Conferring is the Beating Heart of Workshop Teaching

I think about this a lot, as it was something I heard at a conference once.  I agree with that conferring is the heart of the teaching in a reading or writing workshop, but having an effective conference is the thing that many of us struggle with the most.

One of my favorite blogs is over at Stenhouse because they are always pushing their new books, which always look good to me!  This post on Counterfeit Beliefs about Conferring really has me thinking.  I’d love to hear your reaction to the whole post, or at least to this part:

Here is our list of counterfeit beliefs. Which ones do you believe? Which ones have you actually said, or thought, at one point or another?

Counterfeit Beliefs About Conferring

1. If I meet with small groups, I don’t have to meet with individuals. It’s easier to meet with small groups.

2. If I don’t meet with every student every day, I’m not doing a good job.

3. If I don’t do a running record during each and every reading conference, I’m not really assessing my students’ reading ability.

4. If I don’t talk about all the errors a student is making while he or she is with me, I’m not being diligent.

5. I have to take an expert stance in each conference.

6. I need to focus on skills and fluency; comprehension comes later.

7. When I’m talking to a child about his or her learning, I’m conferencing.

8. I need to confer with every student the same number of times for the same amount of time each week.

9. I need to give the rest of the class something “to do” so they’ll stay busy and leave me alone so I can confer.

10. I’ve tried _____’s conferring suggestions and recommendations and they just didn’t work out.

Now before you close the book and say, “Wait a minute, I agree with number nine or number two,” let the statement weigh on your mind a bit. Think about each statement carefully. Spend some time pondering. Can you see why these ideas might be considered misguided?
What do you all think?


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