Tuesday, July 19, 2011

You need a mint ! ~ Conferring Part III

Welcome back to our third and final week of our Conferring blog bookchat! For those just joining in the conversation, you can see our previous discussion on Cathy Mere's Reflect and Refine (week 1) and Jill Fisch's My Primary Passion (week 2.) Links can also be found on the Conferring Jog, thanks to Cathy! So far, we've learned and reflected on  what brings about a good conference and the essential components of conferring. This week, we look at what exactly emerges from reading conferences... hosted right here at Our Camp Read-A-Lot!

My Thoughts...
Humor gets me every time. I'm drawn to people and things that make me laugh. For that reason, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about how "CONFERRING AIN'T EASY." (p. 175) The premises listed made me realize that amazing literacy leaders like Patrick (among others) have struggled with conferring. It gives me hope that, while I may struggle, I know I can (and will!) do this.
Many smiles as Patrick was honest with these little quips....
*Shut up and listen (We've already learned how important this is!)
*Conferring is teaching, not fault finding (Oh, how I struggle with this!)
*What did we talk about? (Keeping notes and USING them is key!)
*Help, I'm drowning! (I will rely on my #cyberPD PLN if this happens!)
*You need a mint (Hahahaha!!)
The Conferring Walk-Aways sum up so many things that can emerge from a conference. As a first grade teacher working with many beginning readers, I tend to focus on assessing miscues and strategies. I need to open my mind to all of the other possibilities! My favorite walk-away was how attention is fully given to each reader. This is something that is nearly impossible to do in small group instruction. Even in a group of 3 readers, their needs are incredibly different! While I know I will still provide small group instruction of sorts, I know that I can do a much better job of meeting my students' needs by conferring one on one.

I really appreciated the Q & A section when Patrick answered "What do I do about small groups?" It makes perfect sense to me to pull groups based on needs rather than levels. I have been teaching guided reading by levels for 16 years, so it is taking me some time to make the switch! I think that conferring with readers will help me to see when the switch is necessary. I especially tuned in when he talked about being in a place where small groups are mandated (which I am.) He suggests keeping the groups flexible and purpose driven. As Debbie Miller says, "when our practices match what we believe, and when we clearly articulate what we do and why we do it, people listen." I am confident in knowing why I'm doing what I'm doing, so if it should ever come up with my admin team, it will be a conversation I'll welcome.
My favorite, favorite paragraph is the first full one on page 181. It encompasses exactly what I believe and what I need to stick to!
    "We need to slow down and get back to the business of knowing children, of knowing readers. If we want children to remember, understand, extend meaning, and make their reading experiences memorable, they have to be in a classroom where there's time for that to happen."
I'll let you read the rest for yourself, but I am so moved by this! For so long, I've fought to get books in children's hands... especially for those children who are pre-readers or struggling readers. With all of the RtI initiatives and data-driven instruction today, I still firmly believe the most powerful tool I can use with a child is providing him/her with good books.
This quote from Patrick (p. 156) sums up exactly why I think conferring is essential.
"Perhaps we could build something grand and long lasting -
independent and engaged readers
who walk away from conferences with strategies and tools
to help them become confident, effective, and deeper readers."
I'm inspired and excited to begin really conferring with my new first graders!

As I closed the book after finishing it, it felt like the conversation with a mentor was over. But knowing that I'd be able to continue the conversation with all of you made me smile. I am excited to read your responses and reflections!

Remember, to participate, you can...
*Comment on my post!
*Post your reflections on your blog and place a link in the comments below so I can add your link here!
*Visit other blogs and continue conversations
*Comment on Twitter using hashtag #cyberPD.

~Komos :)

The conversation continues...
*Karen from Literate Lives talks about bravery in being a reflective teacher in Conferring - Walk Aways (Part 3) 

*Jill at My Primary Passion shares her Walk Aways including making her small g guided reading have more of a conference feel.

*Michelle from Literacy Leraning Zone shares her idea for an "exit slip" to use with students to help extend learning in her post CyberPD - Conferring Part 3.

*Tony from atychiphobia shares his quest for organic reading and conferring in this era of data, test, data, test (puke!) through his entertaining post, Crunchy Granola!

*Cathy at Reflect and Refine makes the case for the value of conferring. She also shares her walk aways and links her thoughts to take aways from David N. Perkins' book Making Learning Whole. Find her supportive thoughts in her post "Conferring Ain't Easy."

*Chris from Reading Amid the Chaos shares her thoughtful plans for incorporating conferring into her resource room in Conferring Part 3: Walk Aways.

*Barbara at Love to Teach reflects on slowing down and digging deeper while conferring in her post Conferring Ain't Easy - Part 3 Conferring.

*Nicole from Nicole's Book Nook reflects on Patrick's role as a mentor. She realizes she needs to slow down and reflect on the journey in her post Conferring Reflection Part III: It's time to start ploughing.

*Carol of Carol's Corner hits home when referring to Don Graves question, "What's it for?" She stresses the importance of giving kids time to practice in her Conferring CyberPD post..

*Julie from Raising Readers and Writers takes us with her on her "authentic learning soapbox" and talks with us about building a foundation with students in My Walk Aways.

*Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning reflects on how her Kindergarten students will be "tinkering" with literacy as she guides them with her conferences. Read her thoughts at Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's Workshop Part 3.

*Deb from Island Beaches Primary Perspective makes her case for creating authentic readers in Conferring: Keystone of Reader's Workshop by Patrick Allen reflection III..

*Tara from A Teaching Life joins in the conversation this week with her honest look at her teaching practices and plans for improving her Reading Workshop in her post Conferring in Reading Workshop.

*Shelley from Thoughts of a Teacher shares her memories of growing up with "programmed reading" and how it impacts her beliefs on conferring in Reflections on Conferring - Part 3.


  1. Hi Laura! Thanks so much for hosting today!! My final post deals with my "walk-aways" from Conferring. What a smart man Patrick is!! http://literatelives.blogspot.com/2011/07/conferring-walk-aways-part-3.html

  2. Laura,

    My final post is about my "walk-aways", too. (I am guessing that might be a popular theme today.) Here is my link:

    Thanks for hosting. I can't wait to come back later to read all of the other reflections (including yours).

  3. Hi Laura,

    Thanks for hosting today. Sharing some of my walk-aways too!


  4. Laura,
    Thank you so much for jumping in to host our "final" post for #cyberPD. I say "final" though I am quite certain conferring will be a continued conversation for all of us as our school year begins.

    Here's my post: http://reflectandrefine.blogspot.com/2011/07/conferring-aint-easy.html


  5. Hi Laura -
    Thanks for hosting our thoughts on part 3. I SO agreed with your post - we picked some of the same quotes from Patrick. You are right, reading his book feels like he's our mentor.

    Here's my post:


  6. Laura,
    Thanks for hosting this week. Like you I am a little sad the reading of Conferring is over. I also agree that the idea of building something grand and long lasting is so essential to the work we do to help children progress. I am too determined in my stance now to worry about "getting the kids ready for next year.". I now honestly could care less if what I do doesn't mesh perfectly with the teacher a child gets the following year. I would rather a child leaving my room be so in love with learning that that may have to adjust in a classroom that doesn't facilitate that type of thinking, than to just have a child appear to be successful on the surface.

    Here's an idea for you, Cathy and Jill to consider. What about a monthly posting challenge that encourages us to tell the story of how all of this summertime thinking impacts our classroom thinking this year.

    Take care,

  7. Laura,

    Thank you for hosting this week. I too included Patrick's quote about slowing down and getting back to knowing children. In our data driven culture, students just reading for pleasure is often neglected. I look forward to following your updates during the school year. Below is the link to my blog.



  8. Laura,

    I could so relate to this sentence from your post:

    As a first grade teacher working with many beginning readers, I tend to focus on assessing miscues and strategies.

    I do think that we still need to do this but I think you are right that we also need to be more open to other teaching points, too. It is hard to get out of the counting/tracking miscues mode. I am going to try to have different types of conferences to help me with this.

    I also hope that we continue the conversation during the school year. I like Tony's idea of posting once a month about how things are going or what we have tried or learned.

    Thanks for hosting,

  9. Hi Laura,
    Great minds must think alike because you and I noticed many of the same things, right down to pulling the same quotes. I think my motto for thi year is going to be slow down, be quiet, and listen! And consult your cyber pd buddies! And eat lots of mints!

    Like you and Patrick, I want kids to leave my classroom as confident, strategic, engaged, and thoughtful readers. Now if I can just remember all of this when I get back to school!

    I posted at www.carolwscorner.blogspot.com

  10. Laura,
    We came away with many of the same thoughts. I too felt like Patrick had been a mentor and was sad to see it end.

    Like you and Jill I think that teaching emergent readers makes it easy to focus on miscues and strategies when there is so much more we could be doing.

    I'm so happy to have you and everyone else who went on this #cyberPD journey as colleagues to continue learning from. Thanks for your post and hosting today.


  11. Hi Laura,
    Here's my post http://www.raisingreadersandwriters.com/?p=1083. Thanks for hosting! Looking forward to reading others' comments.


  12. Hi Laura,

    My final post is here.http://enjoy-embracelearning.blogspot.com/2011/07/conferring-keystone-of-readers-workshop.html

    I tweeted it earlier but forgot to stop by.

  13. I loved your honest thinking about thinking about bigger or more open walk aways. With emergent literacy it's hard to work on things besides decoding and climbing the numbers, so to speak. I also think you are ready to confer and listen to your readers, they will guide you in knowing what they need.

  14. Laura~
    Thanks for hosting #cyberpd, it has been a great experience, I have learned so much!
    My post is FINALLY up, I am on island time, so I guess that means I am not late at all! LOL


  15. Hey, all! Thanks for commenting and joining in on the conversation!

    @Tony - I'm with ya! I am driven now to make sure my kids fall in love with reading and learning...even if that means next year's teacher has to finally step up to the plate and change! Your idea for keeping the conversation going during the school year is fantastic. It will definitely keep me motivated and on track!

    @Jill - Yes, let's keep this conversation going! I'd love to hear how you incorporate those different kinds of conferences in your classroom.

    @Mandy - Thank you for the pep talk! I needed that!!

    ~Laura :)

  16. Sorry so late to comment. Life got in the way these past 2 days.

    Love, love, love Tony's idea of a monthly check-in post with one another. What a wonderful way to keep this community together and moving forward in positive ways!!

    My small groups have definitely evolved (for the better) over the years. I used to be more ability based; now I look at students and what they need. It came to me over time, and I know that you going public with wanting to change how you look at small groups will now begin to change the compositions of your group.

    Again, such a wonderful idea to do this. I've had an amazing time!!

  17. Laura~
    I enjoyed reading your post and was caught by your idea of fault finding for our youngest readers. I have struggled with this too. It seems my youngest readers who need the most attention and my personal best teaching often get the scripted G reading~ while my stronger reader's get the conferences that spur deep thinking and NO nit picking! This I plan to change! Have I unknowingly set my expectations lower for these younger readers? Would conferring more with these kids give them the support they need to use meaning to decode unknown words and build deeper comprehension? We shall see… I look forward to chatting with everyone through the school year about this and other experiences of the Cyberpd growth!

  18. I just arrived home from vacation and have finally published my reflections on Part 3! I'm looking forward to reading all the blog posts and rejoining the conversation!!