Reading conferences have transformed the teaching and learning in my classroom, but they can be hard to run efficiently sometimes, especially if you have a big class. This semester, I have thirty-four students in my twelfth grade class, so I was finding it hard to get through all of them in a timely manner. Because I know how important these conferences are, I came up with a way to move through them more quickly.
One problem is that the students didn’t always come to me really prepared. I gave them conference guides ahead of time, but they would still waste a lot of time fumbling through their book, looking for pages. To speed up the process, I created bookmarks that matched the topic we would be discussing in an upcoming conference. For example, if we were focusing on methods of character development, I gave them a bookmark that asked them to mark a page that illustrates a change in a character. The bookmark instructs them on the task and has space to record both a quotation and brief notes that the student can reference during a conference.
The real beauty of these bookmarks is that I can use them when I want to have quick conferences, ones where I’m circulating the room while students read or work, as opposed to a sit down one. Last week, I asked my students to find a passage in their novels where the author is using language for effect. I gave out the bookmarks on Monday and told them to have a passage marked by Wednesday. Then, on Thursday and Friday, as they were reading and doing seat work, I wandered the room and asked students to show me the passage they had recorded and to explain how/why the author used specific words for effect. Each interaction took only a minute, and I was able to get the whole class done in those two days.
The bookmarks can be used even if you don’t do reading conferences. For example, you could ask students to use them to prepare for small group discussions they are having about their independent novels. They could also be used to help them prepare for Socratic Seminars or essays on their books.
My class has now switched over to reading full class texts, rather than just reader’s workshop; however, they still get at least ten minutes a day to read books of their choice. At the end of the semester, they
will do a final assessment that asks them to tell me what they have learned about human nature from reading Animal Farm, Macbeth, and their independent novels. On Monday, I’ll be giving them these bookmarks that ask them to look for text-text and text-self connections between their novels and the two class texts. I will circulate at the end of the week to make sure they are making effective connections, and students will save the evidence they collect to use in their final assessment in January.
Overall, the bookmarks have been a hit. They have helped my students get more focused and organized, and we’re running through the conferences much more quickly than we were earlier in the semester.
If you own my Reader’s Workshop Bundle or my Reading Conference Guides, these bookmarks have been added to those products, so they’re there waiting for you 😉
Do you have any tips for improving student conferences? Please share in the comments!