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Student Conferences: What I Need to Improve

May 13, 2011

Teacher Musings:

One of the things I’ve been working on this year is conferencing with students.  Basically, I have been trying to build in more time to sit with students one-on-one and talk about their reading and writing.  This is a challenge for a number of reasons: finding the class time to do it, having other student’s remain productive while I work somewhere else, and making sure that the discussion I have with students during a conference has a direct impact on their work.

This year I have gotten a lot better about building in time for writing conferences (but a lot less so for reading conferences).  And I’ve gotten better at getting students to take notes about what we talk about, so that they have them after I walk away.  I have also set up systems like a help board and assignments that require students to write questions for me before I see them – and therefore giving our conference some authenticity and guidance.

I have seem some positive results from these conferences in my students’ recent second drafts of a paper, where they noted what they used from our conference on a revision worksheet.  Also, as I have done more and more of these conferences students seem to be asking more specific questions and saying “Tell me what I need to do” a whole lot less.

I want to improve my reading conferences (by having them!) and I want to work on a better record keeping system for conferences.  My hope is that at the end of each term I could sit down with each student and have the following:

1) A record of what we discussed during all their reading and writing conferences

2) The best samples of their writing and record of reading (reading logs)

Then, the student would explain what he/she learned and which parts of their work demonstrate that learning.

This is where I would like conferencing to go.  But, in the interest of growing one step at a time, I might just focus on record keeping next year.

Any thoughts about how to make conferencing work in my high school English classroom?

Yummy Stuff:

We’ve been trying to have more veggies on the side during dinners lately so that our little guy can try some new things.  Last night we had an only favorite – green beans sauteed with garlic and sesame seeds.  Once the beans are blanched (boiled for a few minutes) and shocked (rinsed with cold water) it’s pretty easy to put together.

Green Beans with Sesame and Garlic (adapted from Vegetarian Times):


1 lb. green beans, ends trimmed

1 Tbs. canola oil

3 large cloves garlic, each cut lengthwise into 4 slices

1 Tbs. sesame seeds

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. dark sesame oil

1 tsp. tamari or soy sauce


1) Bring large pot of water to a boil. Fill large bowl with ice water. Boil beans 4 minutes. Using slotted spoon, immediately transfer beans to ice water. Drain and dry beans. This can be done up to 8 hours ahead; refrigerate beans until ready to use.

2) In wok or large, heavy skillet, heat  oil over high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until golden, about 1 minute. Transfer to small plate lined with paper towels to drain. Set aside.

3) Add beans, sesame seeds and salt to wok. Stir-fry, pressing beans against sides until charred in a few places, 2 to 3 minutes.

4) Add sesame oil, tamari or soy sauce and reserved garlic to pan. Stir-fry until heated through, toss to combine with the beans. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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