Wednesday, July 20, 2011


This week we are talking about the third and final section of Conferring by Patrick Allen. Laura Komos is hosting the conversation this week on her blog, Our Camp Read-A-Lot. Be sure to stop by and check out the whole conversation or leave a comment with your ideas. If you are just joining us be sure to check out our earlier conversations about Part 1 and Part 2 of the book.

In this section, Patrick Allen talks about walk-aways or the things he wants his students to have as they walk away from a conference. So for this final post on Conferring, I think I will share my walk-aways from reading this book and participating in this blog book chat.

  • First and foremost, I need to decide what notes I want to take at each conference so that I can spend my time listening to a student during a conference rather than thinking about what notes I might take.
  • I am currently doing a modified type of guided reading group with my students. After a book introduction and/or a quick lesson I move around the table to read with each student. I have been making these quick reading times with the students have more of a conference feel than a guided reading feel and I want to continue and improve upon that. I am not sure which of Patrick's categories this fits under - Capital G Guided Reading or small g guided reading. It may be closer to small g guided reading. This will be in addition to my regular conferring during independent reading.
  • I have been experimenting with Evernote on the iPad and think that I might be able to use that for my notes. I will need some additional type of form to keep track of when and how often I confer with each student but that can be in Evernote, too.
  • I want to remember to leave my students with a walk-away of their own after each conference. The few times that a student and I have been very explicit about their new plan or goal, it has been very successful. First graders love to try new things and they are open to suggestions from me. I need to end each conference with a "P" - plan, progress or purpose. I need to make sure this is in my notes so I can follow up with the student later.
  • It is important to keep in mind that "laughter is a natural sign of inferring". (p. 167)
  • So many of the "Conferring Ain't Easy" premises struck me and are things that I need to keep at the front of my mind as I confer. These include: Conferring is Teaching, Not Fault Finding, Shut Up and Listen, Nudge Thinking Deeper, My Knees Are Killing Me and You Need a Mint. The first three are the ones that will help me change the substance of my conferences while the last two will help me make conferring more comfortable for everyone involved.
My first day of school with students is two weeks from today and I feel like I have a great plan in place to make some significant changes in my reading (and writing and math) conferences. Thanks, Patrick, for writing Conferring and giving us all so much to think about.


  1. Jill - I agree with your statement on note-taking, I really have to think about what I want to write down, and not worry about it.

    I also do modified guided reading and have each student do some reading for me. I think it's great that you keep that feeling like a conference. I will try that, too.

    Thanks for sharing all your great ideas, and I hope we keep the Conferring conversation going this year!

  2. Hi Jill,

    Thanks for sharing your walk aways. I think as teacher in general, we sweat the small stuff, like what to write down when conferring. I know I struggle with this too, but we have to keep in mind that our notes are primarily for us. Keep it simple. I'm going to start with paper and pencil for my notes. I want to focus on the language and conversation before I try my hand at adding in the technology note taking piece. Evernote is a great resource, but I'm holding out. I hope to hear about your adventures though!

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Chris - I would love to hear how shifting your guided reading/conferences goes for you. Let's compare notes as the year progresses.

    Michelle - I hope that Evernote will work for me but I will have a notebook waiting in the wings just in case. I have tried so many note-taking systems. It will be an adventure!


  4. Jill,
    Like you, I'm considering using Evernote for conferring next year. I have been playing with Evernote to see how it would work. I like that I can take conferring notes, record audio conversations, and add pictures to notebooks for each student. I have two concerns. For one, I want to be able to easily - and quickly - see what I talked about previously with the student. Secondly, I do not want the use of technology to be cumbersome and keep me from focusing on the reader/writer. I'm glad you are starting school early so I can hear what you think. ;o)

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for the inspiring conversation that led to this event. I could have read "Conferring" by myself, but I've learned so much more because I read it with so many great educators. I have a feeling I'll be revisiting posts for weeks to come. Best of all, I've established a community that I know will continue this conversation and offer support across the year.

    Thanks, Jill.

  5. Jill,
    When you mentioned your small g guided reading, it made me think about the way I interact with my groups. It sounds very similar to your structure, where I try to "tune in" and confer with individuals during our group meeting. I'm hopeful that I can tweak my instruction even more this year!

    My plan is also to use Evernote for keeping track of my conferences. It sounds like this is a popular choice, so I'm looking forward to sharing tips and tricks throughout the upcoming year.

    I appreciated your thoughts on making goals explicit for first graders. I think that will be very helpful for me to remember!

    ~Laura :)

  6. Hi Jill,

    I too am thinking of tinkering with a true guided reading format. This past year I found it beneficial for students to hear each other as the read after a mini lesson but I also found it taking too long to listen and record something for each one. I am wondering if I'm not as diligent about individual notes for individual reading in g, I could have more time for conferring.

  7. Jill,

    I have struggled with note taking during reading conferences too. Thanks to the conversations, I am excited to try tinkering with this aspect of my conferences. I am interested in hearing how using Evernote works for you during conferencing.


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

    Jill - I love that we both had walk-aways. You are only the 2nd post I've checked; it will be fun to see who else had the same idea.

    I am also seriously considering Evernote. Need to do some training with someone more knowledgeable than me to realize its capabilities, but I think the possibilities are great.

    Finally, I too, want to make sure students leave each conferring time with a clear idea of where they're headed next as a reader.

    Love all this sharing!

  9. Cathy, Laura, Mandy, Barbara and Karen,

    I am so glad to hear that some of you are planning to try Evernote also. I have committed to trying but I am already starting to have little worries pop into my mind about the minute by minute management of it. I hope to start and then pause to create a list of challenges so I can try to revise my strategy. I will be looking forward to hearing how using Evernote goes for some of you.

    I am very happy that we did this blog book chat. It has been a wonderful way to experience deeper processing of the thoughts in the book. Thank you all for sharing. I really do feel like I have made some new friends and gained some new colleagues.


  10. Jill~
    Reading your list of take aways made me want jot down a list everything I have learned from our cyber chat that I don't want to forget! I have so many ideas spinning, I am afraid I wont remember all these wonderful plans. I am glad we made all this thinking permanent and visible, I will be revisiting often!

    Evernote… thinking about this too, but like Cathy I don't want the tool to be too cumbersome. I would have to be on a laptop or phone- no ipad! Cathy had a great point- you are starting a few weeks BEFORE us so we will benefit! LOl

  11. Please think about writing a post about your modified guided reading structure. I read your comments this summer, along with the book, Conferring, and have been wanting to tinker with the structure of g.r. ever since.