Effective Literacy Teaching and Learning for all Students

Unit 13

Planning for reading conferences and related teaching

Airley Pahl and Lana Devlin of Monmia PS, whose reading conferences you have viewed in Unit 12, have been interviewed by Diane Snowball. They talked with her about their practices in Independent Reading and in reading conferences and how these relate to their overall literacy planning and teaching.

As you view these interviews reflect further on your own practices. Record in your notes any practices that were confirmed in the interview. Also record ideas and practices that you might implement in your reading conferences or Independent Reading sessions to enhance your literacy work.

Go to Film Clip:

Monmia PS: Yr 1-2 Diane Snowball interview with Airley Pahl

View the interview and then reflect on the following practices that were discussed during Diane's interview with Airley. They may assist you in your planning for Independent Reading and reading conferences:

  1. Planning for reading conferences
    Airley commented that early in the year she spent more time with all students finding out about each of their needs as readers. However, there were changes over the year. Airley said that as the year progressed she was more inclined to work with some students more often because of their reading needs. She stated that some of the more competent readers needed fewer reading conferences.
  2. Developing a Reading Instruction Plan for the week
    Airley talked about a general focus – a strategy instruction group. Clearly she was referring to comprehension strategies and strategies such as fluency. Initially this focus might be with the whole class, but later this focus could be with small groups needing more guided practice. Airley followed this by saying that some students needed regular coaching so there was a need to work with them individually, in reading conferences. (At this point Airley would have individualised her teaching for those students.)
  3. Flexible grouping for strategy teaching
    Airley emphasised that her grouping for strategy instruction had to be flexible. She identified the students needing the same instruction when she conferred with them. She used her reading conferences as an assessment time. Did you notice her grid which featured the reading strategies? It helped her list the students who required more work with particular strategies. These students would become a Guided Reading group where the particular strategy would be the focus for teaching and learning.
  4. Intense instruction periods
    Airley was quite emphatic that some instruction, to really consolidate strategy learning, should occur perhaps three times a week. She argued that these intense periods of instruction were more beneficial to the students than teaching once a week for a longer time.
  5. Assessing students' Fluency
    Reading quickly seemed to be a problem with some of Airley's students. Diane commented on the Reading Rate connected with Fluency. Airley was concerned that students were reading quickly but not necessarily thinking about and understanding what they were reading. (Later in this course there is a focus on learning about fluency.)
  6. Including nonfiction reading
    Diane highlighted the need to read nonfiction too, and for Airley's students to be thinking about what they were learning about in these factual texts.
  7. Go to Film Clip:
  8. Monmia PS: Yr 3/4 Diane Snowball interview with Lana Devlin

    For this interview Diane asks Lana some questions that reveal Lana's approaches and practices for Independent Reading and reading conferences. Here are some of the questions. As you view the interview try to record the responses that Lana gives to Diane's questions.

    1. Why do you confer?
    2. How many reading conferences do you have during Independent Reading time?
    3. How do you choose the students with whom to confer?
    4. How do you set goals in your reading conferences?
    5. What are the positive features of reading conferences?
    6. What do you do with the information you record in reading conferences?
    7. What further teaching do you do?
    8. How are your small strategy groups formed?
    9. Why do you choose to teach whole class groups?
    10. How do you plan your reading work for the week?
    11. What growth in yourself as a reading teacher, and the students as readers, have you noted?
    12. How do you help students to learn more about their metacognition as readers?

  9. Go to Film Clip:
  10. Taylors Lakes SC: Diane Snowball Interview with Michelle Nowak and Lisa Wilson

    Listen to Michelle and Lisa as these secondary teachers explain some of their practices around Independent Reading and conferences and how their literacy teaching relates to these. If you are a secondary school teacher you may like to listen again to the interviews with Kate Sykes and Shannon Gallaway from Manor Lakes P-12 College to note how they also use their conferences to help their literacy teaching.

The biggest challenge for secondary schools is to find ways to share information about students' strengths, needs and goals so that suitable planning can occur across domains. Some secondary schools are concerned that students will not return books if they are allowed to take them home, but this is not generally a problem if students are involved in establishing libraries and the conferences show that teachers are genuinely interested in learning about the students and assisting their literacy development.

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Effective Literacy Teaching and Learning for all Students