The nature and influences of reading conferences in a primary classroom
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This grounded study built on prior research in the area of reading conferences. Although there has been much anecdotal writing about reading conferences, there is limited research on the topic in general, and more specifically, no research honing in on the students reading experience after they engage in a one-on-one conference with the teacher. This study examined the nature of reading conferences in a third grade classroom and the influence of these one-on-one conferences with the teacher on the students’ subsequent reading experiences. Qualitative research methods were used to document and describe (a)the structure and content of the reading conferences; (b)the relationship building that occurred during the conference; (c) the joint meaning-making that developed within a conference and; (d)the reading experiences of third graders during independent reading. Reading conferences as a part of the classroom reading workshop were observed and documented for 8 months, and the classroom teacher was formally interviewed at the start of the data collection. Informal interviews were conducted with the teacher throughout the study in order to clarify observations. Interviews with students were also conducted in order to know what they were thinking about their reading and how they were applying strategies during independent reading time. Data for this study included field notes from observations, student and teacher interviews, teacher anecdotal notes, audio and video tapes of the individual conferences, and digital images of the students’ independent reading selections with notations made in the text by both the teacher and student. The findings of the study indicate that individual conferences between the teacher and student foster the building of relationships. In addition, individual conferences provide a space for joint meaning-making to occur between the teacher and student based upon the needs of the student and in a way that promotes a more solid understanding of reading strategies. The study revealed that individual conferences in reading influenced the independent reading experiences of students. Students were better able to apply reading strategies in their independent reading after spending time working one-on-one with the teacher to make meaningful connections between the strategy and the text they selected and to clarify misunderstandings.