The Stenhouse Blog

Conferring with Courage and Commitment

Posted by admin on Sep 6, 2019 3:38:49 PM

It’s independent reading time. The perfect opportunity to sit down with your students, face-to-face and have a great discussion about their reading that will inform your next teaching moves. You have your notebook ready. You sit down next to the first student on your list and ask, “So what are you thinking about this book?” Shrug. “I don’t know. I like it?” Silence. Now what? Not sure? Kari Yates and Christina Nosek can help.




Kari and Christina wrote the book, To Know and Nurture a Reader, because they want to help teachers fall in love with conferring as much as they have, and to help turn one-to-one conferences into lively, active discussions about reading. They want to help teachers build a practice that is purposeful, effective, and authentically theirs. Here are a few ideas from their book on why conferring is important and a few simple steps to get started.

With unwavering determination, an open mind, and a brave heart, we believe every teacher can learn to confer with confidence and joy.”

First Off, What Is Conferring, Anyway?

At its simplest, conferring is the act of pulling up alongside a reader to engage in a one-to-one learning conversation. At its best, conferring is the daily choice we make to give our wholehearted and undivided attention to one reader at a time, intentionally noticing, celebrating, and moving their reading life forward. Ultimately, it is a commitment to students, aimed at empowering them to become more agentive, independent, and joyful readers.

Why Confer?

We confer because we believe in a purpose as teachers that is so much more significant than helping students learn how to read. And it’s so much more far-reaching than preparing kids for success on “the big test.” We confer to help build an intentional bridge between reading in the classroom and reading in the world outside the classroom. We confer to uncover the kinds of practical information that formal assessments never could. And we confer because these tiny moments fill our own hearts with joy, refueling, refreshing, and sustaining us, reminding us why we teach in the first place.

Making the Commitment to Nurture a Joyful Conferring Practice

To get started, know that you don’t need to know all the answers. All you need are three small but powerful commitments to yourself. These three commitments are the foundation on which a thriving conferring practice is built. These are promises you make to yourself and to your students to show up every day with a caring heart, intent on making the most of every moment as you learn alongside your students.

  • Confer to learn. This means you come to a conference first to learn and only later to teach, and that you keep pushing yourself to grow each step of the way.
  • Confer with tenacity. This means that you confer every day, as much as you are able to, saying no to distractions, and resisting the temptation to throw in the towel when things get tough. And they will get tough. That’s normal. Tenacity involves choosing to move forward despite difficulties or roadblocks.
  • Confer from the heart. This means you give yourself permission to make your conferring practice truly your own, trusting yourself to respond to your students in meaningful ways. It’s not helpful to be hard on yourself, so give yourself a little love. When you do, you’ll have even more to spread around to your students, making it easy to create positively joyful interactions along the way.

We believe in you and we believe that by making these three commitments you can transform your conferring practice from uncertain to unstoppable, starting right now.

To learn more about Kari and Christina’s To Know and Nurture a Reader, click here.


Topics: Literacy, Reading