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Over-the-shoulder conferences are not replacements for formal conferences at the teacher's desk, nor for the disciplinary conference outside the door, but rather are brief, less-structured encounters. Over-the-shoulder conferences, loosely defined as the teacher interacting about reading material with a student at the student's seat, are neither unique nor novel. Nearly all teachers have worked with students in this manner. However, few teachers seem to make use of over-the-shoulder conferences in a systematic fashion which maximizes their effectiveness.

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