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How To Confer With Readers

Updated: Jul 6, 2022

Quick Reference Guide for Conferring With Readers

The leading experts in reading conferences say there are 5 parts of a reading conference:

  1. Research

  2. Decide

  3. Compliment

  4. Teach

  5. Link

Why do these 5 steps seem like they will be so difficult and time consuming?

Keep this in mind...

Conferring with readers doesn't have to be as time consuming and as difficult as it sounds.

Check out these reminders and tips for moving through the steps for conferring with readers.


The idea that surrounds research the reader is to find that one idea that will help the reader move forward.

So, before conferring with a student, the teacher needs to get to know the reader individually.

Research comes in many forms depending on the goals of the reader. Teachers get to know their readers in variety of ways.

Frame researching the reader with these 3 ideas...

Look through your previous conferring notes and records for the child to establish a quick picture of the reader.

If you keep a literacy portfolio for each of your students, this will provide a way to quickly see how the reader is currently using strategies in their independent reading.

Browse through student reading work in their reader's notebook. A reader's notebook holds their thinking and most recent reading work.

Engage and interact with the student. Initiate a conversation with the reader during this research phase using these conversational prompts to get the conference started and the reader thinking about the work.

  • What are you working on as a reader?

  • Can you show where you have tried our minilesson strategy?

  • How is the work from our minilessons this (last) week going? Explain to me.

  • Show me around your reader’s notebook.

  • What are you most proud of in your reading work?

  • Tell me what you are the least proud about your reading work and explain why.

  • What is your plan? What do you want to do as a reader?

These prompts will help guide the reader into their own reading work to respond.


This is the hardest part of a reading conference because a decision must be made about the ONE thing you want to teach the reader right at that moment.

Don't let this part of conferring take so much time. Choose one thing that you know will help the reader move forward in any text they read. The reader should be able to practice, track and monitor their work independently. You know the reader best!

Making a decision about what to teach brings to light several questions. Will you...

  • Teach something new

  • Follow up on previous teaching

  • Build on previous work because the reader is ready


During the research phase of the conference cycle, you have gotten to know the reader and have a sense of where the reader is right at that moment.

Recognize what the reader is doing well and keep compliments relevant and genuine about the student's current reading work.

Stay away from complimenting what the reader consistently does well. Compliments should be about the strategy and skill practice the student is doing well at this time.

Compliments are more powerful when they acknowledge what a reader is doing well in their practice and approximations of what they are currently learning.

Compliments are honest, genuine and specific to the student’s reading work.

The compliment does not have to be a major accomplishment. It could be very small, such as “I’ve noticed that you are not distracted during Independent Reading’ “


Now that the research has been done, the decision of what to teach has been made and a compliment has been given to deepen the reader’s understanding, it’s time to teach.

Teaching can be done in a variety of ways depending on the reader’s goal and what is being taught. As you prepare to teach the reader a strategy to help them propel forward, keep the reading goal for the reader in mind. Several strategies can be used...

Demonstration Teaching: when the teacher shows the reader how to use a strategy within a piece of text. The teacher names the strategy, thinks aloud during the process of using the strategy as a proficient reader does and then, restates the strategy and makes it usable in all books.

Use the language to get it started such as… “Watch me as I use this strategy in the reading.”

Example and Explanation: when a teacher provides more support for a strategy that has already been taught. References can be made back to previous teachings (minilessons, shared readings, read alouds, etc) of the particular strategy being taught within the conference. The teacher reminds the reader of how the strategy was used together through an explanation using a text from a previous reading experience.

This could be started by saying, "Let's take a look at this think sheet we worked through together when we read insert title of whatever text you read together here."

Coaching: when the reader works through the strategy independently while the teacher listens in and provides guidance and support when necessary. The student does all the work in this type conference teaching.

You could get this started by saying “Show me where you could use this strategy in your own reading.”


Reading strategies and skills are best taught when they can be applied to all texts and not just the current one.

Linking to independent work is important because this verbally connects the lesson to their independent reading. Not just the text they are reading right then, but to any future texts they will encounter.

When the conference meeting concludes, the reader will know to use the new teaching after you leave their side. A couple of prompts to end the conversation could be…

  • "So, whenever you are reading a text like this, remember to… insert whatever the strategy you taught."

  • "The next time we talk, I will ask you about… insert the strategy work from the conference."

It’s important to end the conversation with a link to independent work because this signals your reader about the expectation of using this teaching within any text they encounter.

Looking for a quick reference guide for conferring with readers? Grab this handy reference guide now...

Click on the graphic to download and print the quick reference conferring guide to keep in your conferring notes folder or on your conferring clipboard.

You can download it for FREE at Teachers Pay Teachers.

Until next time...

Just looking for conferring forms with sample conferring conversations, notetaking forms and conferring language to use at each step, try this...

If you're looking to pack your instructional toolkit with the conferring tools shown above AND a variety of other easy to use progress monitoring tools to track readers, check out this bundle.



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