The Missouri Reader Vol. 41, Issue 1 - Page 56


Overall, all groups of students were excited to engage in reading instruction no matter the format focus, but students that conferred were largely more engaged and determined to work during that short 10-15 minute amount of time. Students were constantly checking in with the teacher, wondering when reading conferences were to be held in anticipation for the time spent reading together. Small group instruction students often did not engage in the text, which could have been a side effect of having no choice in the text. The small group students would occasionally let other students take over the work for them. In conferring, the students could only rely on themselves to get the work done.

Conferring with students allows the teacher to form a deep understanding of individual needs, skills, and abilities. From conferring, better informed instructional decisions were made based on conversations that occurred. For example, conferring helped guide questioning, as well as making decisions about types of texts to use while teaching during mini lessons. When speaking with parents, true strengths and areas for improvement in regards to their student’s reading abilities were easily identified. Conversations were based on qualitative data collected from anecdotal notes versus quantitative data collected through all the different assessments we require of our students.

A great deal can be learned about students in small group guided reading, too. Instruction is based off needs, as well as strengths, and students are engaged in learning with their peers that have the same or similar reading abilities. However, the students are not receiving one on one individualized instruction. The skills and strategies are predetermined and worked on in group setting. The students in these groups did not exhibit the same amount of involvement in their reading, as those students conferring. The small group guided reading students did not advocate for their choice in text because they were accustomed to the teacher choosing the text, whereas conferring students chose their text and advocated for their personal reading life.

Teacher’s ultimate goal is to equip students with the ability to independently read, which means to read fluently, accurately, and construct meaning. Guided reading groups provided skill and strategy practice with a group of students working to strengthen the same needs. Conferring provided individual instruction based on individual needs, and also provided the students with the strategies to construct meaning and form a reading lifestyle. Conferring allows individual students to individually strengthen their ability to independently read.


Allington, R. L. & Gabriel, R. E. (2012). Every child,every day. Educational Leadership,69(6), 10-15.

Calkins, L. (2010). Conferring with readers: intense, intimate, responsive teaching. Units of Study: A Guide to Reader’s Workshop, 59-71. Portsmouth, NH. Firsthand Heinemann.

DIBELS Next. (2011). Retrieved August 12, 2016 and December 16, 2016 from


Fountas, I.C.& Pinnell, G.S. (2012). Guided reading: the romance and the reality. The Reading Teacher, Vol. 66 (4), 268-284.

STAR Reading. (2016). Retrieved August, October, and December 16, 2016, from assessments/star-reading

Carly Estlund has been a fourth grade teacher for five years in the Independence School District. She is currently a graduate student at Northwest Missouri State University in their Teacher Leader Program and working towards National Board Certification in literacy.