Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The CAFE Book - Chapter 4

Reflections on Chapter 4: Conferring with Children


Hi! I'm Laura Candler of the Teaching Resources website as well as the Corkboard Connections blog. I'm a former upper elementary teacher who loved teaching reading with the reading workshop approach! I'm thrilled to join the summer book study on The Daily Five and The CAFE Book, and I'm especially excited to be able to reflect on today's chapter on conferring with children. I'm also happy to share two freebies with you that you may find useful as you implement these strategies.

As I began this chapter, my first thought was, "Where was this book when I was learning to implement reading workshop in my classroom?" Conferring with children was the most difficult piece to implement because it's so individualized. When I was starting out, I had many questions about what to do. What exactly do we say when we meet with each student? How do we plan for our conferences? What do we record for future reference? How often do we meet with them? Thankfully, all of these questions are addressed in Chapter 4! It's a long chapter, packed with great strategies, so let's jump right in! I'll share my reflections on each part of this chapter, and then I'll pose a few discussion questions. I hope you'll share your thoughts with us at the end of this blog post.


Rethinking Conference Protocols
The first paragraph in this section really spells out the essential elements of the whole chapter:
"The reason we confer with students is to help them work toward individual goals. The goals come from the assessments at the start of the year or previous conferences, and they become the focus of each conference with children."

In this section, the sisters outlined the structure of each reading conference and provided icons to help us remember what to record on our conference forms. The CD that comes with the book includes a blank copy of the conference form that you can print out and use in your classroom. The icons are a wonderful addition to the form, but I knew that I would need a written reference at first. So I created this CAFE Conference Quick Reference Guide to help me remember what to record next to each icon. You can download it for free from my Reading Workshop page on Teaching Resources. I would suggest keeping it at the front of your Pensieve, otherwise known as your conference notebook.

Another aspect of this section that I liked was the information about how to help kids develop goals based on the CAFE menu: Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, and Expanded Vocabulary. These four areas are critical to reading development, and it makes sense to introduce these terms to students and use them as the focus of reading conferences. These terms become part of the shared literacy vocabulary in the classroom.
Discussion Questions: What kinds of information have you been recording during reading conferences? How do you feel about the five areas suggested by the icons? Do you think that recording this much information would be too time-consuming or quite doable?


Moving from Conferring to Coaching: A Shift in Thinking
I loved the suggestion that we shift our thinking from "conferring" to "coaching." When we are working with individual students and helping them to meet their own goals, we are definitely moving into a coaching role. I found the step-by-step list on page 56, Coaching Toward a Target, to be very helpful in terms of providing guidelines for the amount of time to spend on each part of the conference. I also found the suggested wording to be very beneficial because sometimes it's hard to know what to say to move from one part of the conference to the next. However, I did feel that I would have difficulty adhering to those time limits and trying to accomplish this much in one short conference!
Discussion Question: What are your thoughts about the steps and time limits outlined in the "Coaching Toward a Target" overview page?


The Seven Elements of Successful Conferences
I was grateful for the elaboration provided in this section about what to do during each part of the conference. I'm going to list the seven elements below with a bit of reflection about each.
  1. Check the Calendar for Appointments - I loved the idea of having a monthly calendar page in the front of the conference notebook for recording appointments over time. When I saw the sample calendar page, I thought of the School Year Calendars pages that I create each year. You can download the entire set for free from TeachersPayTeachers. I think you'll find the pages to be just the right size for storing in your conference notebook.
  2. Prepare for the Conference - This step is critical for planning how we might best use our time to coach each child. Taking a moment to review our notes from previous conferences will help keep us focused when we meet with each student.
  3. Observe Child and Listen to Reading - Step 3 is where the actual conference begins. We tiptoe over to the student, observing how that student is functioning during independent reading time. Then we invite the child to read to us quietly, and we listen to see whether the strategies we have taught in previous conferences are being applied.
  4. Reinforce and Teach - In this step, we explain what we have noticed and try to move the student forward a bit with the strategy. (Note: Have you discovered the Ready Reference Charts in the back of the book and on the CD? These charts are AMAZING! Flip to page 154 to take a look. There are over 30 charts that explain in a step-by-step manner how to teach each strategy for mastering the CAFE menu items. This part of the book alone is worth gold! Use these charts to help you figure out how to teach the specific reading strategy needed during each conference.)
  5. Practice the Strategy - We listen as the child practices the strategy, and we coach as needed.
  6. Plan - We share our plan for how the student should practice the strategy before our next conference. During this time, we also let students know when we will meet together to see how they are progressing.
  7. Encourage - This is the most important step of all! We end the conference with encouraging words to show students that we notice the improvements they are making.
Discussion Questions: What do you think of these seven elements? Do you feel that they are "essential" as the title of this section suggests? Are you already doing these things? If not, which ones do you want to add to your repertoire of conference strategies? 

Thanks for joining me to discuss and reflect on Chapter 4 in The CAFE Book, Conferring with Children. You are going to love Chapter 5, Eavesdropping on Some Conferences! In this chapter you'll see how the elements in Chapter 4 work together in conferences with real children. It's like being able to peek into the sisters' classrooms to see exactly how they teach comprehension, accuracy, fluency, and expanding vocabulary. 




32 comments:

  1. Hello,
    This will be new for me this year. Last year I began daily 5, and during choice time I did intervention. I didn't follow this format, so I'm wondering how it will really work time wise to meet one on one with everyone and still have time to do intervention groups. I'm looking forward to using the charts in the back - and thank you for the freebie chart as well.
    Emily
    I Love My Classroom

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  2. I found I needed at least 5 full minutes when I began meeting with students. I covered their scores from the previous year, their strenghts and weaknesses, and spent time talking to them about their likes/dislikes and reading habits. THe second conference with each student followed the Sisters format. After a few weeks, both the students and I had the procedures down and the conferences were about 3 minutes long on average.

    My recording data for each child begins with the title of the novel they are reading, the lexile level, and the page they are on. THis gives me a quick clue to the time they have dedicated to reading this novel. If this is an AR book, I also record the score they received after taking an AR quiz. I listen to them read, or ask the student their opinion on how a strategy is working. Often, the student has a desire and a plan on how to reach a goal. I create a quick plan, or help the student develop practice skills that will help them reach their goal. We then practice quickly together, and the student leaves to change their strategy note on the Cafe Menu board and/or jot down the date of our conference and their next step in their personal Cafe Notebook (or on their CAfe bookmark)--the notebook or bookmark is meant to help them remember the goal and the strategy. I then make short notes on one thing great, and one thing to work on, the strategy we practiced and any thoughts I may have on what I want to meet on next. This is all done in bullets that only I can really understand!

    The best advice when Coaching a student is to keep it short and simple--focus on one goal, one strategy and one step at a time.

    This is truly my favorite part of Cafe. I had my doubts when I started, but the enthusiasm my students showed for these conferences was amazing. They literally check my calendar for their next meeting or "advise" me that they are nearly done with a novel and would like to meet to discuss their next steps.

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  3. Thoughts on space: I have students meet me at our reading spot (where I keep the Pensieve and graphic organizers, a small whiteboard..... Big kids and small room leaves little space to walk and meet students where they are practicing reading so this works best for me. I work it like baseball--batter up and one on deck. Batter up is the student I am currently meeting with and the one on deck needs to be ready to meet with me as that student leaves.

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  4. I also ran conferences similiar to Lisa in my 5th grade classroom. What I was not good about was following through on the same goal with the next conference. I also felt that I did not leave enough time to meet with the Intervention group. I conferenced with them more, but I found strategy groups or guided reading was not as well planned and executed as I would have liked. This year, I have 20 third grade Title I students. I will need to work a schedule out with the Title I teacher who will be doing the Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention. I think the scheduling will be the key to organizing our time. I also am concerned about building their stamina and having them work independently so I can meet with all these groups. However, I digress but those are my worries. I love the individual conferencing and used the calendar and appointments in my Pensieve. That worked really well and the kids loved having a special time. It also made it easier to explain to some that it is just not their time and not get waylaid with those children who seek you out constantly.

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  5. Thanks, Lisa, for assuring me I can get my conferences down to just a few minutes! I ALWAYS run out of time!

    My favorite conference last year was when I met with one of my 3rd graders that was reading Stone Fox. As I sat down beside her, she looked up at me with tears streaming down her face (she had just read the ending). Needless to say, during that conference we didn't work on a strategy, we spent the time together crying and simply enjoying a wonderful book!

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  6. I found that it was almost impossible to meet with guided reading groups and do individual conferences with everyone every week. I taught 5th grade and what worked for me was to confer with everyone one week, and use the results of my conferences to pull together small guided reading groups the next week. During the guided reading weeks I had my students complete a little form called "Book Notes" that had a spot for a summary of what they were reading each day. That helped me keep in touch with their individual progress without having to meet with everyone that week. I could check in with a few kids as needed.
    Laura Candler
    Teaching Resources Website
    Corkboard Connections Blog

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  7. I am just awful at pacing conferencing time (with my students AND with parents)! I, too often, spend too much time with each student individually and then have to cancel one or two of the following "appointments". Kids get really disappointed when this happens. If I try and reschedule these children the next day, I just backlog myself and/or shortchange some of the students who are stronger readers by breezing through their conference and not adequately addressing their goals. I also have been known to reschedule some of these conferences during recess time. The students usually don't mind because they feel it's a priviledge to stay in with me, but I end up feeling frazzled and exhausted! A colleague suggested using a timer during conferences (she does this on parent/teacher nights) but I just can't. The thought of having a clock ticking next to me would totally stress me out and furthermore, I find it rude. That being said, I've never really had a guide to follow during conferencing. Thank you for the freebie, Laura! I'm going to try and use the sister's structure outline and your quick reference to keep me on-task and hopefully, well-paced! Does anyone else have this problem? What do you do?

    Stephanie

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  8. I purchased The Cafe on my Kindle and I'm having trouble finding the Ready Reference Forms. I can only find 3 listed in the Appendix and part of those are for members only. Anyone able to help me? Thanks!

    Julie

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  9. Maybe they are not available in the Kindle version? Check the table of contents to see if they are listed there. They are at the back of the book in the Appendix. Why would this section be for members only? That doesn't make sense unless the Kindle version is a lot cheaper and clearly states that the appendix is only available to members. You really need those charts!

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  10. Laura,
    I know the Kindle version is cheaper, but it doesn't say anything about an abbreviated appendix. I can access many things from the appendix, but for some reason I am unable to get these. I sent an e-mail to the "sisters." Hopefully, they can help me get this figured out.

    On another note, thanks for all you do to help keep teaching fun. In this era, when so many are demanding so much more, your work helps those of us in the trenches stay inspired and ready to go. We appreciate all you do.

    Julie

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  11. Jill, I must have read that book a dozen times and still tear up at the ending!!!!! I love being able to share that "stuff" with my students!

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  12. Stephanie, I only schedule 5 students a day for individual conferences. I usually have the last 20 to 25 minutes of my reading block dedicated to Read to Self and have the conferences during that time. I am able to meet with 5 students and if those are quick conferences I pull in some students that need the extra meeting or ones that may only see me once every 2 weeks.

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  13. Julie - I think these are the forms you need. I purchased the book electronically as well (because it was so much cheaper) and then found these forms. If these aren't the forms in the book, will someone let me know?

    http://www.thedailycafe.com/public/1589.cfm

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  14. Laura, I have a question about the book notes you talked about, my problem is always making sure kids are practicing the strategies while I am meeting with other kids and I like your idea. Can you explain more or post an example? Thanks!

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  15. Although, this will be the first year I will be implementing Daily 5, I have done a reading workshop approach for several years with individual student conferences. My problem with the conferences was twofold: 1. consistency (meeting with students regularly didn't always work) and 2. time (like some of the previous teachers here, I had a hard time limiting the time I spent with each student, which often resulted in me seeing only 2 students!). For me, the coaching Toward a Target is VERY helpful...I'm hoing it will keep me on track). From what I've read so far in the previous comments, 3-5 minutes is definitely doable. :)

    I also like the 5 reading conference icons. They serve as a visual reminder of what to record. I also downloaded from the Daily Cafe website, Codes for Cafe Menu Record Keeping, as I DO have concerns about the recording becoming too time consuming.

    And last, but the part that made me feel totally inadequate as a teacher, the 3 elements of 7 Steps to a Successful conference that I will be adding/improving are: 1. Check the calendar (I never used a calendar...duh!) 4. Reinforce & Teach and 5. Practice the Strategy. The last 2 made me realize that my reading conferences, as I did them, were totally blech!!

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  16. I really like the idea of "Coaching" rather than conferring. To me, coaching implies working together to accomplish a goal! I really like the icons for conferencing. I am such a visual person...I think the icons will help me quickly move from one part to the next. Thank you for the quick reference chart, Laura.

    With regard to the "Coaching Toward a Target" form...I really like the prompts and I loved hearing from others that with some practice, five minutes is a reasonable amount of time. I have concerns about going over the time allotted and not keeping my appointments. I will only have 90 minutes for reading, writing, and word work...then they leave me. I am fretting about getting everything accomplished.

    I like the straight forward approach with the 7 elements. To me, it seems to take the "franticness" out of going from one student to the next. Referencing my previous notes and the target goal will help me focus before ever meeting with that student. I also like the idea of recording observations about the students before meeting with them.

    I really liked your idea, Laura, about individual conferences one week and strategy groups the next. I think this will work with writing as well.

    I bought my binders for my pensieves today. I really appreciate the calendar freebies. I think they will be perfect for scheduling those conferences. I can't wait to get everything set up.

    I look forward to the next chapter and experiencing real conferences with students.

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  17. Julie,
    Check mnwelementary-daily5andcafe.wikispaces.com
    for great forms, charts, etc

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  18. Laura,
    Thanks so much for the calendar pages. I have wasted too much time already trying to make these. I agree about the strategy pages at the back of the book. I am thinking I will download these off the CD and keep them in my notebook. I think I will keep a set at home also to refresh my thinking each day! The CAFE book I purchased has a CD ROM of all the appendix pages.
    I have conferred with students for many years but always felt that something was lacking. I think the explicit directions in the book will make such a big difference. One strategy I used for conferring was to divide up the class into 5 groups with 3 easy conferences scheduled and 2 more time-consuming conferences. That way I did not get bogged down. I may use a form of this idea with the new instructions.
    I am really excited about coaching instead of conferencing. It is a good distinction.
    I had a thought today re the books we use to teach mini lessons. I think I will use some of the same books later in the year to read again and use for character development. Children like to hear stories more than once and I think it will benefit them. When I ask students to think of character traits in a read aloud, I have them turn to a page of character traits that they keep in their reading notebooks. This gives them much more vocabulary at their fingertips and makes our discussions meatier.
    Thanks again

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  19. I am thinking about conferencing every other day, or as someone else posted, just use my last reading block for individual conferences. My school started a district wide SSR time, and I could make that a whole class read to self, then use that time for conferences. Some of this is going to be try and see for me, because it is all new to me.
    I am excited to use their pensieve. I think it will keep me organized and focus.

    Also, thank you Laura for your freebies! They will definetly help me. I am feeling very overwhelmed.

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  20. Mrs. Kingdon, you asked about the Book Notes form. It's in my book, Power Reading Workshop: A Step-by-Step Guide. But I also found a copy for free on my Literacy Printables page here. I didn't know it was still on my website! Literacy Printable Page on Teaching Resources

    Laura Candler
    Teaching Resources Website
    Corkboard Connections Blog

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  21. I found this chapter to be the most engaging yet. I have taught elementary for 16 years and always conferred with my students usually by using anecdotal records and then teaching a minilesson the next day on my findings. This was not effective for my whole class and my struggling readers got farther behind. I love the idea of using the calendar and setting up conferences. I will be teaching middle school this year and I wasn't sure if time was going to permit conferences, but after reading this chapter I am motivated to engage in student conferences by using the notebook.

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  22. While rereading Chapter 4 of Cafe,I realized that I was "calling" the children to my table rather than going to them. I am going to try it the way the Sisters stated.
    i also put a great deal of pressure on myself to see all of my students each day..maybe that's why I wound up teaching double periods of Literacy last year?....I resolve to only see a few each day and not feel "guilty."
    Last year I did implement the Calendar and the Notebook method. It was great for keeping track.
    Laura thank you for your freebies.
    Where did July go?

    Debbie

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  23. Thank you Laura for the freebies and ideas. @Lisa, thank you to you too. Can you guys come to my classroom and help me with all of this for a few days? :) Scheduling of the meetings is exciting. I am hoping it helps me and the students. I like that they aren't all meeting with me an equal amount of time, rather what each individual student needs. I am thinking I will use the conferences every other day as well. I need to work with guided, strategic reading groups too. Keep your fingers crossed for me. @Debbie, I want a little more time myself before the bell rings!

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  24. I love the freebies and really enjoyed this chapter. I love how it is explicitly taught and I feel like it is actually doable.

    Check out my summary of the chapter here: http://classroomcollective.tumblr.com/post/28577834240/cafe-chapter-4

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  25. I have so many ideas going through my head right now. I hope I can get everything put together before school starts

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  26. I am having the same problem as pp Julie because I bought electronic editions of Daily Five and Cafe book. Trying to be green and make sure I had better access to the materials via multiple electronic resources (laptop, ereader, android phone, etc). The flip side to that is the forms that are included in the appendix or on the CD aren't included. I'm getting anxious about how to implement all the truly great strategies with my students if I have to spend time recreating the forms and organizers for the Pensieve.

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  27. Ms. Turnage, I think you should contact the Sisters about this. They should advertise that the Kindle version doesn't contain the materials in the appendix and maybe they will be able to let you access those forms.

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  28. Laura, thank you for the freebies. They are unbelievably helpful. Thank you to everyone else that has given ideas, sites to search, and resources. You are all great. I am a work in progress with the Daily5/CAFE but so very excited to jump in with both feet. This year has A LOT of firsts for me, but this book study has helped me to feel a little less overwhelmed. I have been teaching for 16 years but this year almost feels like my first. Thanks again for all the great ideas.
    Tammy Hubbart

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  29. Monica, did you get the Codes for Menu Record Keeping from the Daily Cafe site as a member? I haven't become a member yet and went to the site but was unable to find this. Thanks for your help.
    Tammy Hubbart

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  30. Thanks a million Laura for the charts, I was thinking I needed an anchor chart for me... to remember the icons for the conferences. It is definitely going in front of my Conference notebook.

    Viva Cafe!

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  31. This will be all new for me this year. Thanks for the resources!

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  32. This will be all new for me this year. Thanks for the resources!

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