Conferring Reflection Part I: Changing Misconceptions

This summer I joined Twitter as a way to interact and learn from other people who care about the education of children as much as I do.  I had no idea how much I would learn from these amazing people, but that is for another post. A couple of weeks ago Cathy Mere, Laura Komos, and Jill Fisch decided to host #cyberPD.  It was going to be an online book club about Patrick Allen's  book Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's Workshop.  I saw post after post about it and thought about the stack of books I already wanted to read, my vacation would interfere with 2 scheduled posting days and for heaven's sake I teach kindergarten how is this going to apply to me.  My curiosity won and even though I joined late I'm reading and posting about my thinking that went along with Part 1 of this book.

I teach kindergarten and this year we are changing our schedule, I will see my students 5 full days over two weeks time.  I think there are lots of good things that come from this and also some challenges.  My students range from not being able to identify any letters to being able to read simple texts.  I'll be very honest conferring about reading with kindergartners had never crossed my mind.  I teach small guided reading groups of emergent readers with the constant pressure of seeing every group as often as possible. 

I still feel this model of instruction is essential to my emergent readers in helping them become readers but Patrick is making me see the importance of one-on-one time with each reader.  Even if my kids cannot read the word in the books they are choosing they can still learn from the pictures and gain knowledge and strategies about text.  I still have a lot to think about and hopefully the next two parts of the book will help me think more clearly about how to implement this important part of my day.

Here are some things that I connected with in Part I
  • "Conferring is an art"-Thank goodness because it is a  very scary endeavor to take on, especially if I think I have to master it in the first try.
  • I have had and heard many of Patrick's list of "misconceptions".  I reread them over and over to rethink and train my brain.
  • Patrick continually uses the word "nudging" to describe a conference.  Although I know better it's sometimes difficult not to go into a conference (writing conference in my experience) with a fire hose trying to fix everything at once. 
  • Patrick also talks about how there is no quick fix for reader's workshop.  He describes the fancy packaging and tempting catch phrases that publishers use to hook you into the idea fixing your teaching in a few quick steps.  If fire hoses don't work for children they aren't going to work for our teaching.
I'm also wondering about how to balance the small group and individual time with my kids.  Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning has the same worries about this that I do.


  1. I'm so excited that you are joining in the blog conversation, Nicole!! I agree with so much of what you said. In first grade, there is that constant pressure to meet with so many groups every day. Our district "mandates" how often we're supposed to meet with children. However, after finishing the book, I feel more confident than ever that I can justify using time to meet with individuals! Can't wait to hear what you're thinking about next!
    ~Laura :)

  2. Nicole,

    We are so glad that you have joined us. Conferring with very young children does have its challenges but I think it also has big benefits. I noticed how Patrick used the word "nudge", too, and I really think it is important to "nudge" rather than push or drag.

  3. Laura, I totally understand district mandates and expectations. As far as I know I will be the first K teacher in my district to confer one-on-on about reading. I think this time with each kid will send my reading instruction to the next level. I'm very excited.

    Jill, I LOVE nudge. This is also siomething Matt Glover talks about when teaching young writers. Brilliant. I'm sure there will be many challenges but I hoping that reading parts 2&3 will better prepare me for those.

    Thanks so much for commenting and sharing your thoughts.


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