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A Blended Approach to Reading and Writing Conferences

Reading_conference_parker_three

If I had to decide what moments I am most effective in the classroom, I'd have to say that it is when I am on the floor conferring with individual students about their reading and writing. This also happens to be the area of teaching that I have refined the most, always looking for new ways to make use of our conference time together. So much time has been dedicated to this, in fact, that I am declaring myself a reading/writing physician! This week I'd like to share with you how we now blend our reading and writing conferences to create a stronger impact.

A Blended Approach to Reading and Writing Conferences

Rw_ww_meeting_essentials In the past I would meet with individual students during reader's workshop for a reading conference and meet for a writing conference during writer's workshop. The truth was, it became overwhelming having 40+ conferences to manage a week (especially with 26 students last year).

This year, I made the decision to combine our reading and writing conferences. It was such a simple move, and I am really excited about the blended approach to conferring. I would like to share with you a typical reading/writing conference, as well as share my "physician" tricks of the trade.

First Minute: Who's Next?

After completing a reading or writing mini-lesson, I glance at our conference chart to see who I will be meeting with for the day. I quietly walk up to the student and ask them to meet me on the carpet. The student knows to bring all the items shown above. This includes: a reader's notebook, a copy of our CAFE board (doc), and a writer's notebook.

Visual_schedule

Pictured: Student pictures are laminated and attached with Velcro to a conference board. This makes changes to the conference schedule easier to remember and helps me keep track of who I need to meet with.

Second Minute: Some Time to Reflect and Edit

Each week I ask students to write a reading reflection in their reader's notebook the day before our conference (purchased here). Currently we are focusing on writing about our reading connections to deepen our our thinking when we write. When students write me a letter, I believe it is only fair to read it and write back a letter to each student.  So, when students first sit down for a conference they immediately open their writer's notebook and begin to edit their soon to be conferenced piece. I usually hand a pen to the student for editing so I can visually see the corrections made in their piece. During this time, I read and respond to the letter written to me. On average, this takes one to two minutes and also gives me a quite second to browse through their school reading log (they only record finished novels).

Rw_letter_overview

Rw_letter_to_meRw_letter_back_to_student

To watch a clip on what is included our reader's notebook, click here. It comes from the first week of school.

Minutes Three to Six: Writing Conference Time

I usually begin a writing conference with, "How's writing going?" I then skim through the writer's notebook looking for dates, length of writing, and writing variety. Students are given the option to read or be read to. In most cases, we have time to look at one page in detail, so having the piece edited before our talk is very helpful to me.

As the piece is read I listen and look for standards that are being meet and standards that can be addressed. I do my best to share two things that the student is doing well as well as one thing to work on (2 stars, 1 wish). I often say, "Did you know you were doing this?" for the area of strength and, "Can I show you something good writers do?" for the area to work on.

I make sure to record this in my conference notebook so I can follow it up with our next meeting(s). Because the student spent time editing their piece before our conference, I can easily see what is not being noticed by the student. I select the most pressing strategy/skill missed at the time. It can sometimes be a challenge not to address more than this, but one skill/step a week creates successful progress throughout the year. Unsure of what to look for? Here is an example:

* correct use of possessive nouns

* use of active voice or descriptive language

wish- adding a comma before a quotation is used

(visit our page on how we use a Writing Target Board, including a printable sheet for conference standards)

Rw_writers_notebook

Sample writer's notebook- This student self-selected his writer's notebook. It includes a magnetic shut on the front and a spot for his spelling dictionary. Great care has been given to this notebook, but his desk is another story!

Minutes Seven to Ten: Reading Conference Time

After completing a writing conference, it's on to reading. I didn't realize how closely the reading and writing connection was until I combined our conferences together. So often, the genre being read about matches the genre being written about. It brings to mind the saying, "What are you reading that is like what you are writing?" With the student pictured below, he spends most of his time writing informational, nonfiction pieces about animals. You can only guess that his reading selections are under the same genre. Part of my job this year will be to help him branch off this genre in reading and writing as well as strengthen the way he writes and selects books in this genre. It is important to note that reading habits are very clear when you use this approach. You don't need a reading log to do the math!  

On most occasions, I start with a retell of what is being read. In my conference notebook I record the title, date, and level of perceived understanding. Whether I have read the book or not, when a student struggles to tell me the character's name or talks about the book with enthusiasm, I have become confident in assessing the level of understanding. A simple check plus or check minus in my notes often works for me.

Next, I ask the student to open their book to the page they are currently on. I record the page number in my conference book and ask the student to read a page out loud. It is during this time that I complete an informal running record. For those not familiar with running records, it is a method to record what you are orally hearing a child do while reading (self-correcting, replacing, repeating, etc.) I do this so I can help assess what the student is doing well and what the student needs to work on.  A sample observation may include:

* the student is reading an appropriate level book (95% accuracy or higher), so they are reading fluently

* the student is self-correcting words while reading (supported by a running record)

wish- the student will use chunking (chunky monkey) to decode unknown words. This will be followed with using context clues if the word is still unknown.

(visit our page on how we use a C.A.F.E. board, including a printable sheet for conference standards)

Rw_running_record

Here I am completing a running record as the student reads to me.

Rw_conference_chunking_word

I ask, "Does that make sense?" for this student who replaced a word while reading. We go back and use some decoding strategies to figure out what was said in the text.

Getting It All In!

Because we have less movement and time associated with starting and ending a conference, I have found it easier to meet with each student each week. On average, I am able to meet with two or three students during our first reading block and two or three students during our second block. And it is during the third reading/writing block that I make time to meet with students for a guided reading session. All this is completed with little to no stress now, and I encourage you to learn more about The Daily Five for management of time.

More Information on Becoming a Reading/Writing Physician

Reading/Writing Physician

Pronunciation: \fə-'zi-shən\ 1. n. a person skilled in the art of reading and writing conferring; specifically: one educated, classroom experienced, and licensed listener that aides in creating life-long readers and writers through daily reading and writing time.

Reading/Writing Pharmacist

Pronunciation: \'fär-mə-sist\ 1. n. the art, practice, or profession of preparing, preserving, compounding, and dispensing prescribed reading and writing annodates, mainly pre-designed by others.

Laminack_book

I like to think I am a Reading/Writing Physician, rather than the Reading/Writing Pharmacist passing out the prescription. I was fortunate to hear author Lester Laminack use this analogy once, and I think it is fitting. Each student is on a totally individualized plan of action in our room, and I am in control (and responsible) for the progress made this year. I take a little bit of my experience, my heart, and my knowledge to make these decisions. And of course, I rely on amazing educators like Katie Wood Ray, Lester Laminack (Scholastic resources from him), Ralph Fletcher, and my teaching peers.

If you would like to see a collection of professional books that have helped me become a Reading/Writing Physician, click here.

If you would like to learn more about our classroom click here.

Comments

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Angela Bunyi

Nicole,

Thanks! Your post was just what I needed. I have spent most of today doing planning things for school. I was starting to feel overwhelmed as I wasn't getting very far (in my mind). So, thank you for putting some energy back into me! I really appreciate it.

Much respect,
Angela

Nicole

Angela--
I just discovered your site. Wow! You are incredible. Thanks for your great ideas. They are inspiring and getting me back on track after returning from a maternity leave.

I just wanted to let you know you are appreciated!
--Nicole

Compounding Pharmacy

well i must say really a nice post, and i am looking forward to see some more stuff like this .

Angela Bunyi

Hello Cassie,

I have thought about posting a blog on this, and maybe I will sometime soon. Here are my quick pointers on organizing a library.

My Uncoventional Side:

I do NOT support organizing books by level. I know Fountas and Pinnell as well as some others recommend a portion be organized by level, but I think my conference time is where I can support and recommend easier or harder books. I also believe that my ultimate goal is to have students self-select books based on interest.

Leveling:

With this all said, Scholastic offers a great resource for leveling books and I do provide the level (with a tiny font on a clear label) on the front of most of my books. You can find that link on my Internet link. Here is the direct address:
http://src.scholastic.com/ecatalog/default.asp?UID=B2BABE650944467F8A333AFCEA9C3851&subt=0&Test=NA

For older, harder to find books try www.titlewave.com That site will find the oldiest, ugliest book from a garage sale, and it also provides 4-5 different leveling systems to consider. Here you will see that leveling is not an exact science. Each of the leveling systems will vary (ex-AR, Fountas and Pinnell, and Lexile), giving you some freedom to place your own judgement as well.

Labeling:

I used clear mailing labels so the front looks normal until closer inspections are made. On each label I provide the following information-
1. A color box to indicate section of library
2. The Title
3. The level
4. The genre
5. The exact bin (ex- Historical Fiction)

Bin Organization:

I use bins from Really Good Stuff that helps the book covers face forward. I followed Beth Newingham's suggestion of having the library broken up into four parts (along with many other of her ideas). The green section is our misc. area, including award winners, book buddy books, and some chapter books. The yellow is for fiction and poetry. The blue is for author studies and informational books. The red is for nonfiction and content areas. The cool bookshelf shown in our room (rotating) houses chapter books and is sorted by authors as most students start with an author and stick with them (ex- Jerry Spinelli or Gary Paulsen).

Keeping It Organized:

The labels help a lot, but last year I "hired" four students to maintain the books. 99% of the time all books were where they needed to be. It was great. My group this year is adjusting a little, so it is not a perfect system yet. However, I have spent 30 minutes once a week going through and sorting out the misplaced books, and that is not too bad. I will be hiring librarians shortly to help out.

Online Program:

There are a couple out there. I use Intelliscanner which provides a web site, a search engine, and a printer friendly version to keep for your classroom library easy to keep organized. The class version provides details, including the photo cover and a spot for teacher notes (ex- great book for showing small moments).

Your "Younger" Books:

Bring in those books from your time in 1st grade...I use picture books to help teach writing through author's craft. We also say that we are not re-reading the book, we are re-thinking the book... we also read books like a writer, and picture books are a perfect place to start.

Bin Labels:

You can find printable labels on my site, if you haven't found those yet.

www.bar.rcs.k12.tn.us/teachers/bunyia/bunyihome.html

PLEASE let me know if I have missed anything. I remember how much work went into setting up mine. I'd be more than happy to help you out if you can think of any questions.

-Angela

Cassie

Hi Angela!

As a teacher new to 5th grade, I want to thank you for creating such a wonderful website! (I taught 1st before so it's quite the change).

I'm working on creating and organizing my library right now and I was hoping you could share a little bit about how you organize yours. I know you use the scanner(which I'm hoping to get for x-mas), but I wondering what your different bin colors mean ? Do like all the blue bins have NF, red chapter books, etc? Also I'm wondering if you could tell me how you label your books? I'm thinking just a mailing label with genre/bin location/level? Since I'm starting from scratch I want to do it right!

Any other pointers for creating a useful, organized library? (I had a huge library in 1st grade- 3,500 books- but it was never as organized as I wanted it (I had bins and everything but books not labeled)

Angela Bunyi

Michelle,

The beauty of creating time for an author's share/book talk is that it doesn't take too much prep. on your part as the students do the "selling" or "blessing" of the books on their own. Essentially, when I conference with my 5 individual students, they are preparing for a book talk with the class. During a conference I usually have students talk about the book before I listen to them read a portion of it out loud. Those students then share the book they are reading with the class (that they shared with me). It is all student-driven...down to the book selections, although I often make suggestions on books to follow up with ("You might enjoy Inkheart. Have you heard of that book before?). I also give some support on modeling and supporting a good book talk. I might say something like this:

"Wow. The way that Katelin talks about the book makes me want to read it. What I like the most is that she didn't give a summary to us. She gave us just enough information to get us hooked. What do you think?"

This is a very casual way of modeling a book talk...but you can model it in a couple of ways as well.

How You Can Promote Books:

I admit that I have a book buying problem. I simply bring in new books to the meeting area when I buy them. I give a short synopsis on why I bought the book (This book reminded me of my boys who like mysteries...) and say, "Is there anyone who would be interested in reading this book?" It takes just a moment and resembles a giveaway contest. Scholastic also has some great resources under the book link. Short video booktalks are quick and easy to share with the group.

More Info.:
I plan on adding more details regarding reader's and writer's workshop, including assessment and guided reading. Let me know if you need anything else.

Best to you...

Michelle Sporleder

Angela,

Can we hear more about the book talk/author's share? I wonder what that looks like? Is it focused on a specific author/genre at a time?
Do you create the book talks from scratch or is there a wonderful resource you can share with us that will provide examples?
I've always felt this would be a great way to motivate readers and activate their interest, but I've never known how to actually go about deciding which books to share and what to actually say when "selling" the book.
Any pointers would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you so much for your willingness to share!

Michelle

Michelle Sporleder

Angela,

Can we hear more about the book talk/author's share? I wonder what that looks like? Is it focused on a specific author/genre at a time?
Do you create the book talks from scratch or is there a wonderful resource you can share with us that will provide examples?
I've always felt this would be a great way to motivate readers and activate their interest, but I've never known how to actually go about deciding which books to share and what to actually say when "selling" the book.
Any pointers would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you so much for your willingness to share!

Michelle

Angela Bunyi

Christina,

I hope you come back to view this post! I noticed that I failed to build in time for a daily book talk/author's share. This is a great way to build/foster community, and it really motivates students to read and write more. I would consider using the 12:00-12:15.

And thank you for the kind words!

Christina Towery

Angela,

Thanks so much for your quick response. Class meetings are not mandated by the school but I had this weird chuck of time I didn't know what to do with and the meetings have actually created a culture in my class of caring and respect. I may pull back from it and do it M,W, F and leave T and Th to handwriting. All your suggestions were just what I needed to get perspective. Thank you so much. You are a true resource.

Christina

Angela Bunyi

Gwen,

You're welcome. Anytime...well, except for right now. My son clearly needs to get out of the bath tub, as it sounds like he is having a LITTLE bit too much fun.


Angela Bunyi

Christina,

Overall, your schedule is allowing you 1.5 hours for math (if I am reading your schedule correctly-math warm up?), individual times for both science and social studies each day, and 2 hours for literacy...not too bad! I only made a few minor changes, but it seems like you are getting in a lot in one day. :)

7:30-7:45: Reading mini-lesson
7:45-8:15: Reading block
Begin individual conferences with 2-3 students
8:15-8:30: Writing mini-lesson
8:30-9:00: Writing block
Finish individual conferences with 2-3 students
9:00-9:20 Recess
9:20-9:30 Chapter book read aloud / snack time
9:30 -10:00 Math Warm up
Based on your post-this is a must, right?
10:00 - 10:55 Specials
55 minutes? I am jealous! :)
11:00-12:00 Math (bring math to a 1.5 hour total, correct?)
12:00 - 12:15 If a class meeting is not required, I would replace or mix it in with the more isolated skills-spelling, vocabulary, and handwriting lessons.
12:15 - 12:45 Lunch
We almost have the same lunch times- 12:15-12:40 for me.
12:45 - 1:15 Social Studies
1:15 - 2:00 Science
2:00-2:30 Intervention / DEAR Time

Guided reading could be blended in during social studies/science or during the last reading block (RTI/DEAR time). A great resource for leveled content books would be readinga-z.com. All of my guided reading books mesh with what we are teaching under science standards and you can print as needed.

I hope this helps!

Gwen Thompson

Thanks for your help!! Your website is wonderful! I appreciate your time and how quickly you got back with me!!

Your students are lucky to have you for a teacher!

Angela Bunyi

Hello,

The printables for reader's notebooks can be found from a former Scholastic Teacher Advisor, Beth Newingham. Here is her direct link that includes a copy of each page from the Fountas and Pinnell reader's notebook. However, if you have a composition book, the 8.5 x 11 won't work in a composition book. Regardless, here is the info:

http://hill.troy.k12.mi.us/staff/bnewingham/myweb3/Reader's%20Notebooks.htm

Also, I hope I am getting credit for the song I wrote. I came up with the rounding song, but not the place value song :( . The place value song comes from www.rockinthestandards.com. These two songs placed together will help students round a large number to, let's say, the ten thousands place value VERY easily. My buddy teacher (joined together via portable) said this has been the easiest year for teaching this rounding and place value in 18 years. I hope it is the same for you!

For those interested in listening/viewing our song links, visit our main page (on left scroll bar).

Best to you!

Gwen Thompson

Hi! I teach 5th grade and am busy trying to organize my guided reading. I noticed on your site that you made journals. You also mentioned that you can download the pages from Fountas/Pinnell on line. Could you email me that site? Or would you be willing to email me what you include in your notebook? We were going to use the composition books for journals, but I want to include more things and we did not put them on our supply list. Any help you could give would be GREATLY appreciated!!

I LOVE your place value song!! You are so creative! We will be singing that tomorrow!!

Thanks for your help!

Gwen Thompson

Christina Towery

Angela,

I am not sure where to begin with my questions. I am teaching third grade for the first time this year. All my prior experience has been in the younger grades. I get so excited when I read about how you are conducting your class and I would love to incorporate some of your tips into my daily teaching. I like some of the previous posters seem to be struggling with the scheduling everything into my day. I currently plan with a team and our district mandates what we will teach through our 3 week bundles. It is not scripted so there is room for creativity. Here is my schedule for the day. ELA and math time must be the amount of time specified. Any ideas of ways I might be able to tweak it would be greatly appreciated.

7:30-9:00 ELA (this consists of reading, writing, spelling, and handwriting)
9:00-9:20 Recess
9:20-9:30 Chapter book read aloud / snack time
9:30 -10:00 Math Warm up
10:00 - 10:55 Specials
11:00-12:00 Math
12:00 - 12:15 Class Meeting
12:15 - 12:45 Lunch
12:45 - 1:15 Social Studies
1:15 - 2:00 Science
2:00-2:30 Intervention / DEAR Time

Again thanks for all the inspiration!

Regards,

Christina

Angela Bunyi

Hello!

I am assuming, based on my experience with a friend that teaches in a Catholic school, you have additional specials mixed into your schedule. Ex- bible studies in addition to specials. This will make it even harder to balance it all, but hopefully you have smaller numbers to work with (I know this isn't always the case).

I feel fortunate to have my related arts (music, P.E., tech, art, and guidance) at, what I believe is, a perfect time. Our daily time is from 10:45-11:20 each day. So, from 8:25-10:45, it is all reading and writing...but it doesn't end there, because we also add a block at the end of the day. It is during this time that I meet with students for guided reading. I do have to rotate out science and social studies to make that happen....but then again, my read-aloud today was nonfiction for reading and all of my guided reading books are on science this week.

As far as a fragmented schedule to work around, I have been very fortunate to not happen so far. Worse case scenerio, you could teach a mini-lesson before specials and have a block when you return. And, I am thinking I could be of more help if I was able to look at your schedule. Feel free to post your schedule here (or via email to me), and I'd be glad to give you my thoughts!

Best to you...

Peggy

I am having such a hard time fitting in Reading Workshop and Writing Workshop into my schedule. Do you not have specials?? (i.e. P.E., art, library,etc) I used to have such a large block in the AM for language arts and now it's being eaten up with specials. I love specials, don't get me wrong, because I need some time, but how do I fit this in? I am lucky if I can fit it in, but some are broken pieces which I feel don't lend itself to a good learning environment. I also have to teach Religion being in a Catholic School.

Angela Bunyi

Hello,

I know. Such a simple idea, but I feel like it is sooo much better now. Less movement, more connections between reading and writing, less missed conferences.

As far as my schedule, I make use of every second of the day...but at the same time it is not stressful at all. I am not even sure how I get everything in now, but I am happy to say that I am! I didn't feel that way last year.

Just to give you an idea- It was Friday afternoon. 30 minutes of school remaining. I had two parents in my room working one on one with students of need, while I was working with a guided reading group. And you may be thinking guided reading at the end of the day on Friday?!? Yes. My schedule requires rethinking the organization of schedules overall.

In essence, we have 4 mini-lessons a day, with 3 full blocks throughout the day. I have the most detailed schedule ever on my site. It may look overwhelming at first, but it really gives you a strong idea of what we are addressing day by day! You can view that schedule at:
www.bar.rcs.k12.tn.us/teachers/bunyia/dailyschedule.html

You could also type in www.mrsbunyi.com and look for the schedule on the main page.

Thanks for writing! Hope you had a great weekend...

Mary Anne

This sounds great! I love the idea of combining the reading and writing conference! Can you tell me what your daily schedule is like? How are you able to fit in 3 literacy blocks?

Angela Bunyi

Hello!

It actually took me a second to get the doctor joke (although I am just short one course and dissertation for a doctorate). I just started guided reading groups up last week, and I am surprised how much we have to do before this gets started up each year (week 5 for us). Good luck to you! I am thinking of posting some guided reading tips later in the month as well...

And you won't regret The Daily Five. I am passing it on to my son's teacher tomorrow and have had many teachers borrow it as well. If anything, it gives you a way to manage all things you want your students to have time with in reading/writing without turning it into centers. I can actually say that I feel like I am getting "it" all in this year, and reading and writing are so merged throughout the day now. It's a great feeling.

Regarding the reader's notebook, I can be a promoter for Fountas and Pinnell. Yes, I attempted to go the free route last year by using the printable versions from former Scholastic Advisor, Beth Newingham. It was a total pain to me, and the students didn't seem to care for the notebooks that much. With the real thing, great care has been given to the notebooks, and I LOVE the tab organization of the book (reading log, letters to me, guided reading section, etc.). I wouldn't know how to organize the reader's notebook with a plain notebook, but if you have any ideas-please share!

To see what is included in each notebook- www.bar.rcs.k12.tn.us/teachers/bunyia/readersnotebook.wmv

Best to you!

Lisa McCarthy

This is great, "Dr." Bunyi! I'll be starting guided reading for the very first time this year, and I look forward to implementing a Reader's Workshop. I just ordered The Daily Five based on your recommendation. Have you ever used plain notebooks for your reader's notebooks?

Comments are closed. Please see Classroom Solutions, our new blog for the 2009-2010 school year. And stay tuned for Teaching Matters with Angela Bunyi and Beth Newingham.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Inside Angela's 4th Grade Classroom are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.