May I join you?

At its simplest, a conference is a conversation between two people: a conversation aimed at understanding, affirming, and extending what students are doing in their learning lives. But what makes some of these conversations almost magical while others fall flat? We believe the magic is in the language we use. Strategic language choices allow us to initiate, expand and elevate conversations with our learners in purposeful ways. So, in each post of this new series – Power Language for Conferring – we offer ideas of language we wouldn’t want to be without as we work to know and nurture the readers beside us.

Since this is the opening post in the series we begin with our favorite opening question for conferring . . .

Today’s power language for conferring:  May I join you? 

PL #1

When do we use language like this?  We use a questions like this at the moment we pull up alongside a student, before the actual conference begins. We like to think of this language as a way to politely knock on the door rather than just barging right into a student’s learning space and taking over.  After all, they’re engaged in important work, right?

What makes this language so powerful? Effective conferring is built on a solid foundation of trust and mutual respect with our students. And, with just four little words, this simple, yet impactful question sets a tone of partnership and respect from the start. These four words, paired with a smile and a sincere tone say to the student, “You’re the driver of this conversation. You have decision-making power. I respect your personal time and space and am here to offer my partnership, not to just check up on you.”

What are some variations of this question?

  • May I interrupt?
  • Could we visit for a moment?
  • Can we chat? If so, come to a good stopping point in your reading.


We want to hear from you! We hope you’ll join our conversation about power language for conferring. We’d love to know your thoughts about today’s Power Language: May I join you?  Have you tried it? What happened? What other questions do you rely on to get the conference started? We’d want to hear from you. You can add a comment below, send us a tweet (@Kari_Yates and @ChristinaNosek ), or jump over to our new Facebook group (To Know and Nurture a Reader), and join the conversation there. 

Thank you for joining us on this joyful quest to know and nurture every learner through conferring.

Kari and Christina


To keep stocking your toolkit with powerful conferring questions, subscribe below and we’ll send our next post directly to your inbox.

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To learn more about the art and the science of this little conversation called a conference, check out our new book, To Know and Nurture a Reader: Conferring with Confidence and Joy from Stenhouse Publishing.

3 thoughts on “May I join you?

  1. Kari, So glad to find this web page. Your new work is going to be great – I just ordered it from Stenhouse. Thank you for sharing your experiences in this blog post series on language. Teacher language is at the heart of learning! (notie my new email)


    1. We’re so glad you found us, too. I couldn’t agree more that teacher decisions about language are at the heart of all learning. Let’s stay connected.


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