Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Vicki Vinton on Conferencing at #dublit13

I don't know about you, but I can NEVER get too many tips on effective reading conferences.

I was thrilled when Vicki Vinton (check out her amazing blog, To Make A Prairie) gave us 5 quick DOs and DON'Ts in her C session at the Dublin Literacy Conference. I've given these a try in the last two weeks and they work like charms!

(First of all, Vinton's metaphor for a reading conference was brilliant. She likened it to "parachuting into a text" and having to find your way around.)

DO focus on the reader's thinking about the book.
DON'T focus on the plot. 

(Do you know how hard it is not to sit down by a kid and say, "What's your book about?" Do you know how much more thinking the child will have to do if you don't give them this easy way out? Read on for the question that will stop them in their tracks and make them T-H-I-N-K think.)

DO begin by asking the reader what they're working on as a reader. (What are you wondering about, trying to figure out…)
DON'T open the door to a retelling of the book. Don't even let them get started with it!

DO ask the student to read a little right where he left off.
DON'T ask the student to re-read something they've already processed. (In one of the first conferences I did when I put this into place, I was thrilled that the reader anticipated the times when she would need to stop and explain things to me! Is that comprehension, or what?!?)

DO read a few paragraphs or page alongside the student.
DON'T take a running record as the student reads.
  • As you read alongside the student draft your own understanding:
  • What have you been able to comprehend? 
  • What did you have to do to do that (infer, connect details, make a connection, etc)?
  • Have you picked up any clues about possible themes or big ideas? 

DO ask the student to SUMMARIZE what you just read together.
DON'T ask the student to summarize or retell the whole story. After all, you want the conference to last about 5 minutes so that you can get to 3 or 4 more students that day and every child in the room every week!

Vicki Vinton is the co-author of

What Readers Really Do: Teaching the Process of Meaning Making
by Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton
Heinemann, 2012

(I'm thinking I need to re-read this book.)


  1. I really like the tip on reading a few passages together and summarizing/determining strategies used to comprehend. Thank you for the do's and dont's.

  2. Mary Lee love your post. I absolutely love this book. I saw Vicki speak in Las Vegas. Not sure if she talked about the teacher in Colorado who was using the approach with a group of kids. She had video. It was fabulous. I think your summary of the session is very helpful. I saw Dorothy last year at IRA. I encourage everyone to read this book!!!
    Janet F.

  3. This is fantastic. I'm going to share with my colleagues and start using these tips right away.

  4. We are expecting a snow day on Thursday, and I think I need to use the time to re read this book. The conference sounds awesome, Mary Lee - wish I could have been there.

  5. Mary Lee, Thank you for the informative post. I feel like my conferencing is a constant work in progress and the tips you describe make so much sense. I can't wait to have a go at them and perhaps read the book. Thanks again.

  6. I loved this session as well. The DOs and DONTs have been guiding my conferring as well - and it is difficult to break years-long habits. But the conferences are richer and deeper because of it. Gotta love that! I definitely need to get this book.

  7. Thanks for this post! It's always good to know what went on in the sessions that you can't attend. I wish I could've gone to them all that day! Conferencing is a weakness for me. I always feel overwhelmed by time limits. These are good tips to keep them effective in a succinct way!

  8. Anonymous6:04 PM

    These tips are really helpful, Mary Lee. Thank you for sharing.


Comment moderation is turned on.