How and why do teachers confer during Independent Reading?
The time children spend reading their self-selected books is the heart of Independent Reading. Conferring with a few children each day allows the teacher to assess how students are progressing as readers and to provide differentiated support to each child. A teacher generally begins the conference by investigating – listening to the child read or talk about their reading. The teacher may prompt and offer specific praise for strategies while the child is reading, or wait until they’ve read a little and choose a specific teaching point. Teachers focus on the strategy from the mini-lesson where appropriate, but conferring is an opportunity to meet the child wherever he or she will benefit the most. The teacher may model, guide, or simply reinforce strategies the child needs or is using. Teachers end conferences with a specific plan for the child to continue independently.
As an introduction to conferring, two conferences are shown below. In the kindergarten conference, the teacher is checking on book choice while prompting for early strategies such as thinking about what makes sense and cross checking with visual cues. In the first grade conference, the focus is on the comprehension strategy of summarizing important information. Additional segments from second grade conferences using running record notations to support teaching points are found in the Assessment Section.
Our mastery of conferring only develops as we practice it and reflect on it. Each Sample Lesson provides the opportunity to analyze the teaching moves and language of several conferences, and think through possible adjustments and next steps, realizing that knowing the child is paramount in making informed decisions. Facilitator Notes are provided to assist in this analysis.
Irby DuBose, Kindergarten