Chapter Four (Part One) of The Literacy Teacher’s Playbook


Today I’m writing about the first part of Chapter Four of The Literacy Teacher’s Playbook (Serravallo).  If you missed my last post in this series, you can view it by clicking {here}.

One important part of this chapter was when Serravallo discussed the structure of a reading or writing conference.  She uses a structure that she calls “research-decide-teach.”  Here are the components:

Research:  Look to see what the child is doing with her reading or writing (keeping your goals for the individual child and entire class in mind).

Decide:  Choose a compliment and a teaching point (the teaching point should build off what the child is doing well).

Compliment:  Give the child a clear and specific compliment.  Sometimes a child may not even know she’s doing something, but you verbalizing it will serve to reinforce the strategy and encourage the child to use it in the future.

Teach:  Suggest a specific strategy for the child to use, preferably one that builds off the compliment.

Link:  Tell the child what the follow-up will be in the future (and then check in with that child the next day or in the near future).

Serravallo says that she tries to keep her conferences to about 5 minutes.  For me, this is the hardest part!  Trying to decide what to teach and then successfully teaching it all in five minutes can be a real challenge for me.  I think maybe I tend to talk too much and that slows me down!!  🙂  When I was in the classroom, it was super easy to get distracted, too – someone leaving or entering the classroom, a child who is off-task, etc.  One of my goals this year is to be more aware of time.  I will be working as a reading specialist, and I am going to be part-time.  My hands-on time with kiddos will be more limited than it has been in the past.  So…I’m going to wear my watch and I’m going to actually use it!  Working with kids never goes exactly as you plan, but I want to set goals for how much time I will spend doing this or that during small group activities.  And then I’ll follow up with those goals to see how I did.    Wish me luck!!

Do you have any great strategies to share about how to limit your conferring time?  Please comment below if you do!!


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I’m Alison, a literacy specialist. I love getting kids excited about reading and writing – and sharing teaching ideas with other teachers!

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