Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's Workshop Part 3

Our last posting for Conferring, The Keystone of Reader's Workshop #cyberpd is today, welcome.  I have really enjoyed reading the same book with other people from a variety of places.  I have really enjoyed the conversation and comments to help me think further and they also confirmed my thinking.  I feel like I've gotten to know people better and made new friends.  Thank you Blog Book Chatters for joining me on the journey.  Also, thank you to Laura K for hosting this weeks sharing.

"We should observe children tinkering with words, sentences, and whole text.  We should listen to children think while they explore as readers (each of us with a notebook and pencil nearby) and ask them to explain their thinking and reasoning to us."

I read this phrase early on in our reading for this session and loved it.  I thought there are words here that included kindergarten/emergent readers.  I loved the word tinkering.  When I looked tinkering up at I found these two definitions applicable.

-to busy oneself with a thing without useful results:
-to work unskillfully or clumsily at anything.

I think tinkering implies my students should be messing about, exploring, and trying to work with words, sentences and a whole text.  The definition guides my thinking further to understand the useful results from tinkering might not happen immediately which supports Patrick's slow down message.  My conferring sessions may appear clumsily and unskillful but with time and experience I believe kindergarten students can and will show skill, strength, and understanding.  If you've ever spent time with a kindergarten child then you will completely agree they can explain their thinking and reasoning.  Oral language for most is their first strength. 

I found the notion of walk-aways ("a tool or strategy used or discovered as students negotiate text and develop the capacity for independence, so that next time we meet and I ask, "How's iyour reading going?" they can tell me.")  and the example chart a wonderful resource I think I will refer to during the year.  I am wondering if my students will be able to hold on to their walk-away idea for two nights or more until they return.  I wonder/imagine I will have to think aloud walk aways and with time I know they can pick up on it. 

I'm going to continue pondering Patrick's list of Conferring Premises.  I loved many of the ideas and wonder what I would change to make it my own as I think about K conferences.  I think I will have get in school with students and do many conferring sessions before I tweak the original list to fit my room.  Also, Patrick thanks for the laugh as I read a few of yours.  I agree it's important to laugh while we work and find the humor in our daily lives. 

My thinking is not ending but to close my posting I leave you with this from the text.  "We need to slow down and get back to the business of knowing children, of knowing readers."  I'm ready for this task now and can visualize it with better clarity in my kindergarten room.


  1. I LOVE how you and Karen both picked up on the the "tinkering" quote. That says so much about the value of conferring grades K-5. Thanks for taking the time for your reflections I have enjoyed reading your thoughts. I am interested in the example chart you mentioned in the book? What does it include? Sometimes charts like that help me stay on course :)

  2. Mandy,

    I also love that quote about tinkering with words, sentences and whole text. It especially rings true for our kinder friends where they must "tinker" to learn.

    I'm also thinking how Patrick's conferring premises fit into my classroom, a resource room. I work with K-5 developing readers. Smaller groups, but still many needs. That's why I think conferring will be so beneficial! Hopefully I will be able to take back valuable information to share with the classroom teachers. I think I'm going to need to dig in, start conferring, and return back to the book and our #cyperPD!

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Mandy,
    I'm so glad there was another K teacher to learn about conferring with. I have many of the same thoughts, concerns and hopes you do about conferring with our K readers. I also think it's going to be something we have to dive into and then tweek once we know how it's going to go. I'm looking forward to continuing to learn from you and maybe we can bounce experiences off each other.


  4. Mandy,

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you said:

    I think I will have get in school with students and do many conferring sessions before I tweak the original list to fit my room.

    I think that we all have learned so much but will learn so much more once we actually get back to school and start trying things out.

    I look forward to hearing more from everyone as they continue to learn.


  5. Mandy,
    "Tinkering about." Powerful. You are right that children should be tinkering about in our classrooms. When I think about "tinkering about" with primary readers I think of Amber who performed every Jan Thomas book she read with enthusiasm. I think of Tommy snapping pictures of books and writing about what he had learned or wanted to share. I think of Mia and Emelie reading together from "You Read to Me, I'll Read to You books." I see Caden collecting facts about symbols on large paper to share with friends. I see friends sitting with books between them. I hear laughter over the antics of Piggy and Elephant.

    You're making me miss school. I'm looking forward to a new year, a new outlook on conferring, and the time to get back to the business of children.


  6. Mandy,
    I love that you talked about the importance of "tinkering!" I think this is so important, especially in primary classrooms where children are first beginning their formal literacy instruction. Those "tinkering" moments produce important lessons and many teachable moments!

    You also talked about using Patrick's ideas but tweaking them to fit you. I love that! I know I will rely on friends and pre-made questions as I start out, but eventually, I know I'll be able to tweak my questions to make them even more authentic and purposeful.
    Looking forward to a new school year and continued learning together!
    ~Laura :)

  7. Mandy,

    I enjoyed reading your insight on "tinkering". Exploration and "tinkering" is so important in children learning. We often don't give young children enough time to do this.

    I also agree with you young children are often good at verbally telling their thinking. Furthermore, most love to have undivided attention to talk one on one.

    I look forward to reading post about how your conferences are progressing throughout the year.


  8. Mandy-
    I'm always in awe of kindergarten teachers. The kids come in as pre-schoolers and leave readers and writers. I think you're going to learn so much about your students this year, and I wonder if I can be brave and try conferring with my Ks in resource. I usually have my students draw and I talk to them about what they've drawn, then write it out. Maybe I've taken my first step towards K conferencing?

    Thanks for all your great ideas!

  9. Both the tinkering quote and the slowing down quote hit home with me as well. They are both so important for helping children learn.

    I am also so grateful for this community of generous learners, willing to be honest and share their thinking. how fortunate we are!

  10. Mandy~
    I hesitate to say what has been said before so many times, but as Cathy explained her images of her kiddos "tinkering" i realized that it is when my kids tinker they are successful, they are more likely to feel ownership and most reflective.
    As Carol mentioned in her post "Americans are the most taught and the least practiced." We need to allow our kids time to tinker!