Begin with this reading.
During independent writing time, the teacher confers with students about their writing. The teacher should keep anecdotal records which include the date of the conference, observations, discussion, and teaching points.
Teachers should keep conferences short. The purpose is to ask students how their writing is going and to teach them something that makes sense at the time.
When conferencing DO NOT read all of what the child has written- it would take to long! Instead simply have the child talk or read a portion and ask how is it going? This will take some modeling. Students may not naturally know what they are struggling with! If you are not sure what they are struggling with ask how they are applying the mini-lesson. For example, you might ask “What kind of lead do you have?” and try to have a student explain the lead. From there you can give tips. Or you can ask “What is the story going to be about?” It often helps students to talk a story out. Or “Whose point of view is the story from? Is there any other point of view we could write it from to make it more interesting?” Sometimes use conferences as a time to give individual mini-lessons.
Always leave a conference asking a child to try something, whether it be reworking the lead, adding stronger more vivid verbs or use a thesaurus, make sure they have something that they need to be working on!
- What does each writer know how to do?
- What is the writer trying to do?
- What does the writer need to learn how to do next?
- How can you support the writer during the conference?
What the Conference Looks Like
I sit next to them and I say, “Tell me what you’re working on today as a writer?” and they are very specific. But that comes also with the language that I use with them. I always have high expectations for them. So if they say, “I’m writing,” that’s not acceptable. I say, “You need to tell me what are you working on now.”
They might say , “I’m writing a story about the time I went to Disney.” And I’ll bring them back, saying, “Do you remember today in the mini-lesson how I wanted you to try a story lead?” and they’ll say, “Yes.” I’ll say, “Let’s think of a story lead, do you have one?” And they’ll say, “Oh!”
During the conference I give them one thing they did well and then their goal. Before I leave them, I say, “Before I leave you today, tell me what you’re going to work on as a writer.” They reinforce it, they say it again, and I might even follow up, and say to them, “Is this your story lead?” And I might ask them to share in the author’s chair.
Two Great Books
Anderson, Carl. (2000) How’s it going? Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Calkins, Lucy, Amanda Hartman and Z. White. (2005) One to One: The Art of Conferring with Young Writers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.