How to Make Conferring Better in Our Classrooms
Carl Anderson delivered an excellent keynote address at the TCRWP’s Writing Institute, which I attended a couple of weeks ago. It was called, “So You Want to Be the Next American Conferring Idol.” (Great title, right!??!!!) In under 50 minutes, Anderson provided us all with ways to make our conferring with young writers better. (You’ll see part of my notes in the image on the right.)
Some other salient points of Anderson’s Keynote were:
- Take the time to explicitly teach a child in every conference (2+ minutes).
- Talk about the child’s work, then help them as a writer (don’t help the actual writing), then, at the end of the conference, come back to the work the child is doing that day.
- Use language that clearly cues a child to what you’re teaching.
- Explain WHY and HOW to do whatever it is you’re teaching the student.
Anderson said, “There should be JOY in conferring when you teach kids.” When I started conferring, it seemed overwhelming. However, now, I agree with Anderson whole-heartedly. Conferring is joyful. It allows you to spend a few precious minutes with a child, connecting to them and teaching them something they can use as a writer not just on that day, but EVERY DAY. I’ve set up conferring in my classroom as something that’s sacred. I teach my students how to work out their own issues during Writing Workshop (Hence the reason they create a plan before they leave the meeting area for independent writing!) so that I won’t be interrupted while I confer. The only time a child in my classroom interrupts me while they’re conferring is if there’s an emergency (e.g., they’re bleeding). Otherwise, the time I spend chatting with a student about their writing is truly sacred. It is joyful!
Anderson reminded all of the teachers gathered in the room that we can ALL be the next American Conferring Idol. It’s attainable for all teachers, not just a select few. Remember, Simon isn’t in your classroom. He won’t tell you if and when you select a teaching point that isn’t perfect nor will he insult you when you don’t do your best demonstration to help the child as a writer. You’ll know, but that’s what reflective teaching is all about, isn’t it.
Fortunately, we have 180 days each year to work on our conferring. If every Writing Workshop yields five conferences, then it is true… we all can perfect our conferring skills so we can help each of our students become the best writers they can possibly be when they walk out of our classrooms each and every June.