Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Work Smarter, Not Harder #11

     Hi everyone!  This is Donna from Peace, Love and Learning and I am thrilled to be a guest blogger for Cynthia’s “Work Smarter, Not Harder” series.  I’ve never been a guest blogger before so I sure hope I do Cynthia’s awesome blog justice!

    I think that the motto, “Work Smarter, Not Harder” is what teachers everywhere strive for. Let’s face it, you won’t find a harder working group of professionals anywhere.  (Take a minute here to pat yourself on the back.) Looking at the many things we do and finding the most effective and efficient ways to do them will not only benefit us (by giving us a little more time to blog stalk, for instance) but will also benefit the kids we work with every day.

     One practice I’ve really tried to “Think Smarter” about is the way I manage conferring with my kids. Having a meaningful, impactful conversation with a student is always the priority, but I’ve struggled with the best way to document my conferences.  I finally found a way this year that not only gives me the data (a big buzz word in my school right now) that I need to support my early learners but also gives them a “take away” that they can understand.  Stick with me here as I explain…

     My goal is to meet with each student once a week during Readers’ Workshop and once a week during Writers’ Workshop.  To accomplish this, I follow a traditional conference structure and try to keep them to about 3-5 minutes each.  The main things we talk about are strategies that the student is using effectively and those that need some practice.  I wanted a way to document this great info so I could add it to each student’s individual data binder, but I didn’t want to shuffle through 20 data sheets each time I started a new conference to find the right one.  (This is the where the “Work Smarter” part comes in.)   I now use a class set of labels that have a place to jot down each student’s strengths (thumbs up) and challenges (lightbulb).   I have a two page template with a label for each student and I only carry these 2 sheets on my clipboard. The labels look like this:
     At the end of the day I stick the completed labels onto conference logs in the students’ data binders.  This lets me see their growth over time and track their progress. The conference logs I use look like this:
     It’s a great way to organize notes and I know which students I still need to meet with later in the week by looking at what labels I have left on my sheets. If you’d like to give this system a try, you can download the labels and  the log down below.  (You'll need 2"x4" labels, 10 per sheet - I use Avery 5163.) I left the file in Word format so you can type in your own students’ names.

     In order to make the conferences meaningful to the students and hold them accountable for their own learning goals, they each have a matching Conference Strategy Sheet in their book boxes and writing folders.  We partner to decide on a take-away that they add to their sheet. To read more about this part of my “Work Smarter” plan, pop over to Peace, Love and Learning to check it out!

Thanks to Cynthia for letting me visit.  I hope everyone enjoys the rest of their summer!



  1. Wow! What an awesome iea! I love it, and it will definitely save me some time!

    Thanks Donna!
    You did a great job as a guest blogger!!


    2nd Grade Pig Pen

  2. This looks like a great idea! I do something similar, but I love your lightbulb!

    Thanks for sharing!