Conferring Made Simple: Assessing Reading Skills with Extempore

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Time. Time is a teacher’s most precious commodity. We literally never have enough of it and are always, ALWAYS asking for more. We need time to plan lessons, collaborate with staff, grade homework, and even observe students practice and utilize the skills and strategies we teach. As a previous elementary classroom teacher, I can tell you if I had more of this one thing, I would have been a much more successful educator.
The reality is grim. It seems as though we will just never have enough and must therefore get used to it or get creative with the time we do have. This is one area where the Extempore app has proven itself to be extremely effective and useful in giving back time in the classroom. Yay! Let me explain.

Working with Students Toward a Fluency Goal or Benchmark

As a teacher, I could have students record themselves reading books at their level using the app during reading workshop, while at home, or during free time. Once students have recorded themselves reading and have submitted it to you, you are essentially free to review and grade it at a time that works best for you. This could be your prep, lunch hour, or even play it through your stereo system on your commute home.

Long gone are the hours spent hunched over a book with a kid, listening to them read, while you try to gather some information on the spot that might be useful. This time can be added back into your instruction or the never ending to-do list we have as educators.

Even better, trade out the fluency skill you’re working on for expression or voice. You have a multitude of reading skills that you can assess just by providing a platform to do it without you.

Taking It One Step Further

Let’s say you’re not the most confident individual when it comes to conferring with students. Let’s be real, it’s not easy to observe students, identify strengths and areas of growth, compliment, and provide constructive feedback all within 3-5 minutes. We’re human. Sometimes it takes us time to think about what the student can and can’t do, review potential strategies, and pick just one that the child could benefit from reviewing. I know I’ve needed that think time as a teacher. I wish I had a resource such as this that I could have used to give me ‘time’ to think, plan, and review before I had to meet with the student. If I had, my conferring would have probably yielded much more successful results.

The reality of it is conferring is a true art-it takes years to master if you’re intentionally working at it and even then there are always ways to learn more and improve your craft.

Teachers, this is your built in conferring stop button, your break, think time, or even the ‘what am I going to do with this student now?’ app. Use it for conferring and soon you will be able to reach more students on a faster timeline. It’s an art. Master yours.

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This post is courtesy of Nicole Ward who is a Literacy Teaching and Learning Coach in Muskego, WI. She works with elementary teachers to help them deliver the best instruction possible to students! In her free time she enjoys reading, spending time with her pets, and traveling.