How’s it going?

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: How’s it going?

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Thank you, Carl Anderson! For today’s power language, we tip our hats to one of our conferring heroes, Carl Anderson. When Carl published his landmark text about conferring with writers titled, How’s it Going?  in the year 2000, he made an invaluable offering to literacy educators everywhere. Carl’s work has informed our work in countless ways for which we’ll be forever grateful. So, today, we tip our hat to Carl for this simple yet remarkable question for conferring: How’s it Going?

When do we use language like this?  We have three favorite uses for this question.

  • As an opener. Most often we ask this question at the very beginning of a conference, providing an open-ended invitation for readers to share whatever happens to be on their mind about their reading lives at the moment.
  • When we suspect a reader might need our partnership in problem solving. Sometimes we lead with this question when we see signs of disengagement or struggle, but want to make sure we empower the student to reflect on and articulate the challenge, rather than assuming we know what’s happening or how to solve it.
  • As a follow up to statements about work students are pursuing. We also this question has important place once the conversation get rolling, as a follow up to statements readers make about the work they are pursuing.  For example, when a reader says that they’re tackling a new genre, trying out a new strategy, or intentionally working toward a goal, we might help ourselves gather more insight or information, by following up with, “So, how’s it going?”  


What makes this language so powerful?  The design of this question is intended to keep the focus on the reader and the process, rather than specifics of the text.  It is not synonymous with “What are you reading?” or “What’s happening in the story?” Instead, it is a sincere invitation for students to reflect on how things are really going for them as readers (writers, mathematicians, scientists, etc.). Carl’s question invites the reader into the driver’s seat, steering the conversation to whatever is on their minds. In doing so, it can become a rich and authentic assessment of a student’s ability to reflect on how things really are going for them. It can identify celebrations and name their own struggles or challenges, providing us with guideposts as we think about what to AFFIRM and/or EXTEND on the path to healing our students build vibrant reading lives for themselves. When we find readers who don’t seem to know how to respond to a question like this (they might be anxious to retell every detail, but are not as comfortable noticing or naming reflections about their experiences as readers)  we know we’ve uncovered an opportunity to teach into, helping them learn to pay attention to talk about their internal lives as readers.

What are some variations of this question?

  • How’s your reading going today?
  • What would you like to talk about in our conference?
  • What on your mind as a reader?


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 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.

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