One of my favorite parts of being an English Language Arts teacher was conferencing with my students. Each day I would meet with 3-5 students for a few minutes to discuss what they were reading or writing. The students couldn’t wait to get that alone time. It gave me a snapshot of how they could express their thoughts about literacy. The student who was bashful enjoyed this outlet but all students liked the comfortable setting where the few minutes belonged ONLY to them.
As teachers, we need to find outlets for our students. We want students to be able to speak to an adult and express themselves. One on one/Small group allows them to practice the “accountable talk” we should be demanding from our students. I know the next questions will be: WHO? WHAT? WHERE?WHEN? WHY? and HOW?
The who should be all students. What should you conference about? Choose the subject area that works best for you. Religion or ELA are great periods to conference. However, please remember students need guidance. Let them know what the topic is for the week, so students can plan out some things they would like to say. You can always add to the conversation by asking questions. The where is important because the quiet place sets the tone of the conversation. Children need to feel comfortable. You can set up two chairs in a corner and call it a conference area. If you want a small group conference, you can add chairs.
When should you conference? Everyday. I know that sounds idealistic but you can make it happen if it is a priority. Sometimes the one to one is impossible. Make that a small group conference day. One group 4-5 children.
Why conference? I can guarantee you will learn so much about the students in front of you if you give them this opportunity to share. Children love to share but unfortunately in our busy class/ city/ world they do not get this chance nearly as much as they deserve. You will find a change in how they communicate when you encourage them to look at you, speak up and clearly.
HOW? HOW? HOW? This is the MOST important step for success! The key to conferencing is classroom management. What will the other 20+ children do while you are speaking to a small group or individual students? A routine must be in place. Whether its independent work time, silent reading, individualized tech assignments (Mathletics,EducationCity, Learn360, etc), students must comprehend that there are NO interruptions while conferencing. Being able to instill that routine is one of the largest life lessons you can teach- “Every person is entitled to be heard and they are as important as you!”
I encourage you to try conferencing. I would love to hear your thoughts. Please share below.
Submitted by: Laura Hickey, Instructional Media Specialist