Sunday, September 15, 2013

Book Talks and Reading Conferences

We have been in school for three weeks now, and I feel like we are making progress with our reading.  I am working to implement ideas from The Book Whisperer into my instruction, so this week I started meeting with students for reading conferences.   I am required by my school district to teach the little readers that go with the Houghton Mifflin Journeys, so it is difficult to get these in.  I am trying to find a balance between district curriculum and keeping our focus on reading good books that will really engage my students as readers. Since I have thirty students divided into four reading groups, this is not an easy task.

Each day, I had one reading group use their small group time to give an impromptu book talk about one of the books they were reading.  I had also planned to meet with two students at the end of each day for book conferences, but most days I ran out of time.  Instead, I used all of my small group time on Friday to catch up on conferences.

For the reading conferences, I had students bring their reading notebooks and the books they were currently reading.  Instead of sitting in my usual spot at the end of the table, I sat with the students along the side.  I called two students at a time.

Each time I met with a group, I observed the same thing.  The kids started out cautiously, expecting me to quiz or grill them about the books they were reading.  When they realized that our goal was to just talk about the books.  I saw them begin to visibly relax and participate in a discussion about the books they are reading and have read.  This was true during the book talk time and during the conferences.

It made me aware of how much of the time, I am not listening to what kids think and have to say.  It is an eye opener as to how we block kids from being fully engaged in the learning and how rarely they are actually invited into a conversation about the things they are learning.  I know that I am a good teacher, but much of the time I am so intent on helping my students achieve learning goals, that I don't permit them to help shape the path that we are traveling to get there.

I am so thankful that I read The Book Whisperer this summer, and I am enjoying the way it is transforming my teaching.  It's important to stop and smell the roses along the way.  Not only do my students benefit, but I am benefiting as well.

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