Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Conferring The Keystone of Reader's Workshop~ Part II

First Things First~ 
I want to thank Cathy of Reflect and Refine, Jill of Primary Passion and Laura Komos of Our Our Camp Read A Lot for hosting #cyberPD. Connecting with all of you, hearing the thoughts of others and learning together is an amazing experience. I was not able post in the first part of this journey, but I have enjoyed reading all of your posts, comments and a few Tweets along the way!

I have been reading Patrick Allen's book, Conferring The Keystone of Reader's Workshop as part of #cyberPD. This post is in response to my reading of Part II of the book. If you would like to visit the blog posts of Part I of Conferring Keystone of Reader's Workshop visit the blog jog by @cathymere, It's a quick way to catch it all!

Conferring Versus Collecting
 Reading Patrick's many tools and systems for collecting conference conferring notes made me laugh. I too have been through a plethora of systems. Each tool promising to the ONE and each falling to the back of some mysterious stack.  My current tool for collecting anecdotal notes is a simple spiral notebook. The notebook is divided into 2 sections, a student section and a teacher section. In the teacher section I jot down events of the day, things to do, planning reminders, schedule notes, websites to visit, etc.  The second section is my conferring notebook. Each child has two pages tab with their name. Each page is labeled with parent contact information and divided into three sections; reader's workshop, writer's workshop and notes.  The note section is where I record anything about the child I want to remember, more social observations.  I have used this system now for about seven years; this is THE ONE, for me, right?

My Perfect System for Recording Anecdotal Notes
The system is working well; I couldn't teach without it. But the contents of the notebook seem to be lacking something…
 I have filled the pages with comments, observations, reading and writing behaviors and notes on independence and consistency.  I find my notes very helpful in completing progress reports, conferring with parents, and recalling the events of a conference. They are easy to carry and have ample space for recording. But something is missing. I do not find the notes as helpful as I would like in building links between conferences and planning instruction. Am I collecting "stuff" or recording information that will help me plan and guide instruction?
As I read Patrick Allen's RIP model I saw what was missing in my notebook, the P: Plan, Progress, Purpose. My conferring notes are lacking the piece that will give the reader focus between conferences, the goal for further work. The RIP model made it evident that the tool for conferring isn't the important piece. The important piece is the stuff we put in the "chosen tool" the data we collect for planning and instruction.

The Important Stuff Conferring Notes to Support Instruction
We want the "stuff" to show where the child is, what strategies they're demonstrating, the language they're using and their thoughts on their work. We want the "stuff" to reflect not only the student's insights and application of skills, but we also want to include what we notice about how the student is applying strategies and new teaching, we want to help the child be cognizant of their processes and learning. Finally, and most importantly we want to note the plan, what the reader will work on between now and the next conference. This is the piece that is missing for me, this is the piece that will guide the reader and instruction. This is the piece that will change my "stuff" to conferring notes that support instruction.
So my goal between now and my next conference~
Add a section in my notebook to record the goal in a way that is easily seen when we next confer. I would also like the student to add the goal to their reader's notebook for reference and guidance in their reading.


Karen said...

I, too, have to stop collecting stuff, and start to collect meaningful info that allows both the student and me to know "what's next" as a reader. Great post!

Cathy said...

Great notebook pic. Thanks for sharing your reflection. I think we have the common goal of improving the P (planning, goal setting) piece of our conferences. Should be fun!

Julie said...

Deb, Didn't you love how he took the time to let his students think about what their goals are. I'm with you and Cathy. I am missing that piece too (along with I need to be more organized). Thanks for sharing!

Laura Komos said...

Thanks for sharing the pic of your notebook! I love seeing what has worked for other people! I think the P portion of the conference might be the trickiest part for me as I get started. Love how you already have a plan for how to remedy what was missing in your notebook!
~Laura :)

Mandy said...

Deb, I really think your next step is to see how you can make a VT for conferring. Just kidding, but if there is a way you will find it. I wanted to let tell you I love how you found something within what works for you to improve. I think the planning part will be easy to adjust as you do R with your students. Remember to let them guide you, they are so insightful.

Anonymous said...

There are two pictures I loved while reading this post. The first is your notebook. The reason I loved it is that I am so impressed you have the confidence to think about making changes after using the system for 7 years. Good luck with your new thinking and tweaking how you use your notebook. The second picture I love is that my face is the first one on your twitter mosaic. It is even in front of Cathy's. I had not noticed this before today. Excellent job, this might be the only place that I am officially recorded as #1. :)

debf said...

Thanks all for taking the time to read my thinking and sharing yours. It helps my reflecting and practice so much! I am still so nervous about posting, you all are such gifted writers, I feel honored to be working with you and a bit out of my league.

Karen and Mandy~
You are so right about the kids being so insightful. I remember Molly (literacy coach) asking me one day- "Have you asked the kids?" DUH!!! Now, I ask, I listen & WE act. I hope to be a more deliberate listener this year. Mandy, funny you mentioned VT, I have done writer's conferences on/in VoiceThread to share with parents at conferences! It was actually so nice for the paretns to hear their young writer talk about their writing and the intentional choices they made in the piece. It put the focus back where it should be, the child as a learner! (not the conventions)

Cathy and Laura-
Happy to share the pic, I did stress about the lack of content within...glad to see you can't actually read the "stuff!" This year, it will have conferring notes not just "stuff!"

Tony, Tony, Tony-
Seven years! Ouch as I read this I thought, "Seven years! Am I in a rut? or as Molly would say a grove?" I guess this year with some tweaking we shall see... I am happy to see you, Cathy and the library smiling at me as I visit my blog. It almost seems as if I had a choice in how the mosiac was organized...

Jill Fisch said...


I loved the idea of using a spiral notebook for your conferring notes. If I don't have time to play with Evernote in the next few weeks I may try your notebook system. I laughed when I read Mandy's comment about you conferring with VT. If anyone could do it you could -- and then you mentioned in your comment that you already have done it. I have so much to learn from you!

Nicole said...

I am reading Part II of the book right now and I totally agree with collecting stuff. I feel like my students should be more a part of the info I'm gathering on them. If they have a goal then they can take ownership of their learning.

Also, I know nothing about VoiceThread. I feel like I should take a class from you.

Carol said...

Sounds like you have the hard stuff already done- you have a notebook , you actually use it to take notes, and now you just need to tweak it a little and you will be good to go! Sounds like you have a plan in place of how you are going to do that. I'm like you in that I really want kids to record their goals and think about those goals every day. I'm concerned that I'm going to make the system so cumbersome that the kids and I can't even use it! Yikes, there's a lot to think about!

debf said...

VoiceThread really has so many possibilities! I think I am a bit of a groupie… But when you can find an authentic way to extend your classroom, see and hear the kids thinking and show the world who wouldn't become a groupie!
I am more than happy to share ANYTIME! Check my blog in August for a post on VoiceThread in the classroom.

Explain to your kids what you want, I think this is what you want, a way for kids to keep their goals so they can see them each day as they work. Make sure you talk about the WHY and let them make the "system." When it comes from them you will be amazed how well they use it!
Good Luck Carol!

debf said...

Ownership, so powerful! Couldn't agree more! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment so means so much!

Chris said...

Deb - Thanks for showing your notebook - I carry a spiral to capture all I have to remember, but it's a total mess. Your picture shows me my notebook's potential!
I connected to this line in your post, "The important piece is the stuff we put in the "chosen tool" the data we collect for planning and instruction." AHA! It's not the tool, it's the data that leads to instruction. YES! My goal is to get better at connecting the info I get from conferring to my instruction.
Thanks for sharing all your thoughts!