Carl Anderson spoke at a nearby school in my district and my principal arranged for our staff to attend his two hour afternoon presentation. About 150 educators sat in the cafeteria and learned tips on conferring in Writing Workshop from Carl on our Early Release Monday.
Here are some of the highlights:
1. WHY do we confer? Carl reminded us that we can't teach writing through whole-class instruction only. When we teach using the Writing Workshop structure, a teacher CAN confer because he or she is freed up to confer while all the students are working on their writing. Conferring allows for differentiation. The teacher can meet each student's needs through a conference.
2. TEACH just ONE thing only during a conference.
3. Start the conference with an open-ended question to get them to talk. Then the teacher should SHUT UP and WAIT. Let there be silence and WAIT.
The teacher may need to teach students what the conference should sound like or use a video to show them.
* What do you want the reader to understand when they read your story?
*What part feels important to you? (uses this with younger kids)
4. Look at their writing, listen and then decide what to teach. To help decide, look at:
* what the student named that they are working on - find where they did that work to compliment
* what the mini-lesson was - they may have used the strategy
* look back at what was said at the last notes
* after experience, you will see PATTERNS - look for them
EX: Zane video - it is an ALL ABOUT story. After naming the important part, Carl guides Zane to be brave and write a 2nd draft to focus on just the important part.
EX: a story with LOTS of action; the student is over relying on including action. Carl guided the writer to at setting, dialogue, and inner feeling, too.
EX: a nonfiction story that over relies on action facts. Carl guides the writer to include description details and definition facts.
5. We need to give writers a sense of how a text goes so they can envision their piece. The teacher does this by showing a mentor text.
6. Once you teach a writer something, coach them. "Let's try it." Talk it out. Show using a mentor text. Act it out. Guide them orally so they can try it out with you.
7. Be kind to yourself as a writing teacher. Try ONE thing, just ONE and work on that. Then gradually work into getting better and better as a writing teacher who confers well.