The best way for me to get to know my individual readers is through my initial reading conferences, which I refer to as "Three Different Books." This conference gives me valuable information about and insights into each student, and it also helps shape my literacy instruction. Download the Initial Student Reading Conference Forms now!
How To Use Three Different Books As A Reading Level Assessment
Before I kick off my initial student reading conferences, I inform the class that they will each be meeting with me so I can learn more about their personalities. I explain that since I'm a teacher, I find that the best way to learn about something is through books, so each student needs to come prepared with three books that will help me get to know them better.
Book #1: Favorite Book
The first book students are required to bring to our initial reading conference is a copy of their favorite book. This might sound clichéd, but discussing a favorite book with each student tells me a lot about their personality and helps me assess their reading level.
To begin, I use the favorite book to assess which reading group each individual student falls into– motivated reader, unmotivated reader, or struggling reader. Knowing what type of readers my students are helps me see who already has a passion for reading and who needs me to ignite the fire.
For example, there are the students that can easily and happily discuss their favorite book's characters, setting, plot, and problem. These students (the motivated readers) also seem to know the book like the back of their hand and will proceed to discuss several other books that they are currently reading.
Then there are the students that are able to read chapter books and should be reading them, but instead brings in a very simplistic picture book (the unmotivated reader). Of course, a childhood favorite with a detailed explanation of why he or she chose it would be an acceptable choice, but typically this is a student that has not read enough chapter books to have a favorite
Finally there are the students who bring a book they have never read, but they desperately needed to find any book because they clearly do not have a favorite book (the struggling readers).
I also use the favorite book to get an idea about what genre students are drawn to reading, discuss storylines, and assess basis reading comprehension skills.
Book #2: A Character They Admire
The second book I ask my students to bring is a book that has a character they admire. This book is going to require them to dive a little deeper with their thinking, as we discuss the book during our conference.
I inquire about why they admire the character or what they would most like to ask that character and why. I ask for specific character descriptions with evidence to support their thinking. I will also ask if they know another character with similar traits in a different book.
This book tells me a lot about a student's analytical skills.
Book #3: A Book You Would Change
The third book is a book in which they would like to change something. It does not have to be a book that the student didn't like, but it must have a part that he or she would like to rewrite, and I ask them to explain why.
This can be quite difficult for many students. It is another level of comprehension that requires students to not only analyze, but also in a sense to almost create something by changing a part of the book.
When we meet...
When we meet, I use an Initial Student Reading Conference Form to record information. I start by reading their first book alongside them. Ideally, the student would read the entire book aloud to me, however if I notice they are struggling I will either (a) take turns reading pages or passages to help them relax or (b) have my student read along with me. While students read aloud I'm mentally assessing reading fluency by listening for smoothness, speed, phrasing, expression, voice inflections etc.
Once we are done with the book I start asking questions and taking notes on my student teacher conference form.
I follow this same process with the other two books students' bring to our reading conference.
These initial conferences always end up influencing my classroom reading strategies. The more I get to know about each student’s strengths and weaknesses, or likes and dislike, the better I can prepare to guide and encourage them.
In short, If we want to make our students lifelong readers, it's essential that we recognize they are all on an individual reading journey. Start the semester off right by downloading the Initial Student Reading Conference Forms and get to know your reading students by holding your own "Three Different Books" meetings.