One of my most successful ways in establishing trust and urgency with my 7th grade students and their reading choices is through our one-one-one conferring time. This established time happens during our independent reading time, every day for 20 minutes we start class with this self-selected reading time where every child is invited to fall into the pages of a book. It is the cornerstone of much of our continued work together and allows me a peek into who how they see themselves as readers, as well as the work they want to undertake.
Every conference is five to seven or less minutes after the initial one, that means that I usually can meet with three students every day. With class sizes ranging between 25 and 29 kids, this gives me a chance to meet with every student once every three to four weeks depending on what else I might need to help with during their independent reading time. When I taught 45 minute classes, it took longer as we only had 10 minutes of self-selected reading to start the class with.
I always take notes while I meet with them, it is to help me remember what we discussed, help me support their pathway and also keep track of who I am meeting with, I usually meet with them alphabetically because every child deserves a reading conversation and they can always see what I write down. I don’t want any child to wonder what notes I am taking and worry about that for some reason.
The conferring note-taking sheet I use changes as I think about its use further every year, so if you like this current version make sure you make a copy of it because inevitably it will change.
The top portion of the sheet is dedicated to when we meet for the very first time, while my students fill in an initial reading survey which offers me a glimpse into their thoughts of who they are as readers, it is really not until I sit down with them and get to know them that we start the work. After all a survey is just an invitation but a conversation is where we can start to explore their identity if they feel comfortable to do so.
The different components mean…
- Confer by me or them – where would they like to have these conversations? I want to respect their boundaries and make them feel as comfortable as I can as we work to establish trust.
- Book reading and rank – What’s the title of their current book and how would they rank the current book they are reading on a scale form 1 to 10.
- Goal – What is the initial goal they have set for themselves as readers in the 7th grade reading challenge?
- Why – Why have they set this goal, this is an important conversation to have because many of my students set a goal to just make the teacher happy, not a goal that they actually care about.
- Last Year – What did their reading lives look like the previous year?
- Progress – By the time we meet they have been working on their goal for a few days, how has it been going?
- Hard about reading – what do they find difficult about reading?
The subsequent sections are shorter, I take fewer notes in order to be able to meet with students more frequently. Of course, if a child needs more time then we take it.
Some of the components remain the same, but the new ones are…
- Read next – Do they have ideas of what to read next? I so often find that the vulnerable readers I teach have few ideas for what to read next and then spend an extraordinary amount of time trying to find a new read, this question will allow me a peek into their process and help them start book shopping before they finish or abandon their current book.
- What are you working on as a reader – what is the goal they have been working on?
- Progress – How has it been going?
- Next step OR how is this challenging you – What are next steps they can take, what are next steps I can help them with and/or how does their current reading goal challenge them?
- What did I learn about this person today? It is vital to me that I leave with a deeper understanding of who they are as a person and not just about reading, this question reminds me of that.
While this conferring sheet is only a small sliver of the work that happens all year as they explore and develop their reading identity further, it serves as a conversational touchpoint that reminds us of the goals we have, the work we need to do, and who we are as human beings in our classroom. While some kids are eager to share their journey as readers, others are much more hesitant or fully unwilling and I respect that as well. After all, they don’t know me yet so they have no reason to trust me. We then take the time needed to develop our relationship and continually invite them into this conversation. It takes patience and dedication but every child is worth it.
I am excited to be heading out on the road again to be with other educators in-district or at conferences, while continuing my virtual consulting and speaking as well. If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help.