Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Conferences and Time

In my new role at school, I am out of the classroom, but I think about classroom teaching every day. I still dream it too. As my school moves toward a competency-based personalized learning system, conferring with learners will be key. How do you organize learning conferences? By students, by need, by project, by book? 

When I taught English, my goal was to confer with each reader at least once a week. The professional literature I was reading often organized conferring around books and quantity. So that teachers would confer with readers for each book the reader read. 

Reading conferences in my former high school classroom last anywhere from two to seven or so minutes depending on the readers' needs. Imagine the math if I conferred with each student multiple times for each book they read independently. I tried this out as a word problem: 

 An English teacher meets with readers for three-minute conferences two times for each book the reader reads. If ninety percent of the teacher's students finish one book every two weeks, how much instructional time will the teacher need to devote to reading conferences? 

Let's look at one class group, say first period. What is 90% of 25 students? 

90/100 = x/25

If I have 3-minute conferences with each student, that's:

22 students x 3 minutes = 66 minutes

Two conferences per book would be: 
66 x2 = 132 minutes

The length of our classes varies. Here at Singapore American School, I had 80-minute classes. In Orlando, I had 43 minutes. Some of my favorite literacy and workshop writers write about organizing the conferring schedule by book, but didn't work for me. 

Routine did. Making a schedule and sticking to it created a consistent formative assessment routine for me as a teacher.  I imagine routine may work when it comes to other types of conferring teachers do too. Ideally, I'd want a schedule, so that I am sure to check in with each learner over a block of time and then I'd also want the ability to be flexible and responsive to what learners may need in the moment. 

PS: Into the Woods rocked opening night! I will write more about my experience as a learner in another post. 


  1. Flexibility and there a conceptual relationship there somewhere?

  2. I’m glad you wrote this because even though book conferences are supposed to be more authentic, they still have that school assignment feel, and that alone can undermine the intent of choice reading.