Tuesday, July 16, 2013

National Writing Project Day #7 & Conferencing with Writers

Let's begin with a question...

How do you conference with your student writers?

Successful conferencing about writing is one of the most difficult things to do as a writing teacher.  It's hard to put our teacher hat and red pen away to talk with our students in a way that will help them grow as writers.

Today, Mary talked with our group about conferencing with students during the writing workshop.

What did conferencing used to look like in my classroom?

* Student sits down and hands me their writing
* Using my pen, I circle their spelling errors, add punctuation, and note places where they need to add paragraphing
* I tell them what to change
* They leave

No where in the conference did the students talk about their writing or set writing goals.  :(

Thank goodness that was the "old way!"  Through Mary's presentation and the professional reading I've done, I have learned more effective ways to use the conference to help my students grow as writers in a way that they are accountable and leading the way for their growth.

From Mary's research of Lucy Caulkins, I learned that there is a framework you can follow for conferencing with students. Many of us already do some of these steps, but doing all of them will make good use of our conferencing time.

1.  Research:  Ask your students questions ("How is your writing going today?")  Have your student read their piece out loud to you and share any concerns or struggles they are having.  Be sure to compliment your student on something from their writing -- it will help build confidence!

2.  Decide:  As your student is sharing their concerns and reading their writing to you, notice something that your student needs to work on and decide that this will be your teaching point.

3.  Teach:  Deliver your teaching point.  ("I'd like to share an idea with you about how to add dialogue to your writing.")  This is a great place to get out those mentor texts and look to see how the experts do it!  Guide your student through questioning whenever possible.

4.  Link:  Have your student share how he can use this in his own writing, not just for this piece but for all pieces.  It's important to work on the process here, not necessarily the product...How can this teaching point help the student grow as a writer when they apply it to future writing?

I feel it is important to note that at no time does the teacher touch the student's paper....this takes away the ownership from the student.  (Also removes the urge to use that red pen for editing.)

I think that as students get into the older elementary grades and/or become more comfortable with conferencing, THEY will be able to determine the "Teach" section -- they know what they need to work on and you can supply a quick mini-lesson or refer to a mentor text at this point. 

When I did conferencing with my students this past year and asked them what they thought they needed to work on, 95% of the students said the same thing I would have said.  Give the students that autonomy and it increases ownership!

On a side note, it is my baby girl's 14th birthday today!  I don't know where that time went...I certainly don't feel old enough to have a 14 year old!  Anyways, her grandparents came down from Appleton and we took her out to dinner and then back to the other grandma's for cake.  Here's a picture of the birthday girl...

Time sure does fly! 

As always, thanks for reading!!  :)


  1. This was a great post! It is so hard to not just "fix it" for them, I agree. Thank you for sharing!
    ideas by jivey
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  2. Thanks for sharing this. It's a great reminder too, that if we "fix" their writing, they don't really learn how to fix it themselves. But I especially like the reminder that kids should just talk to us about their writing. I love the idea of having them read it to you, rather than sitting while you read!
    P.S. Your daughter is adorable!

  3. I just love this post!!! I am diligently taking notes on each of these NWP posts.

    By the way, I nominated you for a Liebster Award.
    Here is where I nominated you:
    The Teacher Next Door

  4. I'm pinning this as a reference. :) Great post and happy birthday to your baby girl. :)
    Creating Lifelong Learners
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  5. I found it fascinating that the teacher does not touch the writing. Thanks so much for sharing these tips and I am pinning for future reference. Happy 14th birthday to your beautiful girl!!!
    Fourth Grade Flipper

  6. Again, another post worth pinning, thank you for sharing!

    Teaching Tales Along the Yellow Brick Road


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