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Checklist for Reading Confereneces

March 27, 2014

Teacher Musings:

Over the past few years I have been working on improving both the quantity and quality of my reading conferences.  As a high school teacher I only see my students for 53 minutes a day, so when I do get a chance to check in with students about reading, be it personal or metamomentsacademic reading, I need to make the most of my time.  Recently I had some time to reflect on what is working for my reading conferences, and I realized that I have a mental checklist, specifically when it comes to helping students work through confusion in a text.  This is one of the most difficult types of reading conferences, for me, because I’m always itching to just tell the student what is going on in their text.  Instead, I know that the best thing for them is to work through their confusion with my guidence.  So, when a student is showing signs of confusion, or better yet, tells me they are confused (Hallelujah!) I often go through these steps during our conference:

Praise the awareness: Once a student is able to say “I’m confused” or acknowledges a point in the text that is tripping them up, the first thing I do is point out that this is what good readers do – they get confused, and then work to figure it out.

Clarify the confusion: I then try to help students to articulate what, specifically, they are confused about.  This helps build metacognitive awareness, because for metacognition to be truly beneficial, students must be able to pinpoint their confusion.  To push students for this clarification I ask questions like the ones here:

  • “Where did you start to get confused?”
  • “Tell me what you do know/understand about __________”
  • Read aloud and then pause and discuss what is confusing 

Resolve the confusion with modeling and/or guiding questions: This is the step that is most heavily dependent on the student.  In order to both clear up the current confusion and teach them comprehension skills I might model how I would deal with this confusion, or ask guiding questions, or have the student try to figure it out with me watching and listening. It all depends on the kid.  But here are a couple of the reading strategies that I, or the student, use most often in these circumstances.

  • Using context clues to figure out vocabulary
  • Break down complex sentences
  • Trace the pronouns  (it, he, she, etc.)
  • Identify previous parts that weren’t understood and make a concrete plan for re-reading (chunk and summarize, focus question, etc.)

Illuminate the metacognitive process (and results) specifically: Students need to see how good readers aren’t just born – they are developed.  I try to constantly reinforce this idea by pointing out how the hard work students put in lead to increase understanding.  People who believe their hard work leads to results are far more likely to be successful in reading – and life!

I’m still in the process of developing systems and processes to make reading conferences work well in my classroom and I would  love to know what other teachers have to say!!  In the comments section, let me know how you talk to you students about reading!

Yummy Stuff:

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe, but that is because I have been busy writing them up on my other blog Vegan Ma(ma)!  Here is a link to a recent post with several quick-and-easy dinner recipes for the busy family!

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