Readers Workshop can be quite an adjustment for any teacher. I want to say upfront that I am not an expert on conferences and conferring with students, but I do know what my students need. Keep this in mind while I share what has worked for my students this past school year during independent reading time.
During Readers Workshop, I send students for independent practice which lasts anywhere from 20-40 minutes depending on our stamina and if we buddy read. While students are reading, I am either working one on one or with a focus group. I love using Jennifer Serravallo’s Reading Strategies book for my focus groups. I pull the students, do a quick lesson, and then send them back to practice. While focusing on individual students, I follow the conferring model of Praise, Teach, Practice and Next Steps. To me, Writing Conferences are a little more natural with defined next steps that you can see in their writing.
How can I make sure my students are effectively practicing the skill that we worked on together?
I pondered this thought all year. Sure, conversations will tell if a child is practicing and I can observe, but being an educator who loves data…I need the hard evidence. I need proof to show that they are working towards our goals and skills we are practicing. I went back and forth on how to do this. In the upper grades, teachers use Reading Response Journals or Post It Notes to determine growth towards skills. First grade isn’t quite ready for that. Many students are just learning to read so that’s what they need to focus on. I was searching for answers for those students who were already reading on grade level (Levels G/H and higher).
Reading Response Mats
The idea hit me while I was sitting in a professional development session with our district’s Reading Coach. What if we had a page that provided the visual cues and places for Post It Notes to stay while they are reading and working? Reading Response Mats started off as a simple sketch that I added to my “Summer To Do List” in March. I knew I wanted to make them and how powerful they would be, but let’s be honest…no one had time for that just then. There was no way I could get a task so large completed and prepped. So, I showed myself a little grace and as soon as break began, I started creating mats that will change how I lead Reading Conferences this school year.
How will they work?
Remember that “Praise, Teach, Practice and Next Steps” model? I plan on using a Reading Response Mat to teach and practice with a student who is reading independently on grade level…again this is not for my students who are just learning to read! Those students are focusing on decoding and fluency. These mats are for students who are ready to focus on comprehension. After we model and practice together, they will be sent back to their independent reading with a mat and Sticky Notes. Their “Next Step” is to complete the mat with any book of their choice and have it started when I meet with them again. When I get back to that student, sometimes the same week and sometimes the next week, I will expect to see their attempt or mastery of the mat. If they are working, but stuck, we will practice and model again together. If they aren’t quite ready for the independent practice, we will swap the mat for a different skill or just practice that skill more in small groups (focus group). If the student is soaring and definitely has that skill mastered, we will introduce a new skill and the process will repeat the same cycle.
What about Nonfiction text?
Since our second unit of the year is nonfiction, I made mats for those books as well. The beauty of the Reading Response Mats is that they can be used with ANY book! There are different ones for fiction and nonfiction since those genres have different comprehension strategies and skills that we focus on.
I know that these Reading Response Mats will make my Reading Conferences much better. I will finally feel that all the missing elements that I had for my higher readers are in place. Maybe it is just me, but I feel that many times our highest readers and learners aren’t being enriched or pushed as they are developmentally ready for, and these mats will help me do that. There are currently 30 different strategies and skills included in the bundle and as the school year goes, I will more than likely find the need to add more, so the pack does have the potential to grow. Click here to grab this bundle and change the way you are leading Reading Conferences too!