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  • Writer's pictureAmalia Ibarra

Step 6: Closing Reading Conferences with Encouragement with ELs

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

Reading Conferences encourage English Learners and let them know that their efforts have the potential to improve their situations.

In the diverse landscape of secondary education, English learners face unique challenges when it comes to mastering the art of reading. Their struggles are multifaceted, encompassing language barriers, cultural differences, and varying levels of prior education. To provide these students with the support they need, reading conferences play a pivotal role. Among the various strategies employed, encouragement stands out as a potent tool to foster a nurturing and effective learning environment for secondary English learners.

Understanding Reading Conferences

The sixth step in the amended CELL protocol* is "closing" the protocol. And the important part of closing, is to encourage. Make your students feel emboldened as you send them off to read for their own sake. All too often for ELs, the tasks set before them are beyond their abilities. If you can assess your students' abilities (steps 3 and 4) and give them goals (step 5), all there is left to do is to send them off with an attitude of victory. "I can do it," the student knows. "What I am doing is having REAL impact!"

For secondary English learners, reading conferences are not just a means of academic support but a pathway to building confidence and motivation.

The Role of Encouragement

Fostering Confidence

English learners often grapple with self-doubt as they confront challenging texts in a language they are still mastering. Encouragement from teachers goes a long way in building their confidence. By praising their efforts, highlighting their progress, and acknowledging their resilience, educators can help students recognize their own potential. This boost in confidence can make a significant difference in their reading journey, motivating them to take on more complex texts and overcome language-related obstacles.

Motivating Persistence

Reading conferences provide an opportunity to set achievable goals and monitor progress. Encouragement can serve as a potent motivator, pushing English learners to persist in their reading endeavors. When students see that their teachers believe in their abilities and are genuinely invested in their growth, they are more likely to stay committed to the task. This is especially important in secondary education when academic pressures can be overwhelming.

Cultivating a Growth Mindset*

Encouragement in reading conferences can help instill a growth mindset in English learners. By emphasizing that effort and perseverance are key components of success, teachers can shift the focus from innate abilities to the process of learning. When students understand that they can improve through simple, regular habits, they become more resilient and open to challenges.

Creating a Safe and Inclusive Environment

Incorporating encouragement into reading conferences can contribute to the creation of a safe and inclusive classroom environment. English learners, who may already feel vulnerable due to their language barriers, benefit from knowing that their teacher is a source of support and understanding. Encouragement reassures students that mistakes are part of the learning process and that they are valued for their unique perspectives and experiences.

Personalizing Instruction

Encouragement also aids in personalizing instruction. Teachers can use positive reinforcement to pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of individual students. By focusing on what students are doing well and gently addressing areas for improvement, educators can tailor their teaching to match the specific needs of English learners.

Reading conferences are an invaluable tool for the development of secondary English learners. They offer a chance for educators to connect with students on a personal level, assess their progress, and provide guidance. However, encouragement is the catalyst that can make these interactions truly transformative. By fostering confidence, motivating persistence, cultivating a growth mindset, creating a safe environment, and personalizing instruction, encouragement empowers English learners to become more engaged and confident readers.

In a world where the ability to read critically and comprehensively is essential, secondary English learners need every opportunity to thrive. Encouragement in reading conferences is not just a pedagogical strategy; it's a lifeline that can help these students unlock their full potential as readers and learners. As educators, it is our responsibility to embrace this role and provide the support these students need to succeed.


*Terantino, Joe, and Sarah Donovan. “Cell protocol (conferring with English language learners): Supporting ells’ reading comprehension in middle level education.” Middle School Journal, vol. 52, no. 2, 2021, pp. 14–25,

*Dweck, Carol S. "Mindset." Random House, 2006.

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