How To Maximize the Benefits of Individual Reading Conferences
For many teachers, the opportunity to meet with a student one-on-one is a rare and valuable opportunity. Early elementary teacher Justin Minkel outlines how he ensures that one-on-one reading conferences are productive in “Six Tips for Making the Most of One-on-One Reading Conferences” published by Education Week.
Consider the following schedule: While Minkel believes that “quality over quantity” is the best approach, he believes that there must be enough time to dedicate to children who are suffering. Equity does not imply spending the same amount of time with each kid; rather, it means identifying which students have the highest needs and spending more time with those students. The joy of putting a check box next to all 25 children’s names for meetings that were hasty or superficial, he adds, is preferable to “ten or fifteen serious discussions.”
Start with a strength: Allow the student to read for a couple of minutes before complimenting them on one particular strength you’ve noticed, according to Minkel: “Be specific.” Point out how the reader made an insightful connection, reread a section that she was perplexed about, or adjusted her tone of voice when the grumpy duck was speaking.” After that, provide an approach that the learner could employ to improve. Encourage pupils to adopt a growth mindset by reminding them that they are succeeding while simultaneously providing them with suggestions for how to improve.
Test the theory: While a student may claim that he understands your instructions, Minkel believes that the proof is in the demonstration. Teachers can determine whether or not they need to follow up by having a student do the action during the conference. As Minkel points out, it is equally vital to check for comprehension. Using “basic inquiries such as, ‘What happened in this storey?’ or, in the case of nonfiction, ‘What did you learn from this book?'” to determine what pupils truly comprehend is a good way to find out what they really understand.
Examine the findings once more: Make use of the information you gain from the conferences to improve your teaching methods. Obtaining feedback on what works—and what doesn’t—is only beneficial if you can put that information to use in subsequent lessons. Refer to your notes from previous conferences and check in with each student to see how they are progressing. As Minkel says, “the time we spend obtaining data is only meaningful if we actually use the data to make kids better readers.”
Try to think about the student as a whole person: ask inquiries outside of the reading assignment to find out how a student is doing both in and out of the classroom. According to Minkel, “taking that half-minute to ask how pupils are doing can show that we care about them as human beings, rather than merely as a collection of reading levels and test results.” “Over time, those small human moments can help to strengthen, reinforce, or even restore the relationship that is at the heart of teaching and learning.”