Radical Listening: Reading and Writing Conferences to Reach All Students

­Scholastic. Feb. 2022. 176p. pap. $35.99. ISBN 9781338809992.
Conferring with students can be a challenge. This text offers educators a “radical” approach of letting students lead the conversations; teachers simply need to trust them and listen. Feigelson supposes that if adults give their students the ability to talk about what they are interested in, what they are trying to accomplish in their writing, or what they personally glean and connect with in their reading material, then it will level the playing field and provide equity in teaching that respects individuals’ differences while offering the same quality of instruction. Thankfully, the author provides countless examples of how to do this, through breakdowns of what the conferences are, examples of recorded conferences with his own students, FAQs of how to deal with certain situations, and charts and cheat sheets. A full appendix of those charts and cheat sheets is provided. Unlike some texts, which talk theory without giving concrete evidence or examples of how to carry it out, this book talks through the theory and provides the follow-through that gives educators confidence to shake up their reading and writing conferences. In the foreword, educator Cornelius Minor states, “Listening to children matters.” It sounds simple enough, but the improvisation it requires can be daunting when applied to conferences that require thought about the material, a teaching point, and an assignment. This book is kind: it asks the educator to trust the instincts of children, providing them equal footing in the teaching and learning process. The text instructs teachers how to hold a conversation by being a good listener, and then use the information obtained to ask relevant questions and translate the conversation into teachable points.
VERDICT Thoughtful and instructive, this is a must read for anyone involved in reading or writing conferences at their school.

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