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. Continue reading “What are you noticing?”

This Week’s Quote, July 8, 2018

“Every book choice tells a story, about both the reader and their book-finding skills.”  -page 76

If you want to read more, you can visit the Stenhouse website to order your own copy of our book, To Know and Nurture a Reader; Conferring with Confidence and Joy.  If you’d like to be part of the conversation, come on over and join our To Know and Nurture a Reader Facebook Group. If you want more content like this delivered right to your inbox, click the Follow button below and  you’ll never miss a post.

We’re so glad to have you with us on our learning journey.  – Kari & Christina

May I join you?

At its simplest, a conference is a conversation between two people: a conversation aimed at understanding, affirming, and extending what students are doing in their learning lives. But what makes some of these conversations almost magical while others fall flat? We believe the magic is in the language we use. Strategic language choices allow us to initiate, expand and elevate conversations with our learners in purposeful ways. So, in each post of this new series – Power Language for Conferring – we offer ideas of language we wouldn’t want to be without as we work to know and nurture the readers beside us.

Since this is the opening post in the series we begin with our favorite opening question for conferring . . .

Today’s power language for conferring:  May I join you?  Continue reading “May I join you?”

Coming Full Circle: A Thank You Note

Although we both love steaks bloody rare, legs shaved daily, and time by the water, the bedrock foundation of our partnership is built on a shared passion for nurturing readers through independent reading.  Yet we didn’t discover this shared passion by working side by side or meeting at a conference. Instead, we first because acquainted 140 characters at a time on the #G2Great twitter chat.

Who knew that regularly liking someone else’s tweets and following their blog could lead to writing a book together? Not us! And yet, here we are. And we can’t quite imagine that it ever would have happened without the #G2Great chat.  

If you don’t know about this chat, you’re going to want to check it out. Founded on the tenets of Dr. Mary Howard’s book, Good to Great Teaching: Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters, the #G2Great is co-moderated by Dr. Mary Howard, Jenn Hayhurst, Amy Brennan, and now Fran McVeigh. This incredible chat draws countless literacy educators across the globe and fosters thought provoking conversation, reflection, and professional learning, week in and week out. And while other chats come and go, #G2Great , now into it’s fourth year, just keeps getting better.   
Continue reading “Coming Full Circle: A Thank You Note”

How can I use conferring to connect with students who are very new to English?

Since arriving in the country with her family just a few months ago, Renata’s days are filled with new and sometimes peculiar settings, people, smells, tastes, and expectations. Because Spanish is the language she’s grown up with, there are added layers of complexity that she must navigate in her new school as she tries to find entry points into conversation, social structures, and the academic curriculum of her second grade classroom. Since Renata isn’t yet reading or understanding much English, her teacher worries about how to help her make the most of independent choice reading each day and feels a bit stymied about what to say and do in a conference, since the two of them have so few words in common.

With an estimated 5 million English learners (ELs) currently in US classrooms (US Department of Education, 2015), roughly 1 out of every 10 students has a home language other than English. Embracing the presence of these immigrant, refugee, and US born language diverse learners into our classrooms is an opportunity to welcome world in, modeling for all students what it means to be a member of a culturally and linguistically diverse world. In today’s post we offer a few simple entry points for using conferring with English learners to build relationships, help them grow as readers, leverage their interests and strengths, and help them to help them become thriving members of the classroom community. Continue reading “How can I use conferring to connect with students who are very new to English?”

Help! My students want to choose books I’m afraid are too hard!

Help! My students want to choose books I’m afraid are too hard!

As Carmen looks around her third-grade classroom, she sees her peers reading chapter books like Clementine, The One and Only Ivan, The Spiderwick Chronicles, and even Harry Potter. She mentioned to her teacher, Mr. Chen, that everyone’s books seem “so fat and brainy” and the books she’s reading look like “baby books.”  Most of her peer’s current reads exceed 100, 200, and even 300 pages. Carmen longs to read the same books as her friends. In Carmen’s opinion, most of the classroom library books at her current “level” look like they’re for much younger kids. Mr. Chen is at a loss. He knows that if Carmen is to grow as a reader, she’ll have to spend lots of time with books she can actually read and comprehend. But, Carmen is so determined to read what her friends are reading. Like many kids in her position, she just wants to fit in.

The last message we want to give readers is, “You can’t read this book. It’s too hard for you.” So, what can teachers like Mr. Chen do to help readers like Carmen find books they love, can read, and feel proud to hold in their hands?  Continue reading “Help! My students want to choose books I’m afraid are too hard!”

Tips to Help Students Develop the Independence They Need So You Can Confer

Question: I want to regularly confer with every reader in my classroom. But, how can I respond to students who persistently seek my attention while I’m trying to confer with others?

Aaron, a second grade teacher, is working to establish both independent reading and conferring in his classroom. However, as soon as he starts to dig in with one student, he finds himself interrupted by other students who want his attention. Joey needs to go to the restroom; Ava has can’t find her book bag; Isaac keeps tattling on the kids around him. Aaron is beginning to wonder if  his kids just aren’t ready for this level of independence yet, or if maybe they need something “more structured” than independent reading to do while he confers.

Because conferring calls on us to be wholeheartedly present with just one student at a time, What will the other kids be doing? often comes up when we talk with teachers about conferring. Our answer is clear and simple: they’ll be reading self-selected texts. After all, conferring is our primary means of reflecting on what students are doing as they read independently, so we can find meaningful ways to cultivate thriving reading lives. In other words, conferring is something we do while students read independently, in order to understand, affirm, and extend how they read independently.

However, helping your students learn to carry on with engaged independence is not something that just happens overnight. This is tricky, ongoing work that takes clarity, patience, and persistence on your part. To get you started we offer a handful of strategies that will work with any age or stage of reading development.  Continue reading “Tips to Help Students Develop the Independence They Need So You Can Confer”