A basic primer of Conferring Principles to use as a cheat sheet.
When we were first learning to confer with students of all ages, we devoured books written by Nancie Atwell, Donald Graves, and Lucy Calkins. Each of these teachers had their own twists on the essential elements for high quality student-teacher conferences. Over time, we integrated and distilled their ideas into a few core principles. For the core principles click on this link.
Gail Boushey and Joan Moser ("The Sisters") explain their conferring routines during reading conferences: an excerpt from Conferring with Children: Principals and Procedures
We are also teaching children to look more closely at where they are now as readers, and where they might go tomorrow, or over the next week, in working on skills and strategies to become better readers. So many of the conference protocols we've seen and used in the past look at what children are reading at the moment, or ask them to talk about their whole life as a reader. There doesn't seem to be much in-between those two extremes, but the "in-between" is where we all live as teachers, trying to get students and ourselves to look beyond the moment to the concrete, practical steps we can take today, tomorrow and this week to move forward as readers. With conferring now, we're looking at days and weeks, rather than moments and years, to help children become more independent in tracking their progress and taking responsibility for it.
One of the strengths of setting goals with children that they work on over a period of time is that it saves time in conferences. Instead of taking time during each conference with a child to come up with a new goal or goals, the child begins with knowing he or she is working on developing fluency, or on expanding vocabulary. Starting with a focus, instead of always having to establish a focus at the beginning of the conference, saves us an enormous amount of time. We can spend far more of the limited time we have with each child observing and listening to them read, and then teaching, rather than wasting much of the first part of the conference trying to figure out what we need to concentrate on that day.
We have a focus for our next conference before we even meet with the child again. When children see us walking up to them for a conference, they mentally begin to sort through what progress they have made toward their goal, and what topics around the goal we might discuss when we meet.
This essay has been published in a different form in The CAFE Book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser.