Monday, August 27, 2012

Rainbow Conferences

When I first started teaching Kindergarten I had a wonderful mentor teacher, Mrs. S. She taught me so much that first year and I'm fortunate enough that she is willing to continue to mentor and guide me whenever I need some help. One of the things we talked about was the importance of scheduling reading and writing conferences.

You see when I first started Reading/Writing Workshop I found that I was constantly conferencing with the same children over and over again, which unfortunately meant certain children weren't getting enough conference time with me. Mrs. S. suggested that I figure out a system of keeping track of which children I conferenced with each day. I loved this idea and I sat down to figure out a way to keep track of my conferences.

My first year I created a simple calendar grid that I used to track my conferences, but over the years I developed it to become what I now call my "Rainbow Conferences." So what is "Rainbow Conferences"? It's a two system method of keeping track of whom you conference with and when.

The first part is a monthly calendar.

I make one monthly calendar for reading AND another one for writing. I think it is very important to maintain two separate calendars. The calendars are color coded to help you keep track of which days during the week you are supposed to conference with each children. For example - if Samantha's name is in row 1, then I know I conference with her on Mondays so any box that is red means it is a day I am supposed to conference with Samantha. It looks more complicated than it really is, I promise! The bright colors help draw my eye to the correct boxes to help me keep track of my conferences. 

For reading and writing I use similar keys to help mark my conferences. I always mark a capital 'C' if I had a regular conference with a student. I mark a 'G' or write the word 'Group' across any boxes I may have held a group conference with. I also keep track of any assessments I do with the students as well as if a student is either out of the classroom or absent for the day. I find that by keeping these calendars all together I can quickly glance and see when I did an assessment with a student last and if I need to do another one. I keep these in my teacher binder. Below is an example of how I would mark my reading conferences:

The second part of my conferences is a poster I created that is also color coded. I print and laminate these posters and hang them on my wall. I fill in all of my student's names on the correct day of the week so I can clearly see who I am supposed to conference with. 

I really love this system for keeping track of my conferences, they have helped me over the years make sure I get to all of the children in my class as much as possible. 

Now I'm sure you are wondering, "How do you decide which children to conference with each day?" Well that one was actually very simple for me. Since I teach Kindergarten I don't have a good judge of what levels they are on so for the beginning of the year I set up my calendars in alphabetical and reverse alphabetical order. For example if my reading conferences are alphabetical than my writing conferences would be reverse alphabetical. I may swap around a few names if I have too - I ALWAYS make sure that I am not conferencing with one person for reading and writing on the same day! That is very important to me!!! 

As the year progresses I group my students (whether it be formally or informally) and use these groupings to help organize my conference days. In reading I organize my students by their reading levels. We use colors and letters for our reading levels - so I schedule all my "red dot/level A" readers for the same day, if there are more than 5 students on the same level then I schedule the remainder of the students on the next consecutive day. Some months I just line my kids up on my calendar from beginner readers all the way to advanced readers. Other months I make my groups based on their reading levels and than randomly assign a day of the week for each group. 

For writing, again, in the beginning of kindergarten I don't have a good judge on their level so they are just simply scheduled alphabetically. But as the year progresses, similar to reading, I schedule them in groups based on their ability. 

The reason I group my students and then add them to my calendar is to help make my conferences run more smoothly. If I know I'm meeting with all beginner writers on Monday I have the option of 1) pulling them as a group and working on a skill they all need to improve on or 2) have my "bag of tricks" ready with activities and lessons for beginner writers and meet with them one-on-one. I find it a lot easier to be thinking and focusing on one level of writing (or reading) rather than meeting with a beginning writer, followed by an advanced writer, and then some average writers thrown in too. The skills they all need are so different and having to change gears so often during conferences is not very easy. 

So that my friends is what I like to call my "Rainbow Conferences!" I hope you enjoyed a glimpse into what they are all about! If you are in love and want to learn more about them, including some tips and tricks, plus get an entire set of 2012-2013 school calendars for both reading and writing already mapped out for you then head on over to my Teachers Notebook Store or my Teachers Pay Teacher Store and pick up your copy today! I'd love to hear your thoughts on this system or how you organize scheduling your conferences!!! 

Thanks for stopping by today :)


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