What’s a “Conferring Scarf?”

I wrote a post about structures and routines to teach kids in September within the context of Writing Workshop yesterday morning. There have been a few questions about “The Conferring Scarf.” Therefore, I wanted to find a photograph (of two of my former students from NYC who decided to act out a conference, for fun, one day when the camera was shooting). The photo is of two girls, one who is reading, acting like the student (that she was) and another girl who is playing the role of me, the teacher, wearing the scarf while taking notes during the conference as the child reads. While the photos got progressively sillier as time went on, I think that they illustrate what this scarf is all about.

During my third year of teaching, I found that my students interrupted me a lot while I was holding Reading and Writing Conferences. Therefore, I turned to some of my lower grade colleagues at T.C. for help. Noelle and Adrienne both suggested that I try wearing something to act as a signal that I was busy talking with another student and couldn’t be interrupted. Hence, the birth of “The Conferring Scarf,” which was a gift from Israel that someone brought back for me. I’d don it after all of the plan boxes were checked and my kids were in their focus spots. As soon as I donned on the scarf my students knew that unless there was an emergency (e.g., they were bleeding), they would have to wait to speak with me until I was through conferring with their classmate. (I did institute American Sign Language Signals for “water” and “bathroom” so that I could look up and, with the slightest movement of my right hand, signal that a child could leave the room to get water or to use the facilities.)

Conferring time quickly became sacred. Kids didn’t want to be interrupted when they were conferring with me, which made the scarf a handy way to wipe-out unnecessary distractions. Also, my students knew they were expected to be working through the plan they had created, therefore, the institution of “The Conferring Scarf” served as yet one more reminder that they should be reading or writing independently if I was wearing the scarf (and wasn’t meeting with them).