What are you noticing?

This post is part of our ongoing series called Power Language for Conferring.  To learn more about the series and find a quick link to previous posts, please visit our Power Language page on this site.

Today’s power language for conferring: What are you noticing?

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When do we use language like this?  

This is a question we often find ourselves using in the early stages of a conference while we’re using the WONDER move to help ourselves understand what’s going on between this reader and this book.

Sometimes we use the question in its simplest form, What are you noticing? to provide a wide open invitation for students to let us in on their thinking. After all, thinking tends to remain invisible if students do not volunteer or if

 we do not ask. When we ask this question, students often take us in wonderfully unexpected directions.

Other times, we tack on a few more words to add more specificity to our wondering (see the variations below). We might do this when something has piqued our interest and we want to explore with more intentionality in one of the four directions: book choice, healthy reading habits, strategic reading process, or authentic response to reading.

What makes this language so powerful?  

When we ask students what they are noticing, we are really saying, “Your thoughts matter. I want to hear what you have to say.”  One of the most beautiful things about noticings is that they are neither right or wrong. They are not answers to be judged. They are simply statements about what has stood out enough to get noticed by a reader. We love this language because of the way it invites students to reveal their thinking in a very non threatening way.

This question has the power to give us telling glimpses into where a reader’s attention is focused, how they are making sense of what they encounter, and in what ways they taking time to be reflective about their reading (or even writing, math, or any other subject during the school day). Whatever a student reveals in response to a question like this helps us to better know them as a reader, positioning us to consider possible next steps.

What are some variations of this question?

  • What are you noticing about yourself as a reader?
  • What are you noticing about the books you’ve been choosing lately?
  • What are you noticing about your reading life outside of school?
  • What are you noticing about this character (event, chapter, etc)?
  • What are you noticing about the choices the author (illustrator) made?
  • What are you noticing about the ways you solve problems as a reader?  
  • What are you noticing about… (what might you say here to learn more?)


We want to hear from you!

We hope you’ll join our conversation about power language for conferring. We’d love to know your thoughts about this question.  Have you tried it? What happened? What other questions do you rely on to get the conference started? We’d want to hear from you.

You can add a comment below, send us a tweet (@Kari_Yates and @ChristinaNosek ), or jump over to our new Facebook group (To Know and Nurture a Reader), and join the conversation there. Thank you for joining us on this joyful quest to know and nurture every learner through conferring.
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To learn more about the art and the science of this little conversation called a conference, check out our new book, To Know and Nurture a Reader: Conferring with Confidence and Joy from Stenhouse Publishing.

To keep stocking your toolkit with powerful conferring questions, subscribe below and we’ll send our next post directly to your inbox.

One thought on “What are you noticing?

  1. So happy to see a focus on language, conversation and authentic dialogue. More teachers need to close the reading program teachers editions, avoid scripted questions, and just follow the conversation. Talk to kids about their reading. Most of my guided reading questions begin with “what did you notice?’ and move from their to “what are you thinking or wondering?”…. and the conversation takes me on a road that gives me insight into children’s thinking… so powerful, so respectful, so generative.


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