Sunday, January 13, 2013

Reading conferences...using the student's preview to lead

After reading this weekend's Choice Literacy Big Fresh e-newsletter on previewing and reading Maria's post on having her students reflect on their class real aloud...the importance of previewing a text is still on my mind.  I blogged earlier this weekend about using a book preview for guiding a class read aloud, but as I keep previews have such an important role in so many components of a balanced literacy classroom.

One of the ways that I monitored book choice during independent reading was through book previews. When a student was ready to "go ahead" with a book, they would work their way through the preview process, record their thinking on our "Ready, Set, Go" sheet, and read one chapter/20 pages (whatever made them comfortable as a reader).  When they got to their benchmark point, the students would sign up for a "preview conference".  At the beginning of every reader's workshop, we would start with Status of the Class and just start reading!  This was time prior to our mini-lesson to conference with students.  My literacy workshop looked like this...

12:40-12:45 Status of the Class
12:45-1:10   Independent Reading and individual conferences
1:10-1:25     Mini-lesson
1:25-2:05     Differentiated Small Group Instruction 
                    (Students not in groups went back to independent reading/annotating/inquiry)
2:05-2:15     Share

The first conference I would meet with were all of the students who had signed up for a preview conference.  What is a preview conference? Students would bring their book and their Big Questions to the group.  Each person would share a passage to read to the group and what they were wondering about in the form of their three Big Questions.  These Big Questions were a thinking stem to use to monitor their comprehension while reading the book.  This conference revealed our true reading community.  Students who had already read a person's book would encourage..." are going to find out the answer to that question."  Students who had not read the book were hooked..."That sounds exciting! Can I have the book next?"  Students would sometimes come with the same book and a reading partner was established.  The most important part...this process created a vulnerable reading life.  For me?  The Big Questions gave insight into the level of thinking that the student needed to understand the text and the questions came from the reader, not me.  I was also able to listen to a discussion lead by the students... the students were in charge, engaged, and motivated to get to their own choice reading.    

Questions to ask:
* What happened in the text to inspire your question?
* Do you have any predictions to what the answer to one of your questions might be?
* Which question do you think is driving your reading through this book?

*Once a student was done with their book, they would answer one of their big questions in writing and share the answer during our Share Time to celebrate another book being added to their reading graph.
** Students did not do this with every book they read.  They went through this process with four to five books, of their choosing, based on their goals each quarter.
*** This recording sheet was the heart of our held helpful notes and thinking to adorn future conversations.


  1. Once we finished the mini lessons on preview I have always allowed my students to preview on their own with an occasional question: Why did you choose this book? I like your form for accountability but also for students not rushing to preview. Thanks for sharing.

    1. The form is a great conversation starter. I love at the end of the book when the students pick their one question to write about. This is where I can see how deeply they understood the text....and as always...a piece to hold onto for assessing!

  2. Another post full of great ideas. I'm glad you included. a sample schedule -- time is often a barrier/excuse for me. I'd like to know more about what's happening during small group instruction.

    1. Thanks for there something specific that you are wondering about small group instruction? Happy you are stopping by my blog and thanks for the comments!

    2. Since small group instruction means different things to different teachers, I'm curious to know how you determine groupings and what types of texts you use. Thanks for sharing!

    3. I wish I could say that I have one specific method, but typically...

      when I am working on a particular unit, at the beginning my mini-lessons are on the border of too long. So during this time I do STRATEGY GROUPS (students bring their independent books and work on strategies that that I have noticed through conferencing, status of the class, selecting books, previewing, etc)

      Then the second week, after our unit had been under way. I pull SKILL BASED groups. These groups use short text and are determined by what I noticed during the first week with our focus skill. This is my time to extend for those who are picking up quickly, give extended time for those who need it, exploring misconceptions, and groups who have difficulty transferring their oral responses to writing about their reading.

      Then third week, GUIDED READING (groups determined by the teacher based on their instructional reading level). Students are grouped by instructional levels since it is guided and the books selected revolve around our focus. If we are in a unit titled...HOW TIME IMPACTS US. I will pick historical fiction books that allow us the avenue to practice background knowledge, timelines for plot and history, and how character's decisions are influenced by their time period and their own character behaviors.

      Does this help? It is messy but...there are so many avenues to teach reading. I like to find a purpose for all of them.

    4. Uh-oh...just thought the next question might be..."what are the other students doing?" :)

  3. I can relate when you say, "I wish I could say I have one specific method, but..." I don't think you should feel badly about that because you've created instructional structures that are flexible and responsive to students and that fit your setting. Like I said in my initial comment, my greatest challenge is time -- there are only two of five days when we have a 90 minute block in our schedule so a cohesive, continuous literacy block is a dream of mine. Instead, I twist and tweak, setting up structures that best support my big literacy goals. Thanks again for taking the time to respond. I look forward to more virtual conversations.