Slice of Life Day 13 – Writing Conferences

I would like to further and more deeply investigate the process of writing conferences with students. Currently, in my role as a Literacy Coach, I’m piloting the Lucy  Calkins Units of Study in a sixth grade English Language Arts class. This is also the first time I have taught using the Units of Study.

Currently when the students are writing, I pull small groups for precision instruction, as well as meeting one-on-one and having individual student writing conferences. During small group writing conferences, I generally review the day’s minilesson, as it relates to student writing. In the one-on-one conferences I work to notice something in the student’s writing, listen to understand why the author chose to write, and try to push the writer forward in their thinking and writing. My intentions and what actually happens are often disconnected, leading me to want to further investigate the process of writing conferences.

The Calkins Units of Study are very much process versus product oriented approach. The process oriented writing has made me work harder on my instructional approaches than I have in the past teaching writing. I need to be confident knowing where each of my students and my class are as a whole every day. However, my students are not yet fully used to learning for process, and I am not yet 100% confident in my instruction. I notice that I am leaving student authors feeling frustrated or confused during and after a writing conference. My students are looking for answers, when I am trying to instruct on process instead of driving them to produce a product. My intention is for students to understand the writing process so that they can transfer their learning from our sixth grade class  to their writing life beyond our classroom. We would all benefit from deeper learning and instruction on best practices in writing conferences.

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3 thoughts on “Slice of Life Day 13 – Writing Conferences

  1. Martha, I admire your goal and your willingness to try something new. May I ask, have your students ever experienced writing workshop before this year? And may I offer one tip that has helped me in my conferring? When I first started conferring I struggled to teach just one thing. It was hard to know in my heart during a conference that I would be back to this writer in a day or two, so I could pick just one thing to teach them. It matters because if someone offers us one thing we can try it out. If they offer a laundry list, we may not know where to start. So tomorrow and every time you confer, you may give yourself permission to offer just one tip.

    A good blog to follow might be lannyball.com He’s a middle school coach and used to be a staff developer for TC. Best of luck on your journey.

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  2. This is a hard switch for students and teachers. It needs to be broken down in little steps – repeated often. Our students are so programed for product. Keep at it – I am sure you will find your way.

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