Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Great Professional Book for Writing Conferences

Hello Everyone!  Today I would like to share a great book that has been on my reading list forever.  The book is called How's it Going?  The author is Carl Anderson, who has worked very closely with Lucy Calkins.  (She wrote the foreword.)  I am so glad I finally read this book.

This book takes a close look at writing conferences.  The advice is practical, and I was able to put it to use immediately.  The structure for these conferences allows for about five minutes.  The conference begins with a general question, such as, "How's it going?"  If the student shares an appropriate agenda for the conference, you can focus on that.  However, there is lots of helpful advice if the students does not have a focus or if his/her stated focus is not appropriate at that time.

The teacher's role in the conference is to listen carefully and guide the student toward appropriate strategies that match their agenda.  Then, the student is encouraged to "have a go" and link the strategy to their independent writing.  Anderson is very clear that the students are expected to apply what they discussed during  the conference.  However, it is up to the student what they would like to keep for their final draft.  The structure of my conferences has not changed dramatically, but I now have many fresh ideas on how to address appropriate goals, honor the students' agenda, and hold students accountable.  I really like that the focus of the conferences is work "in progress", rather than a "finished" piece of work that is ready for a "final edit" from the teacher.

This is definitely one of my favorite books on teaching writing.  The focus is almost solely on planning and carrying out writing conferences.  However, there is practical advice and examples for selecting mentor texts, mini lessons, running the workshop in general, and how all of these factors influence the effectiveness of individual conferences.

After reading this book, I modified the form I use when conferring with students about their writing.

Ideally, the students will set the agenda for the conferences by telling me what they are working on as writers (not what their writing is about).  In the teacher section, I record the specific strategy I decide to teach/review to help students meet their agenda.  My goal is to have students come up with a plan to immediately begin practicing the strategy we discuss.  I record this in the practice/plan section.  This form isn't terribly different than the ones I have previously used, but the tweaks I made help make my records clearer and the conferences seem to run a little smoother.

I ended up liking this form enough to create a similar one for reading conferences. 

If you are interested in trying either or both of these forms, you can get the for free by clicking here.

Have you ever read this book?  If so, let me know what you thought about it.  If not, I highly recommend it!

Thank you!

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