Time. The most precious commodity of which teachers never seem to have enough. It does not matter what school I visit or whom I talk with when I am there, the number one request that teachers have is for more time.
Right now, the number one thing teachers seem to be talking about that takes a chunk of our valuable time each day is conferring. On average, this seems to involve anywhere from 25-40 minutes in classroom schedules. If we are going to devote that much time to one event in our day then it had better be a worthy activity. Below are the top four questions I receive around conferring.
How do I confer with a reader when I haven’t read the book?
I remember thinking the exact same thing at one point in my conferring practice. This led me to question how effective I was being which in turn made me feel I was wasting time. However, you can confer with any reader on any book and still make the conference impactful. Here are some things to think about:
How can I possibly get through all those word lists (checklists)?
There are some color levels in IRLA that seem like one giant set of word lists. These are especially common in the lower levels where kids are still learning the mechanics of how to read. The trap teachers tend to fall in to is to focus on those lists and check them each time we confer with a student. In doing this, all we ever have time to do in a conference is check a list of words. This, of course, does not feel like a good use of our time. Here are some ways we could use our conferring time and still get those word lists checked:
How do I choose what to confer about?
This is probably the most challenging thing both new and veteran teachers still ask about. I know that it was the area I struggled the most with in regards to conferences. Here are some tips I gathered from teachers across the district:
Is conferring really that important?
Of course I have my own opinion about the answer to this question. Instead of answering the question directly, I am going to leave you with these thoughts.
With time always being the most precious commodity a teacher has, I leave you with the quote above from Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer. Here’s to being the most effective teacher we can be for our students with the time that we are given.
This post brought to you by Rebecca Mecikalski, Elementary Implementation Associate
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