Short bursts of focused instruction are one of the most powerful, brain-research-based methods we know of for effective teaching. What has helped us more than anything else is focusing on a single goal and strategy.
We used to think that to have meaningful conferences with students, we had to have read the book they were reading. That didn’t prove to be true. Our instruction is just as effective when we focus the conversation on the strategy being used and practice with the section they are reading in the book.
The same is true of our writing conferences. We don’t need to listen to the entire story to monitor progress. We might say, for instance, “You have been working on creating a mental image for your audience by adding details. Can you show me where you’ve done that in this piece?”
Short bursts of focused instruction are one of the most powerful, brain research-based tools we know to be most effective with children. However, sometimes that is easier said than done! In our early careers, our one-on-one conferences were very long. In part, because we did not have the Daily 5 structure in place to allow us the time to confer often, so when we did meet with a student, we had a lot of catching up to do. Now we focus on a single goal and strategy.
We also used to think that we needed to read every single book in order to confer with them. We know now that isn't true, even when the focus of the conference is comprehension. Our instruction is just as effective, if not more, when we focus the conversation on the strategy being used, and practice with the section of the book they are reading right then.
The same is true of our writing conferences. We don't need to listen to the entire story they are writing, but instead focus on their goal. For instance: "You have been working on creating a mental image for your audience by adding details. Can you show me where you've done that in this piece?"
To help us stay focused, we follow a consistent structural pattern for our individual conferences and small groups: The Instruction Protocol. As you read it, keep in mind that the time estimates are merely that. We don’t carry a stopwatch and time ourselves. We just set a goal to keep interactions with students brief, focused, and intentional. The beautiful result is learning that sticks.