Sunday, 10 November 2013

Public Conferencing

Finding the right words to describe the great things that students do in their writing is a goal of mine. I have been following Regie Routman's advice, not only from her multiple books but from the time she spent in my classroom, coaching me last year. This year, as a whole staff, we have been sharing ideas about the various ways teachers confer with students about writing. There are many ways to do this and all are valuable. However, I really want to get better at conferring within a large group.

I try to celebrate the writing from all of my students. It does take a lot of time and there is no way I can get through all of them in one day. What I have learned is, it is best to first select a couple of students who are quite strong writers. These students read their piece first. Then it is my turn to read through the entire piece. Afterwards, I will go line by line and share with the class the writers' strengths. Starting these types of conferences with stronger writers also raises the bar for other students. They end up getting ideas to try out in their own writing. Usually, I give a suggestion about what they might add or remove to push their thinking further. That can also be a difficult task. For the most part, suggestions have been made regarding word choice or adding or deleting sentences to help the overall meaning of their piece. I am starting to get better at helping a student notice that the order of their sentences can make a difference to the flow and rhythm of their piece. To be honest, students watching the conference will often add their thoughts too - which is always very helpful. I like this open conversation because we are beginning to share ideas like a true writing community. Public conferences or whole class shares model the conversations that I want my students to do on their own with peers. It just takes time and practice.

Modelling techniques for revising and editing is also very time consuming, but it pays off in the end. I've been having students share how they made revisions using the document camera. They have also been using the document camera to edit their writing based on the criteria we set as a class. I find this really helps them to be more successful and purposeful when they work on editing independently or with a partner.


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