When I first started using the reading workshop approach with my students, my biggest worry was determining how I'd know students were understanding what they read. The answer to my worry was individual conferences with my students. Today I'd like to share some tips and resources for implementing student conferences.
After the completion of the mini-lesson for the day (you can read more about mini-lessons here), I'd send students off to read on their own. Once they were settled in their reading spots, I'd begin conferring.
Every day I set up my clipboard with the record keeping sheets of the four or five students I planned to confer with that day. You can find the conference note-taking form I used in my TpT shop. Here's what it looks like:
Next I asked them to tell me about what they had read since the last conference. This was my chance to check their comprehension. I recorded information about the retelling on the recording sheet. If students were reading a book I was unfamiliar with, I would quickly read the blurb on the back to get a sense of the plot. You'd be surprised how much you can glean from the blurb!
The next step was to dig a little deeper into their comprehension. I used this time to check how well they were applying the information we had practiced during the mini-lesson. For example, if we had worked on describing character traits, I'd ask the student to tell me about the character traits exhibited by the main character in the book he was reading.
Knowing what questions to ask to spark this conversation wasn't easy when I first began conducting reading conferences. To help me, I developed these conferring cards that I carried with me when meeting with students. I printed them, cut them out, and put them on a binder ring. I could flip to the card that addressed the skill I was checking up on and have an assortment of questions to pick from. The cards have questions for both fiction and non-fiction. This resource is available here in my TpT store. Here's an example:
When I had the information I needed, I thanked the student for talking with me, jotted down any more notes in the comments section of the recording sheet, flipped to the next sheet on my clipboard, and went to meet with the next student I had targeted for a conference that day. Each conference took me about five to seven minutes.
At the end of the day, I returned the recording sheets to my data binder and got out the sheets for the next day.
These anecdotal records were invaluable when meeting with parents and when referring students for intervention or extension. They also helped me identify teaching points for future mini-lessons.
If you are interested in either of these resources, just click on the picture and it will take you right to it in my TpT store.
If you are implementing reading workshop, I'd love to hear what is working for you!