Conferring Toolkits: Record Keeping

Conferring Toolkits Series - Two Writing Teachers

What kinds of records should I keepDetailed records of small group and 1:1 conferences are one of the most important items in your conferring toolkit. Why?  Keeping records:

  • Helps distribute your time equitably amongst students.
  • See the tracks of your teaching and monitor student growth.
  • Helps you determine next steps with each student, small groups, or the whole class.
    • Goal-setting

Some people keep weekly status of the class forms while others keep detailed notes about every student.  It doesn’t matter how you choose to keep as long as you have a system that informs your instruction and is useful to you.

If you’ve never kept records inside of a conferring toolkit before, you have a choice to make before you get started.  Will you keep notes on paper or will you use technology to type up your notes as you meet with students during independent writing time?

Here are my thoughts on handwritten and digital records:

Handwritten

When I had my classroom, I tinkered with my record-keeping forms regularly.  I eventually settled on something like this:

I tabbed a spiral-spine notebook so each of my students had equal space in my notebook. I stored the notebook inside of my conferring toolkit, which I housed in zippered binder, like this:  http://bit.ly/1M68TQw.

I tabbed a spiral-spine notebook, so each of my students had equal space in my notebook. I stored the notebook inside of my conferring toolkit, which I housed in a zippered binder, like this: http://bit.ly/1M68TQw.

It was sloppy. No one could read it.  But no one had to since my notes were for my own use to monitor and track student progress. Once I left the classroom and began leading presentations on conferring with teachers, I updated them my forms so they’d look slicker.  (Click here or here to see these forms.)  While handwritten notes worked for me when I was in the classroom, I don’t think I’d go back to them again since I have become comfortable with digital record-keeping in the past two years.

Digital

Click on the image to enlarge a coaching conference record I typed directly into Evernote. You'll notice there's also an audio file embedded in this note.

Click on the image to enlarge a coaching conference record I typed directly into Evernote. You’ll notice there’s also an audio file embedded in this note.

My iPad has become the place where I keep my conferring records when I work with kids in classrooms now.  I’ve worked with students in five different places this school year.  I’m not about to trust myself to bring the right notebook when I go to a given school.  Therefore, I store everything digitally in Evernote, which makes pulling up a student’s conferring notes fast since I have Evernote Premium.  (Click here to view a guest blog post Cathy Mere wrote about using Evernote for conference notes.)

NOTE TO COACHES OR CONSULTANTS: Evernote is a fabulous place to store your conferring notes since it syncs with your smartphone and computer.  It cuts down on the amount of paper you will need to carry from classroom-to-classroom or between schools.

I could use Evernote exclusively — using Cathy Mere’s incredible system — but I found something that works better for me. I use KustomNote, in conjunction with Evernote, while I am in the midst of a conference.  I find it helpful to have the structure of a KustomNote template (I have built separate templates for small group strategy lessons and 1:1 conferences.) to type in while I’m meeting with students.  Because I’m in multiple places, having a template that prompts me to record the student’s school and grade level helps me with the kind of record-keeping I do as I travel around to different classrooms.

Here’s how KustomNote works with Evernote:

  1. Here's a search I did for a student I've met with a few times. When I search by her name in Evernote, I not only all of the notes I have on her, but I also see thumbnails of photos I've taken of classroom charts I've used or of her in-progress work. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

    Here’s a search I did for a student I’ve met with a few times. When I search by her name in Evernote, I not only all of the notes I have on her, but I also see thumbnails of photos I’ve taken of classroom charts I’ve used or of her in-progress work.
    (Click on the image to enlarge.)

    I type my notes directly into a KustomNote template, which goes to a pre-assigned notebook in Evernote.  (I set up the Evernote notebook I wanted template entries to go to when I created each KustomNote template.)

  2. Press “save note.”
  3. Go to Evernote and sync.  The note appears in the pre-selected Evernote notebook.
  4. From there I can tag notes, add photos of student work, and/or audio clips of a conference with a student.

Some folks might be unfamiliar with KustomNote. (I know about it thanks to Jodi Mahoney.) So, here are a couple things to help get you started if you’re considering using KustomNote in conjunction with Evernote.

First, here’s a look at the way a 1:1 conferring note appears on KustomNote and Evernote:

Here's what a typed-up note looks like in KustomNote after you enter the information into the template.

Here’s what a typed-up note looks like in KustomNote after you enter the information into the template. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

Here's what the same note looks like on my Evernote Desktop. (Click on the image to enlarge. Note: Some of the note is cut off in this screen snap version.)

Here’s what the same note looks like on my Evernote Desktop.
(Click on the image to enlarge. Note: Some of the note is cut off in this screen snap version.)

Second, if you’d like a 1:1 conference template to get you started with KustomNote, click here to view a public template I created.

* * * * *

I believe conferring notes are one of the most important things you can keep in your conferring toolkit.  It doesn’t matter if they’re scrawled on paper or are typed on a tablet that resides in your conferring toolkit. All that matters is that the records you keep will help you to better understand your students as writers.

Let’s chat on Monday, May 11th at 8:30 p.m. EDT, when the six of us host a Twitter Chat about conferring toolkits.  Just search and tag #TWTBlog to participate.

Click on the image for more information about the Twitter Chat.

Click on the image for more information about the Twitter Chat.