Teaching students to read and write is both a science and an art. One of the tried and true practices that helps support all learners is the sacred time spent one on one with teacher and student, side by side with a text in the middle, modeling, coaching, sharing and supporting deep thinking and more critical work. This is the work of conferring. Most teachers we know love the intimacy of these conversations with a shared text, but often feel stuck about how to actually teach the child the next right thing. We have felt that way too!
One of the greatest tools that helped us hone our skill of conferring was creating a “Conferring Toolkit”
What is a conferring toolkit?
A conferring toolkit is a place for tools and supports as you meet with your readers and writers. Imagine having all of your teaching points, rubrics, checklist, progressions all in one easy to reach place so that when you are meeting with a student you don’t have to “make it up on the spot”.
Why create a conferring tool kit?
This story of a conference highlights just how powerful a conferring toolkit can be:
Last week, I met with a student (online!) to confer one on one. She was a fourth grader reading a graphic novel on a digital platform, Epic. I found the book and her spot, shared my screen with her and she read out loud to me for a little bit. As she was reading she was giggling to herself about the way the main character reacted to the villain. This was a place I wanted to have a conversation! When we found a good stopping point, I asked her about it. She was clearly understanding enough to find the humor in the scene, But I wondered… what is the next thing I could teach her to move her comprehension along.
I was able to grab my conferring notebook, tab over to the reading progression on Character (printed from the Reading Pathways) and skim over the “Inferring about Characters and Other Story Elements” I read the paragraph ” I know that a character action will sometimes seem small, but will actually signal a deeper meaning. BINGO! This was what I could teach her!
If I hadn’t had my toolkit with me, we likely would have had a lovely conversation, but I wouldn’t have been equipped with something to push her thinking about this text. Having the progressions within my reach gave me a quick guide and she was able to learn about symbolism from a 5 minute conference in her beloved graphic novel.
How should I create & organize my tool kit?
A conferring notebook could be created in many formats, depending on what you will use!
You can either do a hard copy with a composition notebook like mine on the right. You could print out your resources and put them in clear plastic sleeves in a three ring binder. You could create digital notebook with google slides or padlet.
My personal preference is to have a hard copy so that I can touch and feel and find what I need more easily.
No matter which you choose make sure to create your kit with the tools that will help you.
Part of my toolkit includes a sketchbook of mini-charts that I’ve created to enhance my conferences and small group instruction. The chart provides the teaching point (what, how and why) and often a place to model and practice the new strategy.
Many of the charts are an outgrowth of teaching points and ideas from Lucy Calkins Units of Study and J. Serravallo’s Reading Strategies. My conferring notebook is categorized by reading goals (stamina/volume, vocabulary, Determining Main Ideas, responding to text, etc.) so I can find what I need quickly. Here are a few photos of the charts and progressions in my kit:
It’s never too late to begin!
No matter which format you choose, which anchor charts or checklists you add, we hope that you are encourage and inspired to make your toolkit! Grab a few teacher friends, print off your supplies and sit together and share stories while you compile your tools together.
We know it will make a huge impact in your teaching!