Writing Conferences

I’ll try to post a more thorough update this weekend when I have time, but for now, I needed to throw this out there.

I’ve been starting writing workshop conferences with students. It’s really my first time making a very concerted effort to work with students during the writing process, rather than simply grading essays (all spurred, I might add, by Kittles’ Write Beside Them).

I feel the dire need to ask for help as I try this, so I leave you with a simple question and ask for any feedback you might have, and thanks ahead of time for your input.

When you conference with students in class, what are your other students doing? How do you keep them engaged in meaningful learning?

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4 responses to “Writing Conferences

  • Leroy Hurt

    In the course of one paper cycle, you’ll probably only confer once with each student. In fact, given the size of your class, you may have to go through more than one paper cycle to get to all of them.

    With that in mind, a possible routine might be to give them forward looking work like drafting their next paper or incorporating your advice. Building the work around the conferences might look like this: prepare outline for conference, conference, update outline, draft, final. And then go through the cycle for the next paper.

    If they have reading assignments, giving them questions to answer might be a way to engage them in the reading while you’re conferring.

    There’s an Ed.D. in your future.

  • Ken Wilson

    After talking with you about blogs,several times I finally remebered your sites name and dropped by to read your thoughts. That being said, here’s my sharing back with you.
    1.Conferencing is a form of critique and being that takes on a new form of training for these kids and instructor. Initially it is an awkward experience for all. It is helpful to put into play several steps to the conferencing that may include;setting up the process for just jotting notes on their work as you pass from one student to another. In this manner you can offer short ongoing support for that student that is not immediately in line to conference or just needs a quick response. Doing this in writing also supports the writing process and becomes part of the evaluation record on the student’s paper. When you do conference with a student that has received notes, the conference gets to the heart of a discussion much quicker. When I’ve done this until enough cycles have occurred, it almost seems like one running dialog from beginning to end. It also ties one paper into the next as the assignments progress.
    2. As the process evolves, small group and large group critiques can be held to elevate common themes that have become cliche and/or need to be addressed for new solutions. If the students leave a section on their drafts, etc. to record response notes for new ideas to these sessions they can become incorporated into their individual conferences.
    3. As for keeping the other kids engaged I like to have an ongoing challenge/task/assignment that supports the classroom tasks as well. (Contacting and expert (email) that writes or has written about this topic, setting up a few electronic mentors that they can email for feedback; online conferences through email or WIKI). I’ve used many other types of ongoing processes to keep kids involved.
    Finally, applause for undertaking this form of teaching process. It is mind-numming with so much information hitting you all of the time but for me it is the most rewarding. The intimacy of the classes changes and the products become genuine.

  • Colleen

    I do a couple different things with my students when I am conferencing.

    Sometimes I give them other work to do. Just recently students were working on reading short stories, answering questions and filling out a story map about the stories. This holds them somewhat accountable for the next day.

    Sometimes we are in the lab, so students are working on editing their drafts as I’m conferencing with students.

    Like Leroy Hurt mentioned, sometimes they are preparing for their conferences with me. I usually have them prepare something that they want to talk to me about.

    Of course, each class is different. Sometimes the stakes need to be higher for classes that like to stray from what they should be doing. Nevertheless, I’ve found that if I am honest with the students and tell them how important these conferences are to me they usually work very well and keep their voices down. If they can see that this whole idea of writing as a process is truly for their benefit, they will respect our conference time.

  • Penny Kittle

    Everyone left you great feedback, so I’m not sure I can add to it. Today was a day of conferring with writers, though, so I’ll offer this. I keep a running log in my notebook as I confer so I can write down a few notes about the piece and what the student is struggling with. It helps me figure out who needs more help and what the common problems are. Plus it saves me from repeating, “What are you writing about again?” when I sit down.

    I move constantly, table to table, and I often hold small group conferences, taking a question from one student and using it to address the whole table. For example, Jessi had NO IDEA what to write about today (and a draft is due Friday) so as we talked, Emily joined in and then A.J., all with the same problem. The key was breaking through the blocks they all shared. Their laptops were open and they had blank documents staring at them with their notebooks closed. Writers can’t write from nothing! I got them into their notebooks and it was mere seconds before Jessi hit on her topic, Emily decided on the next step in her process (collecting photos) and A.J…. well, I’ll check in with him tomorrow.

    Keep at it. A writing workshop is truly such a rich place to live each day. I wish you all the best… all the hard work it will require.

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