In Reading in the Wild, Chapter 3: Wild Readers Share Books and Reading with Other Readers & Conferring: What’s the Point?, Donalyn Miller shares about fostering a community of readers in the classroom, avenues for sharing books, and spends a considerable time talking about online reading communities such as Twitter, Nerdy Book Club, and Good Reads. (Please help me! I have no knowledge of online reading communities!?! Where do I learn? What are your favorites? Do your students participate in these? How? When? #solostsoconfused #noidea)
In Week 3 (Building an Excitement for Reading), I talked a lot about ways I build a community in my reading classroom. From Augmented Reality to book tournaments, building and fostering reading community is one of my favorite things to do. Therefore, today I wanted to focus on Miller’s last section of Chapter 3 – Conferring: What’s the Point?.
In this section, Miller relates conferring to building a relationship with a reader. She describes it less about data and more about connection. I really appreciate this sentiment. As we build relationships with our students/readers and invest in their growth, they feel respected. We can then use this relationship to set goals and have real conversations about their reading. When students feel safe, we get a true understanding of their strengths and areas of growth. Students are willing to share these because they know we (as teachers) will work tirelessly to help them move forward. With conferring relationships, students know we care.
This year conferring is not something I did as well as I should have. With 30 students in a class and 50 minute class periods (excuses, excuses – I know!), I found I was able to meet with students every 2 weeks. If I grabbed students before and after school, and in hallway transitions, I could often fit in an informal meeting on the weeks we didn’t meet during our reading period. My conferring with students typically lasted 3-5 minutes, sometimes less, took place on the floor, in the student’s favorite reading spot.
At the beginning of the year, the most burdensome part of conferring was the data. How do I record what I am hearing and what do I do with it? To streamline the paper and note-taking process with my 90 readers, I created a survey using Survey Monkey. When I conferred with students, I brought my iPad and completed the survey after I met with students. I never wanted students to feel that they didn’t have my full attention during our book talks, so I would take 30 seconds or so to fill our the form after we finished. Sometimes I would be able to answer every question, sometimes I wouldn’t. It all depended on the student, what they were reading, and his/her needs.
All of the results of my Survey Monkey fed into an Excel document, so I was able to sort and print the notes at the end of each week. From there, I could include the notes in my data binder from which I could pull during ARCs, parent meetings, or when lesson planning. (Note – Survey Monkey only allows you to store data up to 100 respondents, so I did purchase a subscription.)
For easy-access to the survey, I saved it as an icon on my iPad’s home screen. This made it simple to pull up the survey and ensures I do not have to saw an Internet URL or search the web for every conference. If you’re not sure how to turn a URL into an iPad icon, check out my picture tutorial here.
- Figure out the who/what/when/where/why of online reading communities (HELP!)
- Find a spot for a Reading Graffiti Wall in my new classroom. So. Cool.
- I must be more consistent in my conferring, and I must remember conferring is more about building a relationship than collecting data.
So, please tell me, are you a part of an online reading community? How do you introduce your students to online reading communities? Do you find it difficult to carve out time for conferring? What tips/tricks do you have for me and other teachers? We want to hear your advice, thoughts, and ideas for the classroom, too. The more teachers we have joining, the more amazing our classrooms will be this fall!