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First Reading Conference With Students

After you've invited students to complete two or three getting-to-know you pieces, you can use the information gathered to develop a focus for your first reading conference. The purpose of these conferences is to take you deeper into students' attitudes toward reading so you can support them by helping them select books and improve their skills.
For example, when an eighth grader wrote that reading was "annoying" on his survey, I asked him in our first conference what he meant by that comment. His response helped me support him: "I read so slow. I'm the last one done. Reading homework takes too much time. I avoid reading." What I discovered was that this student was reading three years below grade level and struggling with textbooks in content subjects and a whole class novel in English class. Offering him choices of books he could read and enjoy, books on topics that he cared about, improved his reading rate and his desire to read. Though the texts were below grade level, the student applied all the skills and strategies that were eighth-grade requirements.
Laura Robb


When I was in school, collaboration was another word for getting others to do your work. Today, collaboration is the way we generate ideas, tap into creativity, and solve problems. Corporations and governments use collaboration to address issues as diverse as product development and climate change.
I observe collaboration in the early grades where students sit at tables and frequently work together. By middle and high school, I observe students sitting in rows, separated from one another. Yet, middle and high school students are extremely social and love to talk—and talk is an oral text that can help students clarify, understand, and discuss issues and concepts to create new understandings.
My middle school students thrive on collaboration, and with my support they learn to take a problem and divide it into varied tasks so that each group member has an area of specialty while being responsible for supporting fellow classmates. For example, seventh graders explored friendships and what made them work and not work. They conducted interviews with adults, read realistic and historical novels to learn more about friendship, and used their life experience; they then collaborated to share their knowledge and draw conclusions to present to the class. Such collaborations extend the reading and thinking beyond the book, enabling students to make powerful connections to their lives.
How do you incorporate collaboration into your teaching?
Laura Robb

Conferring With Students

For me, one of the best ways to stay tuned in to students is by circulating around the room and pausing to chat with them while they read, write, or work with a partner or group. These kinds of informal conferences are a great ways to start meeting with students for short bursts of time on a regular basis.
I recommend that you jot down key points of these conversations on sticky notes. I usually give the notes to students so they have a record of our brief meeting and can use it to refresh their memories.
I invite you to ask questions about conferring and share some of your conferring experiences—both positive and negative.
Laura Robb

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in The Laura Robb Blog are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.