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Using Reading Conferences to Foster Student Engagement, Agency, and Critical Thinking

Presented By Dan Feigelson and Ellin Oliver Keene

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Webinar Dates:

Three, 75-minute webinar sessions from 6:00pm–7:15pm Eastern Standard Time.

  • Tuesday, October 17, 2017
  • Tuesday, October 24, 2017
  • Monday, November 6, 2017

Please note that these webinars are all scheduled on Eastern Standard Time. If you are in a different time zone, please plan your schedule accordingly.


Sound familiar? You pull up a chair next to a student for a reading conference. You: "Hi! How are you doing with that book?" Student: "Fine, I mean okay." You: "Would you like to tell me a little bit about it?" Student: "Okay, well it starts..." You: "Wow, you remember a lot. Well, keep up the good work!!" You make notes in your conference record and move on to the next student.

In addition to their important role in assessing comprehension, conferences can be places we teach children to identify, name, and extend their own ideas about what they are reading—and backing up their thinking with evidence from the text. What makes a great reading conference? How can we use conferences to enhance critical thinking, engagement and agency? Dan Feigelson and Ellin Keene will engage participants in imagining ways students can learn to think for themselves and plunge into engaging reading projects based on their own lines of thinking—and also learn to provide textual evidence for their ideas, as called for in the Common Core Standards.

Using ideas from Dan's new book, Reading Projects Reimagined and Ellin's most recent title Talk About Understanding, participants will view video and work together to imagine next steps for particular students. A few minor modifications in our talk with students can make a big difference in their comprehension. We will rethink our roles and our interactions in conferences based on careful examination of our talk patterns with students.

We will connect with each other in a virtual professional learning community between these three sessions, in order to share our learning and thinking with each other.

The following is a description of the learning objectives to be met within each session of this series:

Session 1: Participants will focus on three questions:

  1. What is a conference, and what's in it for the student? We'll explore the newest thinking about how an individual reading conference can be more than just assessment; it can also provide opportunities for powerful teaching and learning.
  2. How can we maximize the few precious minutes we have with students when we're one-on-one; how do we know what to say to encourage a child to stretch her thinking and comprehension in conferences?
  3. How do conferences enhance progress on CCSS? How can we ensure that kids are backing up their thinking with evidence from the text through reading projects?

Session 2: Participants will focus on three questions:

  1. How can we be certain that our conferences lead to enhanced comprehension and critical thinking? What are the common patterns in teachers' oral language that actually inhibit comprehension?
  2. How can we use 10 principles from Talk About Understanding to make minor modifications in conferences?
  3. How would you respond to this child? Participants will view the first part of a conference and discuss ways they can imagine proceeding with the last part of the conference.

Session 3: Participants will focus on two questions:

  1. What would you say to launch this child? Participants will share their ideas about student work presented in Session 2.
  2. What are the implications of this webinar for your school/district?


Ellin Oliver Keene is the author of the best-selling and beloved Heinemann titles Mosaic of Thought, Second Edition (coauthored with Susan Zimmermann), and To Understand: New Horizons in Reading Comprehension. Ellin has been a classroom teacher, staff developer, and adjunct professor of reading and writing. For sixteen years she directed staff development initiatives at the Denver-based Public Education & Business Coalition. Ellin's latest ground-breaking book Talk About Understanding: Rethinking Classroom Talk to Enhance Comprehension informs this webinar.

Dan Feigelson has worked extensively in New York City schools as a teacher, staff developer, curriculum writer, principal, and local superintendent. An early member of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, he has led institutes, workshops and lab-sites around the world on the teaching of reading and writing. A regular presenter at national conferences, Dan is the author of Reading Projects Reimagined: Student-Driven Conferences to Deepen Critical Thinking, which informs this webinar, as well as Practical Punctuation: Lessons in Rule Making and Rule Breaking in Elementary Writing.

Ellin and Dan are also highly sought-after master faculty members for Heinemann Professional Development, delivering not only webinars, but also school-based seminars, workshops, and customized long-term PD.

Who should participate?

Teachers grades K-8, literacy coaches, and administrators.


The cost of this Webinar Series is $169.00 per person. If you register a group of three to nine people at the same time there is a discounted rate of $159.00 per person. When signing up ten or more participants at one time, please call in advance for large group discount pricing. Tuition also includes access to the recorded webinar sessions for up to 90 days after the conclusion of the webinar series.


There is no book requirement; however, it is highly recommended participants have a copy of Reading Projects Reimagined and Talk About Understanding. If you do not own a copy you may purchase them from our website: Reading Projects Reimagined and Talk About Understanding.


Participants will receive a series of email correspondence from Heinemann. The first email confirmation will serve as your receipt for the webinar series along with some general instructions on how to prepare your computer for the webinar. The second email confirmation will be sent approximately 2 days prior to each webinar date with a link to our webinar platform Zoom, directing you to the webinar class and giving you instructions on how to log in.

We highly recommend you test your computer readiness by clicking on this link.

If your computer needs any software upgrades, Zoom will walk you through the updates.

Note: We encourage group participation; however, we require that each person be registered. For group pricing information please call 800-541-2086, ext. 1100.

Upcoming Dates & Locations

10/17/2017-11/06/2017 - Starts October 17, 2017- 6:00-7:15pm EST

Register Now:

Availability: Available When: 10/17/2017 - 11/06/2017* Where: Online

2017-18 Heinemann PD Catalog-Journal
Professional Development Catalog-Journal

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