10 July 2014

The CAFE Book - Chapter 4

Conferring with Children: Principles and Examples

I'm excited about this chapter because I really have no idea what conferences with students about reading really might or should look like, as well as how to keep meaningful records and keep on top of "time". The authors promise lots of examples.

Rethinking Conference Protocols
This section provides background as well as introducing a specific structure for conferences. The focus of the conference is the child, his/her individual reading goals, and the progress he/she is making. A neat "conferring form" is provided with scaffolding and cues to help teachers like me move into conferring. A key point is that conferences are really coaching sessions, and a structure called "Coaching Toward a Target" is provided and explained in details (complete with examples).

The Seven Elements of Successful Conferences
Step 1: Check the calendar for appointments - The Calendar and the Keeping Track forms are key to ensuring every student gets the support he/she needs, including those who are more competent and more able to work independently.
Step 2: Prepare for the conference - This step involves a quick review of notes from the last conference with this child, before you get to the child, to enable the teacher to quickly and easily connect with what the individual student is working on, including what his/her personal reading goals are.
Step 3: Observe child and listen to reading - Conferences happen where the child has chosen to work. This step involves listening to the child reading and noting if and how he/she is applying strategies.
Step 4: Reinforce and teach - In this step you tell the student what you noticed about his/her reading, and ask what they have noticed. Focus on one strategy at a time, and provide individual teaching using explicit instruction and modelling. This should only take about a minute.
Step 5: Practise the strategy - Now the child has a chance to practise what you've just taught them while you're there. This gives a chance to fine tune the instruction and provide further clarification if needed.
Step 6: Plan - The planning here involves the student. This section outlines how to know if a child is ready to move on to a new strategy, and how to keep track of successfully demonstrated strategies (using the CAFE menu). This is the time to decide, with the child, what he/she will work on independently, and when you will next confer with him/her.This also helps build accountability for learning in the students.
Step 7: Encourage - We all need encouragement. Remember to give specific encouragement about the progress that has been made, and to reiterate the key teaching point of the conference.

In summary, the key is that short, focused conferences regularly will help children become better readers much more effectively than longer irregular conferences.

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