As we employ the Reader’s Workshop model of reading instruction in the sixth grade, our students love to read. They recommend books to each other and read all the time. They are voracious readers. It’s amazing. While the reading part of Reader’s Workshop is important, reflection and growth based on strategies is also vital to the process. We want to make sure our students are working towards their reading goal while also employing the strategies we’ve worked on thus far this year.
So, on a weekly basis, we conference with our students. It’s usually a quick check-in lasting about 5-10 minutes in length. We ask the students the following questions: What are you reading? Do you like it and why or why not? What is your reading goal? What are you doing to work towards it? What can you do to work towards it? These questions generally get the conversation going. We want to help our students think about their reading critically. Sometimes during our weekly conferences, we go over a recent Humanities assignment we graded or assessed. We also try to keep some conferences open so that the students can talk to us about whatever is on their mind. It’s a chance to have individual conversations with our students about their reading lives.
Is there more that we could or should be doing in these conferences? Are we tackling too much or too little? Are the conferences too long or too short? Are we focusing on reading enough? I wonder if we are using our student conferences effectively.
Today we met with our students to go over their reading goal. We asked them about their goal and what they are doing to work towards it. Most of the students are making great progress. For two of the students, I had to remind them when to practice using the strategy they want to work on. One student wants to improve his ability to read aloud. So, he went into the hallway and practiced reading from his book aloud. Another student wants to improve his vocabulary. So, he took note of unknown words in his reading and then looked them up in an online dictionary. Most of the conferences today were under five minutes. Is that long enough?
Our students love to read and are, for the most part, effectively utilizing the reading strategies well. However, are our reading conferences enough to help guide our students? Should we be doing more? Although our conference format and frequency has greatly improved in the last two years, we still wonder if we have it right yet. What makes a student reading conference beneficial for our students?