Here's what I think are my main problems;
Time management. I often spend way too much time with one student. If I want to meet with students on a regular basis I need to be more efficient with my time. But this often leads to my second problem! As soon as I sit next to a student I start thinking, "Oh, I can't waste time, so lets get going!" And this nagging rush, rush, rush feeling is always lurking and sometimes prevents me from really connecting with my young readers.
Figuring out what to teach. I'm often not sure what to teach, so I talk too much or I teach too much. I sometimes walk away from the conference not knowing what I actually taught and realize the student probably felt the same!
I know I am really great at modeling or explaining how to use reading strategies or skills in my whole group lessons. I have been thinking about how I can transfer this quality to my conferences. When I look back at conferences that I felt good about I realized it was because I immediately knew what the student was doing well and what I could teach them. I didn't get to to the stressed out stage of worrying about time or what to teach.
I am currently reading Conferring With Readers by Jennifer Serravallo (@JSerravallo) and Gravity Goldberg (@drgravityg). One thing that I have been thinking about and doing more of when I confer is the "research" phase of my conference. I am trying to observe my reader for a few moments and really think about what I see them doing. Are they staying focused, using their finger, using post its? I am also trying to make sure I open up our conference with a question that will allow me to continue my research. Here's some questions I have used recently that have helped me in my research phase. Would you like to share your post it notes? How are post it notes helping you understand your non-fiction? What are you thinking? The last one often flusters many students and they immediately begin retelling the story. So, sometimes I add, "what do you think of that?" referring to their retelling. It's just over the last couple of weeks that I have been paying close attention to the questions I ask - which has helped me reflect on my conferring technique. I really think I might keep a list of opening questions or comments to help me out. Once I get the conversation going I usually can see what strategies they are trying pretty quick.
The other idea that Jennifer and Gravity suggest is creating a list of goals or strategies and skills you want students to learn during a unit of study. While I do this in my head I really think this could help me to focus more during my conferences when it's time to identify a skill to teach. After spring break I plan on doing this for the remainder of our non-fiction unit.
I am only on Chapter 7, but I'm finding it so helpful as I work to improve my conferring. The authors do a great job of identifying the parts of a conference and even the different types of conferences. As I read it I realize I am doing many of these things, but I think naming them is so important if I want to keep doing them!
What challenges and successes have you had with your reading conferences?
Do you have a system for recording and keeping track of your conferences?