Getting to Know You

26 Mar

Looking for a way to move your students even further in their reading and writing abilities? Have you considered individual conferences? Now, before you throw your hands up in frustration, let me share a few benefits of conferencing. Taking the time to schedule one-on-one conferences will yield benefits far beyond the scope of the ordinary day-to-day routines. You will gain insights into the reading and writing strengths and weaknesses of each and every student. Moreover, you’ll be able to target instruction to address each student’s specific needs. Conferencing will allow you to get to know your students, build a deep and lasting rapport, and build confidence in your students. You’ll be able to give targeted feedback and then later monitor the students’ use of the feedback or strategies that were taught.

As you consider conferencing, the question that is probably uppermost in your mind is, “How on earth would I ever find the time to do this?” The answer to this question is that you don’t find the time, you make it. There are several ways to “make” time for conferencing. One of the first ways to make time is to consider shortening small group sessions by 3-4 minutes to allow time for one conference following each small group session. You might also make time throughout the day to schedule 1-2 conferences (perhaps when students first arrive and are doing morning work, or when they return from lunch and are reading independently, etc.). It is important to remember that a conference doesn’t have to be long to have major impact. In fact a shorter conference is probably more effective in that it doesn’t overwhelm a student and it forces us to be succinct and  focused. An effective conference can be as short as 3-4 minutes.

The next consideration is organization. You’ll want to have plans in place for which students you’ll meet with, when you’ll meet with them, and ideas on how you’ll record instructional notes and/or ideas. Keeping a binder with a calendar and a page for each student can ease organization. The Daily Cafe offers fantastic suggestions on organizing for conferencing as well as ideas on planning and instructional strategies.

Start out small. Schedule just one to two conferences per day initially. See how you can modify your schedule. Experiment with ideas on record keeping. The important thing is to start! Individual conferences can be done and you will be amazed at the difference they will make in both reading and writing  instruction.

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