I gain from my conferences.
*The Don Graves quote on page 21 really struck me. "If you have even one colleague with whom you can share ideas, readings, and questions, you can draw from that enough energy to maintain your motivation and ability to grow professionally." I cannot say enough about the power of Twitter in doing just that! I have hundreds of colleagues that have stretched my professional thinking and have taught me about tools I never would have considered!  
*Patrick talks about his four ultimate goals for his students. I think they are very powerful and would definitely agree with them. In my first grade classroom, I need to think about the beginning readers I'm entrusted with. Ultimately, yes... I want them all to be thoughtful, deep readers. My challenge is to get them to that point! For me, I think I'd have to go back to the Cafe model by the Sisters. I've adapted it to fit my style so it has become CAMP! I think my goals to create those thoughtful, deep readers would start with the components of camp. Those would be:
          Comprehension (I understand and remember what I read.)
          Accuracy (I can read most of the words.)
          Make reading fluent (I can read accurately with good expression.)
           Practice new vocabulary (I can find and read interesting words.)
By sticking to the menu I created and the format, I think it will help drive my conferences and will guide my conferring in the right direction.
*Patrick asks us to take a deeper look at our classrooms. I really do love the layout of my classroom! Now, that's not to say I won't change or improve things, but overall, I am very happy with the image it portrays. I love walking in to my room when the lamps are casting off a soft glow, the main llghts are off, and the nature music is playing. Seeing twenty-something first graders curled up with good books in my classroom puts a smile on my face. When Patrick talks about significant physical aspects of the environment, I loved the part about personal touches. This is what has led me to create my "Camp Read-a-Lot." Not only does it create a warm, friendly, comfortable environment, but it also portrays something that I love and enjoy sharing with students (reading AND camping!) I have stepped outside of my classroom and tried to see what a newcomer would see if entering Camp Read-a-Lot for the first time. I think they'd like what they see!
*I love the idea of charting what stamina means. We do talk about this at the beginning of the year when we're practicing the Daily Five. But I never considered defining exactly what stamina looks like and feels like, as Patrick suggests.  Talking about what builds and what breaks down stamina might help to put it into more definite terms for my firsties. I do love the book Superdog: The Heart of a Hero for talking about building stamina. A good fit for first graders!  Then, following up that discussion with the term "endurance" would just bring it to a new level and make my students more aware of what exactly we need to be doing during D5/RW.
*Patrick suggests recording a conference that we have with a student. What a great idea! I think I would see growth in my conferring skills if I did this at the beginning, middle, and end of the year. I wonder if there's a way to do that on my iPad. VoiceThread maybe? Might need to investigate!
*I absolutely LOVE Ellin Keene's quote on page 81. It reminds me of a quote my dad often said which was, "Good, better, best. Never let it rest till you're good is better and your better is the best." That is what really drives me! Yes, what I'm doing is good. But how can I make it better? Is this the best I can do for my firsties? This, to me, is the key to why I'm reading this book and working on my conferring skills.
*I really liked Patrick's planning guide for strategy studies. I like the way in which it really focuses on the gradual release of responsibility. Too often, I tend to introduce a skill or strategy... and then just come back to it sporadically. There isn't a rhyme or reason to what I'm doing. I think I need to update my CAMP (CAFE) menu and plan more effectively.
 More to come next week (July 13) for Part 2, hosted at Jill Fisch's My Primary Passion! We'll be reflecting on the Essential Components of Conferring.
~Komos :)


  1. Laura - wow! You have really touched on many things I was thinking about ad well when I read the book. Loved everything you said, but its the Donald Graves quote that struck me as well. I also found myself grateful for being able to learn in a variety of ways thatvare meaningful fir mecwith my twitter PLNs !

  2. Also apologizing for some of the spelling errors in 1st comment. Need to check my iPad auto-correct more carefully.

  3. Thanks so much, Karen! (And no worries, I have the same auto-correct issues on my iPad!) It's great to find ourselves thinking along the same lines, isn't it?!

  4. Laura,
    So many of the points you made were running through my head when I was reading. I love the Camp Read-a-lot name. Who wouldn't want to be in that camp? I too use an iPad frequently to record my notes for all sorts of things during the school day. I am not familiar with the Confer app, but Evernote might be something to investigate. It has a recording feature built in. Evernote also syncs with an online account so you can access your notes if you don't have your iPad with you.

  5. Laura,

    I really thought a lot about the "conferring is an art" quote. I always have this worry that I am doing it "wrong" but if it is an art then there probably isn't a wrong way to do it - just perhaps a better way to do it. I wish that I could be a fly on the wall in many other classrooms so that I could listen in on the conferences going on there. I am excited to start on the second part of the book so we can talk about the specific things that go on in a conference.

  6. Thanks for the comments, Tony and Jill!

    Tony, I just started using Evernote and have gotten as far as creating notebooks and notes. (Actually, that's how I wrote my notes for this book chat!) I haven't found the recording part yet, but thanks for letting me know it's there! Love the syncing capabilities of it, too.

    Jill, I'm that way, too!! Part of what holds me back is thinking that I'm conferring "wrong." I'm really looking forward to getting to the specifics of a conference as well!


  7. Laura,
    You have so many interesting and thoughtful points here. I found myself reading and rereading your thinking. Your idea of using an iPad app for conferring caught my attention. I have often wondered about using some type of app to record notes as I confer with students. I really hadn't considered using Evernote until Tony mentioned it above. I'm thinking it might also be possible to take a picture of a page of writing and add a recording to it (a reflection, comment, etc.)? Perhaps this is a conversation we'd like to explore in our final Twitter chat?

    Like you, I'm completely amazed by the learning, sharing, and professional conversation I find on Twitter and in blogs. I've been using Twitter for 2 years now and I'm still awed by it all. I'm glad to have connected with you, and appreciate your willingness to jump into this crazy endeavor. Reading participating blogs and comments I've been repeatedly touched by the honesty, enthralled with the conversation, and inspired by the thinking of everyone. For me, this takes summer professional reading to a whole new level.

    Thanks, Laura.

  8. Laura,
    I'm intrigued by your use of the ipad as a tool for conferring. I don't have an ipad yet, but would really like to get one. I wonder if it would make me better at the record keeping part of conferring. Hmmmm....

    I love the image of your room as Camp Read-A-Lot with the lamps and nature music and all of those little readers curled up with their books. Wonder what theme would be interesting and appealing to fourth graders.

    I loved Patrick's unit planning guide also. I want to start working on those for each unit of study.

    Twitter has been a terrific PD tool for me too. Franki Sibberson was the one who got me started on it- she told me that all of the younger teachers were using it, and as a coach of those teachers, I needed to learn to do it too. Now I love it. Patrick and I are both Denver folks, and we kind of knew each other, but we have gotten to know each other much better since we started on Twitter.

    Looking forward to learning more with you.

  9. Thank you for the comments, Cathy and Carol! Yes, Cathy, I am floored by the amount of thought-provoking, deep reflecting that has taken place... and it's only the first part of the book! I am flattered that you asked me to join you in this journey (and am ALWAYS up for crazy adventures!!)

    Yes, I think we should add the apps discussion to our final chat. I chatted with another Twitter friend (Sarah) this morning who told me she was using Evernote to record her conferences. Not only does this organize and keep track of your thoughts, but it's also a way to critique your conferring skills! By tagging notes in Evernote, you can also look for commonalities between children. Sounds like it's worth exploring to me!

    ~Laura :)

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  11. That’s it you've convinced me that I need to buy this book sooner rather than later. I'm leaving this weekend for vacation but I will read the first part online and hopefully catch up when I get back.
    I love that you say (or maybe Patrick did) that conferring is an art. It is definaely something I need to work on in my teaching but knowing it's more of a fluid process and not an all or nothing process is comforting. I'm excited to start learning and reflecting with everyone. I'll let you know when I've posted.
    P.S. I checked out the Conferapp for the iPad. It's $9.99 which is really pricey for an app but it does seem like something that would be super easy to use. There is a video on You Tube about it

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  13. Thanks for your comment, Nicole! I'm excited to have you join the conversation. I really like Patrick's thought of conferring as an art; really drives home the point that there isn't one "right" way to do it (which makes it much less intimidating!)

    Thanks also for posting that link to the Confer video! I paid for the full version a few weeks ago and have been playing around with it. I'm still not sure if Confer or Evernote will be better, although I really do like the recording option on Evernote! It will be fun to hear what other people are thinking about this.

    ~Laura :)

  14. Laura,
    I too downloaded the full version of Confer a few weeks ago and have also been working with Evernote. I can't wait to see what works for everyone this fall!

  15. Laura, Thanks for the post. Great notes.

    I am in Nicole's camp right now. I still have not put my hands on the book but hope to soon.

    I am learning from each and every participant in this #cyberPD

  16. Shelly, thanks for the comment! I'm hoping we can all compare notes this fall and find a good way to use technology to help us along our conferring journey!

    D.A., I also thank you for the comment! Even if you don't have the book (yet), I'm happy that you're following along with us by way of all of the thoughtful blogs that have been shared!

    ~Laura :)

  17. Thanks for this post. Helped me clear up my use of Conferring and Conferencing which I have been struggling with lately. :)