Sorry for my delay in getting a post up for these chapters. It is a CRAZY time with the conference quickly approaching next week. I cannot believe it is nearly here already!
For Chapters 7 & 8, please share your experiences with using writing conferences in your classrooms and/or share any resources that you have related to writing conferences (e.g. conference data tracking sheets, peer conferencing forms, etc.).
Writing Conferencing is the most valuable time in the writing process. I value the time spent talking with students and the opportunities students have to talk and collaborate with their peers. The hardest part for me is making sure everyone has an opportunity to get the help when needed. I have students sign up for conference times during class and allow for time to conference with peers.
It seems that at times if I'm not careful, there will be a student who'll want to monopolize time. It's important to have checklists for students to complete to monitor what stage of writing they are at and what help they need.
Mini lessons are a great way to clear up questions and general problems that are consistently arising when conferencing with students and can't help fix potential issues with future conferences.
Laura Robb provides some great ideas about students monitoring their progress and refelcting on what they need. Having a master sheet of student names and where they are at and what was discussed is important in keeping up with the student's progress.
I Love the teaching activities for middle school writers. Conferencing is my FAVORITE time of all! The personal connection students have with their writing and how open and whey are to make it better. I used to teach 7 th grade writing when the portfolio was done at this grade level. It was some of my best teaching time ever!
I like the one-on-one conferencing I have with my students. I find it is a very positive way to get to know them not only as writers, but also as individuals. What I have a hard time with is students conferencing with each other. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to get them past just telling each other where they need a comma or a period is needed. I like what Robb said on page 219, “As conference leaders, we need to devise ways to motivate students to do the thinking and talking.” I hope some of the ideas from this book will help me do just that, devise ways for students to do the thinking and talking.
When I was in the classroom, I used a lot of Nancy Atwell, Barry Lane, and Ralph Fletcher...and others, ... I was always looking for the perfect model. I enjoyed conferencing with students; I did a lot of what Ms. Robb calls making the rounds and some one-on-one conferencing, but there always seemed to be a student in each class who needed more attention than I could provide without neglecting others. What I mean is that I needed a "plan of action" for that student who always craved one-on-one attention and did whatever he/she thought necessary to get it...without regard for others.
My experiences with writing conferences in my classroom have not always been positive, which is why I am so intrigued by Mrs. Robb’s resources and conference session. It is apparent that she has been able to “make it work”. I, on the other hand, find myself not always able to focus on the student in front of me due to some student action, or inaction, from across that room that needs my attention. I know that the structure and routines of workshop will provide time for me to conference, but this is an area that I really struggle with as a teacher.
I had a conversation with an administrator several months ago in which a statement was made that caused me to stop and think. In talking about workshop, he said that if he were to take out one component of workshop, he would take out “conferring because most teachers are not good at it”. In my mind, the conferring is the most important part of the writing process, so I need to learn “to be good” at it. The struggle comes from knowing how to put the structures and routines in place in such a way that students are engaged with their part of the activity.