Effective Literacy Teaching and Learning for all Students

Unit 12

Practising reading conferences

If you have not already been conducting reading conferences with your students now is a good time to start.

Firstly you may need to focus on your students' reading interests and their choice of reading materials. As you find out about each student's interests make sure that the classroom library caters for these. Some students may need guidance in their choices of reading material, both in range of genres and in range of level of difficulty. It may be necessary to talk with the class about how ‘smart' readers choose material they can read and understand. (Students may already have a notion about who are ‘good' readers but those who are more less confident, will pretend they are reading material that is actually far too difficult for them, so the term ‘smart reader' can apply to anyone who is making wise choices about the texts they choose to read regardless of the texts' level of difficulty).

Gradually you will be introducing some important considerations:

  • Initially learning more about your students' attitudes towards reading and personal interests. You will become more competent in conducting reading conferences with that prior knowledge about the student.
  • Students independently choosing books for their reading boxes/kits/folders (you may need to guide this during conferences)
  • Introducing information to your students about the strategies that thoughtful and competent readers use
  • Encouraging your students to explain their thinking as a reader and identify strategies they are using
  • Helping your students to learn about setting goals as a reader

Continue with your own students' reading conferences as you complete Unit 12, which involves observing two film clips from Monmia PS and two from Taylors Lakes Secondary College. As you view these film clips and others later in this course, you could continue to observe how the teachers include the major components of a conference by using the form Components of a Reading Conference: Observation Form or some other document they have devised to assist their note-taking.

Go to Film Clip:

Monmia PS: Yr 1 Reading Conference with Airley Pahl and Mia

As you view the film clip at least twice, record your observations in your folder, particularly noting anything that will assist you with your conferences.

Go to: Description of the content of a film clip of a reading conference: Monmia PS Airley & Mia

Read the comments made about this reading conference. Were you able to capture much of the same data? Make a comparison with your notes and this document.

  • What 'reading language' did you hear in this conference?
  • Was it understood and used confidently?

Go to Film Clip:

Monmia PS: Yr 4 Reading Conference with Lana Devlin & Michael

Again, as you view the film clip, record your observations.

Go to: Description of the content of a film clip of a reading conference: Monmia PS Lana and Michael

  • Do your observations concur with those recorded in the document?
  • What can you infer that Lana has been working on with her students?

Go to Film Clips:

Taylors Lakes SC: Yr 9 Reading Conference with Lisa Wilson and Kenny

and Taylors Lakes SC: Yr 7 Reading Conference with Michelle Nowak and Ashvin

Use the observation form, to note the details of these conferences. (These conferences took place at the beginning of December, so this was almost the end of the school year).

  • What 'reading language' did you hear in these conferences?
  • What can you assume Lisa has been working on with her students?
  • What can you assume Michelle has been working on with her students?
  • Although Lisa referred to Kenny's improvements in results of 'On Demand' testing, note how we learn a great deal from this conference with Kenny- he is now reading at home, he reads for 2 hours per day, that he is now taking more notice of what he is reading (predicting and thinking about what has happened) and is also using prior knowledge before he begins reading the text. Which information do you think is more useful to Kenny? Consider the value of also referring to test scores in Year 9.
  • What do you notice about the students in both conferences in relation to knowing about themselves as readers? How do you think conferences have helped with this?
  • It is obvious that the students have personal goals about reading more. Why do you think this may have occurred? How can you assist your students to be able to read more often?

Michelle has obviously been working on the comprehension strategy of summarising with her Yr 7 students. Summarising is not easy for many students and yet it is required in many subject areas, particularly in secondary schools. At this stage Michelle's class must have been learning about summarising fiction because of the focus on the 'who' (characters), 'what' (action or plot), 'when' and 'where' (setting), and 'why' (the theme). Ashvin is still retelling rather than summarising and so Michelle knows he needs to work on the summarising strategy still.

Refer to the documents Comprehension Overview and Main Comprehension Strategies which will be dealt with more in Unit 14 if you wish to know more about teaching summarising. You will find out that to teach comprehension strategies you will need to do a lot of modelling with many texts and with various text types, in every year level, and you need to also work collaboratively with the students before they should be expected to use the strategies independently.

The importance of summarising of various text types is because of the different structures of fiction and factual text; focusing on who, what, when, where and why will not work with factual texts, but as teachers we are continually learning more about how to improve our craft.

Note how important it is for the teacher to have a lot of knowledge about comprehension strategies to be able to evaluate their students' use of these strategies and discuss them during reading conferences. Most importantly, this knowledge is required for the teacher to teach comprehension strategies in the first place and for students to be able to articulate what they are able to do as users of those strategies. (Later in this course there is a focus on learning about comprehension and other reading strategies.)

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Effective Literacy Teaching and Learning for all Students