Conferring in Readers’ Workshop helps to move readers forward in their reading, but what about writing?
Writing is the same!
First, you need to gather your materials: a conference notebook or clipboard, post it notes and familiar mentor texts that may be used to teach strategies or craft elements during the conference.
The conferring structure for writing is the same as in reading:
The graphic below outlines the conferring cycle for writing. It's printable too! Just click on the image. Keep reading after the graphic for more detailed ideas about each of the conferring cycle steps. The ideas included in this article and on the graphic are the ideas I've synthesized from the research of Carl Anderson, Jennifer Serravallo, Lucy Calkins and many others. Over the years of using their research, I developed a routine that fit my teaching style to effectively confer with students and help develop their writing.
Just as in Reading, the teacher needs to get to know the writer. Research needs to be done about the writer in order to make a decision about what will help this writer develop his/her writing even more. Researching a writer can happen in several ways.
Observation! Teachers have to be excellent “kid-watchers”. Examine their writing behaviors. Look to see what children are using in their writing, NOT using in their writing and what they are approximating.
Have a look through the student’s Writer’s Notebook. This will provide an on-the-spot glimpse into their immediate writing life. A quick conversation while looking through the writer’s notebook is a window into that student’s thinking about writing and what strategy and craft elements he/she is trying out and which strategy or craft elements he/she is using consistently.
Writing reflections can provide a glimpse into a student writers’ thinking about his/her writing. It is a good idea to have students reflect on their writing after every published piece. A writer will examine how he/she did on the writing process; and, a writer will examine how they did on the actual writing piece he/she produced. Check this out for writing reflections...
Writing inventories and reflections can provide a glimpse into a student’s writing behaviors and interests. Just like in reading, It’s a good idea to complete writing inventories several times during the year because a writer’s behaviors and interests may change over time.
Initiate a conversation with the student about their writing.
Conferring records and notes tell you a lot about a writer's rate of growth. Whenever a teacher talks to a child about their writing, it needs to written down. Anecdotal observation notes create a profile of a writer and are key to researching and knowing the writer before a conference.
The teacher must make a decision of what to do with the writer to help him/her improve their writing craft. Remember, it’s important to just teach ONE thing so the student is clear on what to practice, track and monitor independently. When making a decision about what to teach, ask yourself...
Will I teach something new?
Will I follow up and build on what I’ve already taught the writer?
Will I check in to see how the writer is doing on the previous conference strategy or skill taught?
During the research phase of the conference cycle, the teacher has gotten to know the writer individually. There are noticings about what the writer is doing well and practicing from previous conferences based on the conversations, observations and review of writing artifacts (writer’s notebook, previous publishings, etc) to show what the writer is working on and using consistently in his/her writing. While researching for what to teach, the teacher must also recognize strengths of the writer but also look for what the writer is trying to do.
A compliment given must not be about something that a writer typically and consistently uses already.
Compliments are more powerful when they acknowledge what a writer is doing well in his/her practice and approximations of what they are currently learning.
Now that the research has been done, the decision of what to teach has been made and a compliment has been given to deepen the writer’s understanding of his/her writing craft, it’s time to teach. Teaching can be done in a variety of ways depending on the writer’s goal and what the teacher has decided to teach. Possible teaching strategies during the conference are just like those in reading:
SHOW the writer how to implement a strategy or skill into their writing
Facilitate the writer having a go to TRY OUT a strategy or skill in their writing
WORK WITH the writer to implement a strategy or skill in their writing
The teaching needs to be a "tool" that can be added to the writer's personal tool box, so that it can be applied to ALL writing, not just the current piece being written.
Teach the WRITER, not the WRITING!
Until next time...