Conferencing with middle school students
One-on-one conferences are one of the pillars of Reading Essentials Class. Reading Essentials is a reading intervention class at our middle school. Each day the other teacher and I sit and conference with students. The focus of the conference is identifying areas of strengths and weakness in the student’s oral reading as well as assessing their comprehension. Together with the student, we set goals for the student’s read to self time for the upcoming week.
Because there are two teachers and student numbers around 10 per class, we are able to conference about one time a week for each student. Each conference lasts between 10 – 15 minutes.
Oral Reading Assessment We monitor the students’ fluency, decoding, and expression by hearing them read. The students use the book they are currently reading during read to self time. We then discuss our observations with the students. This reminds them the important aspects of oral reading and they can try to implement suggestions during the following week. Each conference begins with looking at the goal from the previous conference and discussing the progress being made toward the goal.
We use the CAFÉ Menu ® to align the goals with their students’ areas of difficulty. The areas are comprehension, fluency, accuracy (decoding) and expand vocabulary. I use expand vocabulary when the student is doing well with all other areas. Reading Essentials is a reading intervention and most of the students struggle in comprehension, fluency or accuracy.
Student Accountability The student conference always puts accountability into Read to Self because we monitor the books and pages read by the students. We record the page number(s) that we heard the student read. Sometimes their goal for the week is a set number of pages to be read daily. For some of these students, daily consistent reading is new to them. Even sticking with one book can be difficult for some. We discourage jumping from one book to another although if a student really doesn’t like a book, we allow them to make another choice.
Comprehension After listening to a student read, we then assess their comprehension. We may ask them to retell the passage in their own words or ask them questions based on the reading. If we determine that they are struggling with comprehension, we take out our CAFÉ Menu ® sheet, and look at the comprehension strategies. We always begin with Check for Understanding. I set the frequently of the checking for understanding on how much difficulty the student is having. I may have them stop and check for understanding every page or every paragraph if needed.
Many students complain about conferencing and state that they do so much better reading silently. I encourage them by saying that most people read better silently but that it is important for me to hear them read so we can accurately set goals and help them improve.
I have found no better way for me to help students with reading difficulties. Our conferences make it very clear where their difficulties are and the one-on-one attention is a real personalization of education.