Why document student conferences?  To be honest, sometimes I just don’t feel like doing it.  Sometimes I don’t feel like working out either, but I do it because I know it holds value.  Value.  Perhaps that’s part of the problem.  Maybe some teachers just don’t see the value of conferring notes.

I think teachers who feel this way would not feel similarly about student accountability.  In fact, I’d think they’d probably say student accountability holds enormous value.  Maybe understanding how conferring notes can be leveraged to advance student accountability becomes key in motivating others to commit themselves to this classroom best practice.  So, that’s what I’ll attempt to cover here.

I don’t claim to have mastered the craft of conferring, but here’s a conference note from early December.

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To put things in context, we were in a new Digital Literacy unit, and I was working with my students on analyzing text structure, using both text and digital media.  I had already used the Chipotle Scarecrow video as a mentor “text” for several other lessons.  The springboard for this conference note was the previous night’s reading assignment in which students had to rewatch the video and analyze its structure (compare/contrast, problem/solution, etc.), providing details from the video to support their answer.

This year students have been submitting their reading homework via Google Forms.  I’ve found this very efficient, as I can easily peruse everyone’s work and quickly use it to assess understanding and drive future instruction.

Using the camera functionality of Chronicle, I took a snapshot of this student’s response, which definitely wasn’t up to par with her ability and my expectations (response is highlighted red).

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Meeting with her, we revisited text evidence prompts from our Close Reading unit.  We began typing in what it might look like to use these prompts (“for example”, “I know this because…”, etc.) and we discussed how the rest of the written response may have sounded if these close reading skills were used.  I closed the conference with a challenge.  I told the student that I wanted her to apply all we went over, and I would take another snapshot of her work the next day so we could compare.  After an “I know you can do it!” and some other words of encouragement, I sent the student off.

The next day, I went back into the conference note, used the camera functionality again, and took another snapshot.  Chronicle’s design allows for an easy swipe from one picture to the next, so I was able to quickly pull the student up and show her the difference.  Here’s the after (which I showcased to the class on the Smart Board):

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The student was beaming after seeing the difference and hearing some proud words from her teacher.  She felt good about herself.  I felt good about myself.

I personally use this “before and after” method all the time to hold students accountable, show them what they’re capable of, and advance learning outcomes.  So, hopefully this post helps some see the value in conferring notes, or maybe just a new way to leverage them.