My classroom is not a quiet, orderly place.
Students are constantly moving, thinking, talking, reading and writing.
I do my best to help my students find success.

July 20, 2011

Conferring Part 3: Walk-Aways

I think this is the first professional book that I've read cover-to-cover and used a notebook to track my thinking.  WOW! I can thank all the people participating in the #cyberpd book club for helping me gain deep understanding from the book, Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's Workshop, by Patrick Allen.

Conferring Walk Aways
I wrote this quote from Patrick in my notebook today, "I hope I'm building the capacity for my students to think independently without me there guiding them (p. 157)."  AHA!  We are strong readers who need to teach our students to become thinkers, readers and writers.  Very few students can manage this on their own. I have always believed that my developing readers will eventually grow into stronger readers.  I know I can do a better job of moving them on the reading continuum if I commit to conferring with them.

I really liked the transcripts that Patrick shared in this chapter, especially his thinking bubbles.  These transcripts are the next best thing to being in his classroom (which would be a treat!).  I saw the difference ways Patrick nudges one reader, Jacob, and listens intently to another reader, Mikayla.  The "walk aways" I learned from this section are:  1) ask opened ended questions and listen to the answers with an open mind, 2) give nudges to readers ("conferring is teaching, not fault finding"), and 3) give children time to think.  Many children will use think time to develop deeper ideas, when we give them the time!

Conferring Ain't Easy... but it's worth it!
This statement is catchy and true!  It ain't easy to confer, but I think reading this book has made conferring
less of a mystery to me.  I plan to start with building a strong culture of reading and responding in our notebooks during each session with my groups.  We will build our stamina and our strategy learning s..l..o..w..l..y.  We will take time at the beginning of the year really focus in on why we're working together and what we need to do.  That hard work (if I can really stay focused!) will pay off during the year, as I confer with individual students.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around how this is all going to work in my little resource room, as I have 40 minutes of focused instruction time to respond to the different needs of each student.  Thankfully, I've had the benefit of learning with all of my #cyberpd tweeps, and I hope we'll bring our classroom conferring experiences back to the discussion table throughout the year.

"We need to get back in the business of knowing children, of knowing readers...They need time to develop as readers with us sitting alongside them, nudging them over the hurdles and celebrating their successes" (Allen, p.181)

* * * * 
Want to join in the Cyber PD? Check it out:
July 6th
Part I: What Brings About a Good Conference, Anyway?
Hosted by Cathy Mere at Reflect and Refine
July 13th
Part II: What Are the Essential Components of Conferring?
Hosted by Jill Fisch at My Primary Passion
July 20th
Part III. What Emerges from Our Reading Conferences?
Hosted by Laura Komos at Camp Read-A-Lot
July 21st:
Join us for the final conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberPD.


  1. Chris,

    I absolutely love the quote you pulled out:

    "I hope I'm building the capacity for my students to think independently without me there guiding them (p. 157)."

    That is our goal all day long with our students and should guide all of our conversations with them.

    I, too, hope that we continue the conversation during the year to share what is working/not working for us. This is a great group and I have learned so much from everyone.


  2. Chris,
    I have enjoyed reading your posts. Because you only have your students for 40 minutes you've provided an interesting perspective to the conversation. Though this is our "final" post, like you, I'm thinking we will have continued conversations during the school year. I'm looking forward to it.


  3. Chris, time is always a struggle but also a gift. Remember within your 40min session you don't need to confer with them all each and every day. I find open ended questions to offer so much more learning about students and a great way to see where we need to go. Go for it, I know you can do it.

  4. Chris,
    I was truly inspired by your drive to incorporate conferring into your time with your students! I bet you'll find it makes it easier to meet the needs of your diverse learners. Can't wait to hear all about it!
    ~Laura :)

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

    Chris - Love the last quote you pulled from Patrick! The idea of knowing students as learners and readers is critical. Getting ready to do a workshop next week, and a key point will be the ways we know our students. After reading this book, I now know conferring will be a very important way I know students.

    good luck with the 40 minutes. Like you, I would love to have this conversation continue throughout the year.

  6. Chris~
    My apologies for the island time comment~first day back-
    I too taught in a resource room and had very limited time with my kids. Once I started conferring and stepped back a minute to see what my kids were doing without me I was amazed! Trust yourself, trust your teaching and trust the kids!