11 Tips to Start Conferring during your Reading Block

When I first heard about the conferring approach to teach reading I was intrigued... Would I successfully be able to teach 25 students to read when I am meeting with them all INDIVIDUALLY? This was a new model to me and I was at a new school, in a new state, so the pressure was on. So I dove in. Head first.

Get students EXCITED about reading! Start the year off with lots of interactive read alouds, talk about your own reading habits, show your excitement for reading, and make reading fun. When students see your excitement they get excited too.

Use a leveling system that is consistent in your school. The consistency helps when students move from one grade to the next. I also have books that are organized by genre, authors, and/or interests.

Michael from the Thinker Builder has some great tips to organize your library that you can check out by clicking here.

Here are some more tips for library organization from Martha at Primary Paradise. You can check them out by clicking here.

A well organized classroom library is going to help your readers and you in the next step. Make sure students know the layout of the library, how the library or organized, and what procedures they need to follow for library routines (I will talk more about procedures and routines later on.) You can use these handy labels to help get your library started. You can find these labels by clicking here or on the the picture.

This is the most crucial part of a child learning to read: independent reading. During this time students will need to have "Just Right" Books to grow as readers. Students have a range of 5-7 "Just Right" Books in their book box. As important as "Just Right" Books are it is also important for students to have Interest Books. These are books that students are interested in, whether its a book all about sharks or a Cinderella story. It is ok if these books are above or below a student's reading level. These books are in the book box to hep students ENJOY reading. A combination of "Just Right" Books and Interest Books will help your growing readers.

Students will be spending a lot time without you, which means they will need to have purposeful activities that promote their specific literacy goals. I use a modified version of the Daily 5 from The 2 Sisters during this time.

Here is an example of how I organize my Daily Rotations.

During Read to Self/Read to Someone students use their book boxes to choose "Just Right" Books to read.  The prep from you is done while organizing your library and teaching students to pick appropriate books. Students are grouped together by reading level so they have a choice who they want to read with.

Work on Writing is done in their monthly journals. This daily independent writing opportunity allows students to practice all previously learned writing skills. Students are able to use word walls for spelling, stretch their sounds out, and use their punctuation and capitalization rules. To hold students accountable I have two students (a boy and a girl) read their journals to the class after out Daily rotations. You can imagine who excited they get to share!

For me, Word Work, is the trickiest part of purposeful independent activities. I generally have a word work assignment students need to complete that practices a specific phonics pattern. Once student have completed that there are a variety of games and activities students can choose from. Here is an example of some long vowel team word work my class has done in the past. You check out them out by clicking here or on the pictures. Rainbow writing, magnetic letters, and sight word games are great examples of purposeful independent activities.

In order for your conferencing to work, practical procedures NEED to be in place!

How and when do students choose new books from the library?
What do students do if they finish their word work early?
Where can students find materials?

All of procedures need to be well planned out and taught to students. Be sure to think about this before you begin implementing your new conferencing reading block. And remember, it is okay to change procedures if it isn't working for your classroom.

I have routines and procedure posted around the classroom and reference the frequently. I also use "Mystery Workers" to hold students accountable for their behavior following procedures.

The procedures that I just discussed above, PRACTICE THEM! Children need to know what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like to successfully go through their new reading block. Spend a couple weeks teaching and practicing a procedure, adding a new procedure each day. Spending a lot time in the beginning of the year teaching the procedures will benefit the whole classroom for the rest of the year.

You need to be organized if you want to successfully implement conferencing into your reading block. Keeping a Reading Binder has helped me stay organized. This binder keeps track of all my students with different templates for different levels of students. I love being able to carry my binder around to students and having everything I need easily accessible.

Along with conferring I have also used strategy groups and guided reading groups to focus on certain strategies through out the year. This bider has helped me organize lesson plans for those groups. You can find the reading binder by clicking here or on the pictures.

Whether it is weekly or monthly, having a schedule or a calendar helps you keep track of which students you need to see and who you have already seen. It also allows you to schedule to ensure every student is being met. You can find these calendars by clicking here or the pictures.

Allow students to READ. If you busy students with too many other tasks they may never get to the actual reading. Let students fall into a book and read Whether in the beginning of the year it is going rom book to book or just reading the pictures, students will begin feel what it is like to be a reader and continue to read one book. Let students read above all else.

When you are conferencing with students, let them READ! Listening to students read and the strategies they re using will give you a wealth of information.

If one of your procedures isn't working, don't stress. Change it. Every classroom is different and conferencing will look different in each unique place. Allow the reading block to be relaxed and casual (but still structured.)

Students will get familiar with the flow of the reading block and being to take initiative to do their work on their own. Trust them. They are practicing becoming readers and making mistakes is ok.

Keeping data does not have to be as difficult or time consuming as you think! Using a binder to help organize your data will make all the difference. I have a tab for each student and all their previous conference data is in there. I can see what strengths the reader has, which things are still being worked on, and what their learning goal was. I like to track their progress using these conference pages. Plus they are great for parent teacher conferences! To find these student reading logs click here or on the pictures.

I hope these tips help you start reading conferences in your classroom! If you have any questions or other ideas I would love to hear fro you in the comments below!

Happy Conferencing!

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