When conferring, I am learning to let the student lead me to their areas of need through the natural course of conversation. I practice listening so that I might respond with a question that a) I am naturally curious about (this is a conversation after all) and b) will help them with their next move as a writer.
This conference with Kathryn revolved around her end of the marking period portfolio. One thing I want you to notice is that I deliberately do not get into correction or errors. We don't address the specific pieces of writing per se, but we discuss Kathryn as a writer--the writing is another portion of evidence to consider, but conferring is about helping writers grow forward, not feeling exposed or inadequate over something previously written.
Notice that Kathryn tells me "I like writing about my running" and that "it all comes to me easily"..."other stuff is kinda harder." This takes me to Mina Shaughnessy's work--her book Errors & Expectations in particular. Shaughnessy writes, "use modes encouraging a flow of words until the pen is an extension of the mind." I have that opportunity here with Kathryn.
While running is a area of interest (and not a mode) I try to help Kathryn feel encouraged to work her writing territories into a variety of modes. I point out that she is already blending modes as she writes about running. I want Kathryn to feel my appreciate for her joy and I want her to feel that her decisions have power in the classroom.
After establishing what is going well (and all writers need to hear that positive feedback), I try to find a path into what a student is going to do next. I hope to leave them with a goal or two. This does not always happen (and that is ok). Conferring through the student's agenda and needs now is a form of differentiation. Growth does not always happen on our watch, but every conference is an opportunity to continue to build trust within our writing communities.
As always, please feel welcome to share or comment here, on Twitter, or on your own blogs. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (@_briank_)!
Enjoy Episode 27: More Room to Write