If you’re a teacher who is looking for a better way to help your students improve their reading skills, one avenue you may want to explore is reading conferences. Reading conferences are brief conversations between the teacher and student about the student’s interaction and comprehension of ideally a choice reading book, although you could also use reading conferences for book clubs or whole class novels.
What Are Reading Conferences?
Reading conferences are brief (usually 3-5 minutes) conversations between the teacher and a student in which they discuss the student’s interaction and comprehension of the book they are currently reading. The teacher and student together create a reading goal that the student works on over the course of a week, month, or grading period.
The conference is a great way to help students monitor their own progress and get feedback from their teacher. It is a time for the student and teacher to discuss the goals they created and gives the teacher the opportunity to provide individual feedback or support. The teacher may present a mini-lesson on a skill that will help the student move closer to their goal. Ideally, reading conferences occur once a week with each student. More realistically you’ll meet with students every other week, depending on the size of your class.
Why Use Reading Conferences?
There are many benefits of using reading conferences in your classroom. First, they provide an opportunity for you to get to know your students as readers on a more individualized level. The conferences give you insight into what your students are struggling with so that you can help them overcome those hurdles.
Reading conferences offer you an opportunity to get to know your students as readers on a more personal level. You’ll be able to see what kinds of books they’re interested in reading, the strategies they’re using (or not using) while they read, and what their specific strengths and needs are as readers. It is hard to see these things if you are only using whole group instruction.
Students love having one-on-one time with their teachers – something that can easily get lost with large class sizes. This is an opportunity for students to share their love of reading with you and for you to nurture that love. You can use this time to get to know your students better and find out what they’re interested in which will help you pair them up with Just Right Books!
Reading Conferences can also help students develop their reading skills by providing specialized instruction to help teach or clarify skills. This is a great time to give students feedback on their reading progress, and to help identify goals the student can be working on. Itis also a time of celebration when students reach their goals.
The one-on-one opportunities can build students’ confidence as readers because they know that you’re invested in their success. This investment can make all the difference for a student, especially if they are struggling with reading. By providing individualized attention, you can help the student improve their skills and feel more confident in their abilities.
Reading conferences are also valuable to you the teacher because they give you valuable data that you can use to inform your instruction. Based on what you learn from your students during conferences, you can adjust your teaching accordingly. If several students are struggling with a concept you can plan a small group activity or if you see most students struggling you’ll know to plan a whole group reteach lesson. You can also see the success and celebrations of student progress in real time!
How to Use Reading Conferences in Your Classroom
Now that we’ve discussed what reading conferences are and why you should use them, you may be wondering how to actually incorporate them into your classroom routine.
Tips for Reading Conferences
Here are a few tips to help you make the most of reading conferences in your classroom:
- Set aside some uninterrupted time each day for conferences. It doesn’t have to be the entire period. If you are giving students 15 minutes to read on a particular day, try meeting with three students that day. If you are just starting out, make it your goal to meet with one student about their reading each day.
- Choose a comfortable spot in your room (away from distractions) where you can sit down with each student for their conference. Some teachers prefer to grab a chair and sit with students so only the teacher is moving, but this is really a personal preference.
- During the conference itself, be sure to ask lots of questions and really listen to your students’ responses. Conferring isn’t just about giving mini-lessons; it’s also about building relationships with your students so that they feel comfortable coming to you with their reading struggles (and successes!).
I’ll admit that this was a struggle for me at first. I didn’t know how to conference with students if I hadn’t read the book. What I’ve learned is it really doesn’t matter. In the conference, the student should be doing the majority of the talking – let them tell you what is happening in the book. Yes, a few of them might try to trick you with a book you haven’t read, but honestly it easy to tell when they are just making things up.
If you’d like a list of questions you can use during reading conferences, check out my free resource here.
- Provide feedback. Students want to know what they are doing well – this is your opportunity to celebrate their successes with them. I like to provide a little note for the students that celebrates one thing and provides some feedback on the progress they are making toward their goal.
I have student feedback forms that make it quick to jot down a note for the student and move on. You can check those out here.
- Keep records so you know what you’ve talked about with each student, but don’t spend too much time writing things down – simply make a few notes and move on.
- After conferring with all of your students, take some time to reflect on what you heard in your discussions with students. Reflect on what you learned about student reading habits and skills to see if you need to make any necessary adjustments to your instruction.
Reading conferences are an excellent way to help your students improve their reading skills. By conferencing with each student on a regular basis, you’ll be able to get to know them as readers, understand what they’re struggling with, and help them build confidence in their abilities. If you’re looking for a way to help your students improve their reading skills, definitely consider incorporating reading conferences into your classroom routine!
For more information on reading conferences, be sure to check out this post.