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How to Read the Room between Conferences

Constructive FeedbackReader’s and Writer’s Workshop hinges on providing choice.  However, as I am guiding my level this year in dipping their toes into the framework–I’m more of a full-immersion woman, myself–, some things have been made increasingly more clear to me.

Choice is a nice idea, but when it lacks support, it’s like using a map without a destination in mind.  It’s looking at something that holds value in direction and helping you see the world, and only noticing the colors and squiggles.

For this reason, I’ve really been stressing the value of conferring (conferencing?), and I’ve ventured back to the 3TT archives to guide me in this soapbox.  As I focus more on conferring in my own classroom, a question frequently pops into my mind.

Amy has discussed why conferring matters, and how we shouldn’t make reading conferences into an official assessment, for fear of losing readers altogether.  Our goal is to foster the growth of real readers and writers.

Seems simple, right?

Yet, we all know that our goals often get muddied with the business of everything ELSE we need to do as teachers.  Before we know it, a month or so may pass between individual conferences with a student.  What happens if they lose interest in a book, but are afraid to say so?  How do we deal with the in-between, cover the cracks, and all that cliche, but completely necessary work?

How can I read a whole room of readers, so that nobody falls off the rails in between our conferences?

When we first checked out books this year, I checked in with students after each silent reading episode.

I stated, “Okay, I need everybody to stand!”

Cue the groans

“Now, I need everyone who is enjoying their current book to stay standing.”

I immediately had a temperature gauge of students who sat down, and clearly were not happy with their book.  After that visual representation, I asked students who loved their books to go talk to someone who was not happy with their book.  I instructed them to sell that book to their classmate so that they could put some more titles on their list.

This worked really well in the first few weeks of school, and I’m attempting to gather more in-between checks of this nature.  Of course, I turned to my 3TT ladies, first.

Amy likes to use sticky note conferences in writer’s notebooks.

She also has students talk at their tables about their books at least once a week.

What are some ways you all keep up with students’ reading journeys in between one-on-one conferring?


Jessica Paxson is an English teacher English IV, AP Lang, and Creative Writing in Arlington, TX.  She runs on coffee and exaggeration.  Her husband keeps her sane with his good looks and even-keeled  nature.  She spends her time reading everything she can, writing about real life and all it’s messiness (Jessica Jordana), and attempting to inspire students to be the best version of themselves.  You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @jessjordana to follow along with her many adventures!

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2 thoughts on “How to Read the Room between Conferences

  1. […] been thinking about alternatives to reading logs for some time, brainstorming ways to read the room between conferences, and our readers have offered this great list of possibilities, which […]

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  2. mrsturnerblog September 27, 2017 at 9:27 am Reply

    I love these ideas. Conferencing is probably the part where I’m the weakest right now. I tend to do informal conferences as I see kids here and there around school and in the halls, but I haven’t worked in as much of the actual conferencing into my classroom. I love the idea of having them talk to each other about what they’re reading–that’s a cool plan. Thanks for the awesomeness (as usual!).

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