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: