Our #cyberpd book club continued to read Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's Workshop by Patrick Allen. This week's focus was on Part 2: What Are the Essential Components of Conferring?
Shut Up and Listen
The most essential component jumped off of page 127 for me, "Being a good listener means we do have to 'shut up and listen' or how else will we know what we need to teach!"
As my 13-year-old would say, "DUH!" As teachers we have a habit of talking all the time. As I read more about conferring, I've come to realize that this is a time for our students to show us what they are working on. The more years I spend in the classroom (and as a parent), the more I realize that time spent one-on-one with a child makes such a positive impact on their learning and their self-esteem.
Our job, as strong readers, is to be a nurturing reading mentor to our students. Patrick wrote, "Nurturing inquiry comes by sharing our experiences as readers and helping children uncover their own growth and needs and insights."
Patrick wrote about his father, a bricklayer, in the book's introduction. My family is full of tradesmen - bricklayers, electricians and builders. They all learned their trade from a master when they were apprentices. I have come to see my students as reading apprentices as well. No matter their learning style, we need to show them (modeling, think aloud) and guide them on their decisions about text.
The RIP Model
This was an easy model for my brain to follow. The model that Patrick recommends we use to confer with students is the way most people approach a conversation with a friend.
R review, read aloud, record: start out with what you talked about in your last conversation. Ask the student to read aloud from a text. Record your thoughts.
I instruction, insights, intrigue: not only are you looking for a strategy you can reinforce, you are also looking for the student's insights into the text, and their questions. (I love the word intrigue!)
P plan, progress, purpose: The final part of the conversation is to find out their plans as a reader, see what progress they've made on goals they set at the last conference, and set a purpose for future reading.
Conferring Versus Collecting
Oh, boy, did this section ring true with me (you did notice "chaos" in the title of this blog, right!?). I have tried everything to keep track of anecdotal notes in my classroom. Patrick lists many ways (binders, index cards) and I've tried them all. I think that Patrick's conferring form, following the RIP model, will be a great vehicle to try again. I think I'll make 1" binders for each grade level that I work with (K-5), then put tabs for each student in the binder. I've tried to store all my student data in one binder, but that got too bulky. I'm always up for a trip to my favorite office supply store!
"When I sit with my child's teacher..."
On pages 138-139, Patrick poses the question, "How might we make note of what we see and what we've learned?" He then writes about how we have become data collectors in order to prove our work is helping students improve. That's fine, but Patrick points out that as a parent, he would prefer to hear from a teacher how his child is connecting with books. He writes, "I want her teacher to say to me, 'Recently I sat down beside Lauryn and discovered...' That is the data I want."
As a parent, I can't agree more. I understand that my child is a dot on a graph, but I really want to know how she is connecting her learning in school to her life experiences.
When we confer with students, we are giving them a chance to show their learning, and we are giving ourselves a chance to know them as individuals. Only then can we begin to teach them.