Because Margaret’s daughter was married yesterday, today’s digilit linkup is over at Julieanne Harmatz’s blog “To Read To Write To Be” here. Check out the other links.
Trust me, Conferring Carl is so right. Conferring is the whole cake, the whole enchilada, the whole meal because it’s already the combination of many great ingredients in a flavorful mixture designed to entice the consumer!
One goal of conferring is to move the writer to effective and more deliberate practices across multiple pieces of writing. The goal is NOT to just make this piece of writing better by fixing it. It’s about going for “big ticket items” that will help all future writing be better.
“How on earth do I do that?”
“Please say more . . .”
Conferring does seem to resemble coaching. I have been working with coaches lately and I know there’s also a part of coaching that involves a specific teaching point. Dana’s post here about teaching points in writing is so spot on. It’s about:
“Writers (insert a skill) by using (insert a strategy) so that (insert a purpose).”
There’s a part of conferring that requires the teacher and the student to have clear targets and end goals about writing.
Hattie, Fisher and Fry say it best with this finding from John Hattie (millions of kids in the data pool) about teacher clarity in their book Visible Learning for Literacy.
Teacher Clarity has an effect size with the equivalence of almost two years of growth in one year of instruction. That’s what the 0.75 means. A d= 0.40 means one year’s growth. That’s why the 0.40 is often used as the “cut point” for choosing effective strategies. (Mini-stats course/refresher)
So what do clear teach goals look like? What are the possiblities?
Here is an example of one way a class is looking at “leads” for organization in narratives based on checklists (Calkins and colleagues, Units of Study in Writing). If a student identifies that “leads” are the area of “trouble” that he/she wants to work on in a conference, a checklist like this may have been used. The student would not just be saying, “This story is not good or this lead is not good.” Instead the student would be saying, “I need to work on leads because my readers have commented on the last two stories that it’s hard for them to get right into the story.” This student may have self-identified that most of his/her leads were only a “one-star” lead according to a chart like this. The goal might be four star leads.
The long term writing goal for this student may be about volume, it may even be about stamina, but for now this student really wants to focus on better leads so
and not stop reading
because there is no hint of
what might later become a problem for the reader.
Do you see langauge that might lead to a teaching point?
Teachers don’t need a “new and different” list of resources to confer from. They are working with the lessons that have been taught and/or looking for those next step items that will strengthen student writing across the rest of the year. Leads are important in narratives, informational writing, and opinions/arguments.
Is this the only concern in a narrative lead for fourth graders?
Of course not. But this use of checklists in goal setting (Calkins and colleagues, Units of Study in Writing) helps students (and teachers) who are not yet expert writers with some common language that can be used for teaching points within a conference to improve all future pieces of writing. The student made some choices about his/her own writing and made a conscious decision about what to work on. That’s a win/win.
The writing conference needs to be about moving forward. There are many ways to move writers forward throught conferences that are shared in many books (and Conferring Carl’s books are awesome)! How’s It Going? is a must have for your professional collection and has this review:
“This is by far the best writing on the conference I have read. It is a book that is far superior to the other texts-including my own.
—Donald M. Murray”
But the work ultimately needs to be done by students and involving them in this process and honoring their own goals/wishes/needs is critical. A conference like this with a writer allows the student to continue writing and may well set them up to be able to show peers and parents exactly how personal work with leads has improved his/her own writing.
This student may well be able to teach other students exactly how and why to do this with their own writing. More writers who know why and how . . . that’s a reason to invest time in writing conferences.
Don’t worry about perfect conferences! CONFER!
What’s your next “Conferring” step?
How do you use mentor texts?
There are so many options for mentor texts in both reading and writing. A search at Two Writing Teachers gives you all of these posts to consider. You can also check out Rose and Lynne’s website here with many ideas from their two Mentor Text books.
At the 88th Saturday Reunion, Carl Anderson (@conferringcarl) began with a story about coaching his son’s baseball team for six years and yet still needing a mentor. He went on to explain that mentors could be found in Greek mythology and as a friend of Odysseus and adviser of Telemachus actually in the “Odyssey”. A mentor was a “wise and sage co-teacher” – who wouldn’t want one for life?
Ralph Fletcher explains that mentor texts are, “…any texts that you can learn from, and every writer, no matter how skilled you are or how beginning you are, encounters and reads something that can lift and inform and infuse their own writing. I’d say anything that you can learn from – not by talking about but just looking at the actual writing itself, being used in really skillful, powerful way.”
One role of a mentor text according to Carl Anderson is:
How can a mentor text help you “pull back the curtain” and reveal the craft in the writing?
It’s the little things that make life wonderful!
Little things can seem like insurmountable objects . . .
like navigating the NYC subway system to arrive at Teachers College EARLY! I was actually more successful than navigating through my “home” deer country!
like organizing for a day run on an hourly schedule with 50 minute sesions (10 minutes to sprint to the next location) and NO time in the schedule for lunch (encouraged to pack and yes, you may eat in the sessions – ignore the signs that say no food!)
like finding your way among 4,000 friends engaged in learning on a Saturday at Teachers College
like worries about the wi-fi (had some overloads and would kick you off – How many total devices would 4,000 strong have? REALLY?)
and the ability to have a back up plan – First choice closed because you actually stopped to use the restroom? What were you thinking?
Other slicers who have posted about yesterday include:
and of course the many Tweets that emanated from the halls of the Teachers College campus. Right this minute, this tweet says it all:
What a day!
What a glorious day!
What a glorious day filled with laughter, love and learning!
(Notice how I worked on my elaboration there!)
Instead of an “All About Everything Post” the remainder of this post is dedicated to my #OLW “Focus” and will just focus on one key take away from the sessions I attended. (I promise – I will write more about what I learned. Some of it has to percolate!)
Patricia Polacco – Keynote Opening (Row 5)
“Teachers are my heroes. You devote your lives to the minds and hearts of others. What a wonderful calling”
Carl Anderson – Mentor Texts
We take the perfect text and we have to pull the curtain away. We need to love the mentor text. You wouldn’t marry someone you didn’t love. You are going to live with this mentor text day in and out. You have to know it inside and out. Work with a colleague to analyze the text. Make sure that kids will be moved by the mentor text (Not just one that you LOVE)!
Kylene Beers – Nonfiction Sign Posts
This is the picture that Kylene took from the speaker’s podium to show what the audience was doing as she displayed the slide listing the nonfiction signposts. By the way, the book will be out in October and we all had to promise to buy it! The nonfiction signposts are not ALWAYS found in each nonfiction piece of material because of the very nature of nonfiction. (more on that in another post) Here are the signposts in the order of frequency and importance:
Extreme and absolute language
Like this examples
Experts and Amateurs Words
Stats and Numbers
Contrasts and Contradictions
Again and Again
Cornelius Minor – Struggling Students
Cornelius began with an analogy about teaching skateboarding where one will fall the first 5-8 times. So he has to give you 20 opportunities to practice. “My job as a teacher is NOT mastery. Nothing will cultivate practice. Teaching sets you up for practice. Repeated practice sets you up for mastery. Engagement – how do I keep you moving! Multiple and intellectual energy to get some learning going! My job is ‘Teaching light and Practice heavy!'”
The brilliance of that philosophy!
Kylene Beers – Closing (Front Row)
Literacy is about power and privilege.
Slicer meet up at the Kitchenette! – So much fun to visit, share, decompress!
My head and my heart are both full from the learning. Much more to see and do while in NYC so “adieu” for now!
Check out the writers, readers and teachers who are “slicing” here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsy at “Two Writing Teachers” for creating a place for us to share our work. So grateful for this entire community of writers who also read, write and support each other!