Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Conversation Begins: "Conferring" Bookchat

"If someone walked into our classroom, who would he or she say owned it?"  Patick Allen

The Conversation
This week I've been reading "Conferring" by Patrick Allen to prepare for the start of our professional reading cyberchat (#cyberPD).   The list of participants (some are here) has grown since last week, and it's never too late to join.  Please scroll to the bottom to find links to other blogs participating in the event.  If you'd like to participate in our discussion about Part I, here are a few ways to join the conversation (see end of post for other event dates).

You can:
1.  leave a comment at the end of this post.
2.  write a post about your reflections, and place your link in the comments below.  I will then link your blog to this post.
3.  comment on Twitter using hashtag #cyberPD.

4.  visit other blog reflections and comment.  

Who Owns Our Classroom?
Patrick Allen spends much time in Part I, discussing the ways he builds a classroom environment in which conferring can happen.  As I was reading "Conferring" the above quote caught my attention.  Allen asks, "If someone walked into our classroom, who would s/he say owned it?"  I wonder about this a lot.  It is my hope that when someone walks into our classroom they know it is a place where children belong and where learning is valued.  From the table that sits close to the ground for readers/writers/learners/friends to gather, to the books surrounding the room in baskets with covers facing out to call to young readers, to the work and thinking hanging on the walls, I want the room to be a place for children to talk, think, dream, learn and work together.  I want students to feel at home when they enter.  It's their place.

When someone walks into our classroom, I not only hope they will see students own it but, I also want them to hear that children own it.  Allen states, "Giving them a voice in defining the structure and expectations makes the 'work' of the workshop theirs (p. 92)."  As I read the chapters of Patrick's book, I couldn't help but hear his students own the classroom.  They own the thinking taking place within the community.  They own the tone of the room as they talk together about learning, books, and writing.  They own the time in which they work as they talk and learn beside one another.  They own the purpose behind the learning taking place.  It is their voices that matter and resonate throughout the pages.

How is Conferring Important in a Learning Community?
Allen reminds us, "Conferring provides an opportunity for my students and me to discuss and explore ideas together (p. 32)."  I couldn't help but think about the way the small conversations we have as we confer with children lead into, and out of, the bigger conversations taking place across our classroom community.  Voices from conferring carry back into the learning of the classroom.  I found this quote by poet Ryunosuke Satoro, "Individually we are one drop.  Together we are an ocean."  I couldn't help but think about the way each conversation, as we confer, contributes to the deeper understandings we discover as a classroom community.  In our learning communities, each voice matters.  It is through conferring that we shape readers, and these conversations are "the keystone to reader's workshop".

A Few "Amens"!

  • "There is something lasting about sitting down next to a child and having a conversation as fellow readers." (p. XV)
  • "Conferring is the keystone of effective instruction.  Without conferring, my reader's workshop flounders." (p. 24)
  • "Learning is about continuity." (p. 27)
  • "Reading conferences don't depend on us taking the lead." (p. 32)

Now I'm Pondering...

  • Why do I confer?  
  • How will the beginning of my year look different as a result of reading Patrick's book?
  • Though reading and writing conferences share many similarities, I am thinking about the ways they differ.  How does conferring look different in reader's workshop? 

Today's Conversation 

Event Schedule

Part I:  What Brings About a Good Conference, Anyway?
Hosted here at Reflect and Refine
July 13th:
Part II:  What Are the Essential Components of Conferring?
Hosted by Jill Fisch at Primary Passion 
July 20th:
Part III.  What Emerges from Our Reading Conferences?
Hosted by Laura K at Camp Read-A-Lot
July 21st:  
Join us for the final conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberPD.


  1. Cathy,
    Thanks for hosting. I love the quote you mentioned, "Individually we are one drop. Together we are an ocean." I think I will use that with my students this year because we work so hard at becoming a "crew" and learning to work together and support one another.

    Here is the link to my reflection on Part 1 of Conferring:


  2. This comment was left by Noreene (, but somehow in the moderating it was lost:

    "Relationship, Relationship, Relationship! How you build that Relationship comes in various styles an packages....AND the most golden part is to know your learners, respect your learners and their processes AND make sure yours learners know this."

  3. Looking forward to learning with you all! Here are my thoughts on part of part 1 (still waiting for the book to arrive...)

  4. Thanks for hosting the first stop on the book club journey, Cathy! I have lots of ideas bouncing around my head after reading part 1 of "Conferring.". Here's a link to my first post:

  5. Another moderation error. Here's a comment from Mrs. Carter:

    "I am excited to begin this conversation with all of you! Here is a link to my initial reflection. It is just a beginning. I am still digging into Part 1!"


  6. Thanks for hosting! I'm not sure I'll get my own thoughts up today, but I plan on spending some time perusing others' blogs.

    Loved your focus on who owns the room! I've been thinking about this every year of my teaching, and every year I feel a need to refine something. It does need to be a space for STUDENT learning.

    Also loved your question - how will thinking about conferring in a different way change the beginning of your year?

  7. Cathy,
    Thanks for hosting. I will need to return later to reread and comment on your post. Super busy day at Chez Keefer. Here's the link to my post.


  8. Jodi, Ginny, and JeanJuly 6, 2011 at 2:15 PM

    Hello! We are a group of 3 teachers representing K-2. This summer we've been enjoying our PLN. We've been reading Conferring and we also just finished a hands-on outdoors class. Anyway, we are currently in our the composing and reflecting portions of our summer workshop. Today we are sharing about part one with you. Our "Amens" (thanks Cathy)
    1. Endurance and Stamina
    2. Richer reflections
    3. Challenge readers to stretch their thinking
    4. Building a beautiful workshop environment with the five ashlars
    5. What are we willing to fight for
    6. As teachers, we need to learn how to and practice conferring to get stronger (support each other and share as much as possible)
    7. Our students are the readers in our care

    Our Ponderings (thanks again, Cathy)
    1. Our kindergarten teacher is really looking forward to hearing from people who are building workshops with kinders. What does it look like for these very young readers? Suggestions? Who is willing to share? Her name is Ginny.

    2. The first grade teacher, Jodi, is wanting to get to richer reflection time with her students. The conversations need to be more about who they are as readers and what they noticed about themselves as readers (writers, thinkers, mathematicians, important people)

    3. As a second-grade teacher, Jean is seeing the possibilities of how her students can develop as readers by finding out about the levels at which Troy's second graders talk and think.

    4. We realize the deep connection between the writing of readers' thinking and reading to build stronger reflection time and real-world life learning. We just need to clarify for ourselves how this writing will look in our classrooms to meet our learners' needs. Is it more writing before going out to practice time? We think it might be. It's also about being more specific about what is the focus of the crafting (mini-lesson).

    Cathy, by the way, we learned about this blog because we are still learning and being inspired by YOU. We are some of the Colorado Ladies who met you in Michigan 2 summers ago. It was a teacher's dream when we met you and all our other heroes.

  9. I am so excited because many of posts reassure me that I am on track but also helps me to know I am pondering the same ideas about conference. I like Karen am constantly thinking about my room and how to organize it differently. The best success has been with small little nooks where kids can read, write and talk. I hope later in the book there will be talk about "time" and how to use it better so I can get to more of my students. That is where I am living right now. Thanks Cathy love this idea :)

  10. Cathy,

    This is such a great idea! I can't wait to read everyone's thinking.

    Here is mine reflection,


  11. dCathy,

    This is such a great idea! I can't wait to read everyone's thinking.

    Here is mine reflection,


  12. Cathy,
    Thanks for being our host blog today! You are absolutely right when you say that each voice matters! Conferring helps to give that voice to each and every member of our class.

    Here's my thoughts on Part 1!


  13. Cathy,
    After actually reading your post, I was struck by many of your comments, but the one that hit the hardest was "When someone walks into our classroom, I not only hope they will see students own it but, I also want them to hear that children own it. "

    Like you (and many others) I try to build a classroom environment that says "this is our room" not this is Mr. Keefer's room, but I am not sure if I have ever thought about the idea that a guest would hear the class talking like it was "our room". Not sure how I will approach this thinking in the fall, but I most certainly will work on it.

    Since I came in late on the commenting part, I am also impressed with the questions and thinking shared by everyone above me. More great ideas to ponder.

    By the way, the name of my blog was derived to frustrate people like you. :)


  14. I'm so enjoying reading all of the linked posts.

    Here's my reflection:


  15. Thanks to everyone for your comments about part I. For those of you still hoping to write a post about part I, you are welcome to forward the link to me at any time. I will move them up into the main post as they are submitted.

    Remember next week's event - Part II - will be hosted by Jill Fisch at My Primary Passion.

  16. Hi Cathy,

    Here's my first thinking...a busy day but wanted to share with all.

  17. Jodi, Ginny & Jean,
    Your comment made me smile --- actually it made my day. Of course, I remember the three of you! Saline was such a terrific learning experience. It was the trip to Saline that is likely responsible for my obsession with Twitter and the start of this blog. (I blame Franki, Katie & Mary Lee.)

    I am so glad you shared your "amens" and "ponderings". Amen to this: "As teachers, we need to learn how to and practice conferring to get stronger (support each other and share as much as possible)." I know the three of you live this!

    For Ginny, there are some fabulous kinder-bloggers. I'm happy to pass along a few links (send an e-mail to

    I hope the three of you will be joining our next blog chat on July 13th at My Primary Passion.

    It is wonderful to reconnect.

  18. Cathy,
    Thanks again for hosting today, also for your encouraging words about returning to the classroom after years away. I think I will love being back, I'm just kind of nervous.

    Like Jill, I loved your ocean quote. Reminds me of a connection poem I read not too long ago, that I now need to go back and find before I start teaching. Gosh, organizing all of my resources and thinking could be a full time job for the next four weeks! Yikes!

    I loved how you organized your comments with the amens and the points to ponder. I had a whole Word document at one point, over two pages, of amens. Patrick really is a genius. And like you, I know I'm going to be thinking all week, maybe all month, "so how will this look in my classroom?"

    Thanks again for hosting. Look forward to learning with you over the next few weeks.

  19. Cathy,

    Your thinking about our students owning their classroom and how to show their voices is great summer thinking. I think there is so much more to do to make learning visible and loved how Patrick put student initials next to a child's contribution on an anchor chart.

  20. YAY! My book fInally came today! I am eager to get reading and be a part of this great #cyberpd!

    The quote you shared, "Individually we are one drop. Together we are an ocean." Fits life in so many ways. My NEW PLN, student conferences, and professional family at school just to name a few! I am so grateful for your Michigan trip, Franki, Katie and Mary Lee for starting this journey! I have learned so much, sometimes it feels like a tidal wave! I love EVERY minute & I am looking forward to continuing the journey!

  21. "If someone walked into our classroom, who would s/he say owned it?"

    "When someone walks into our classroom, I not only hope they will see students own it, but I also want them to hear that children own it."

    THIS is why I am reading everyone's post and loving the #cyber/cyperPD :)


  22. Amen! "I want the room to be a place for children to talk, think, dream, learn and work together. I want students to feel at home when they enter. It's their place."