By now, the warm reads, word cards, take home books, lists, and miscellany is piling up on the tables in my classroom. I actually like things very neat and orderly. However, I seem not to find the time to do my job, manage my job and prepare or clean up after my job in the ordinary span of a workday and a half. What with grants, presentations and extra things that seem to pop up like mushrooms lately.
That brings me to Thursday night. I would really rather be browsing my new copy of Aimless Love, by Billy Collins. The title poem on page 9 is stunning. And it was published in something like 2002, anyway in an earlier collection. What rock have I been living under not to have noticed it?
Here it is Thursday night and two teachers and I are co-presenting at SJAWP’s Saturday Seminar day after tomorrow. We are doing stations and letting the participants divide loosely into three groups and see each of us for 40 minutes in smaller groups. Kim is doing the Ideas and Engagement center, Janessa is running the Collaboration and Sharing center, and I’m doing Conferring and Feedback.
I have experience with conferring and I praise, prompt and give feedback all day to my reading intervention students. It always seems different, not quite live, with adult teachers instead of with kids.
I have been inspired to re-read Day by Day: Refining Writing Workshop Through 180 Days of Reflective Practice by Ruth Ayres and Stacey Shubitz. I love their wisdom on all things workshop and appreciated the cool quotes on conferring.
However, in my slump of energy this Thursday night, with my notes, possible agenda and ideas in front of me…I’m just not feeling it.
I want the teachers to start a bit of writing, and I’ll bring a piece. I think I’ll do sticky note coaching while they begin. Then I’ll get one participant to volunteer to be the “student” and I’ll model a classic research/compliment/instruct 5 minute conference.
Then I want to show a few coaching moves/simple strategies that inspire revision. Maybe let the teachers return to their writing piece for a few minutes.
Bring in a couple copies of mentor texts and show how to use a mentor as a model in conference. (Matching will be tricky since I really don’t know these writers).
Finally I think I should let them partner up and practice on each other while I listen in. Give them checklists and also let them try out the few coaching moves I demonstrated.
Then I need a short, persuasive way to put brain Velcro on how to teach students to peer confer. Conference forms help, but my experience has been that each skill has to be quick modeled to the class and coached and tried in triads. The students won’t listen well and confer well until they’ve learned how to do it.
And of course I’ll offer my Excel form for using data filter to make and remake intervention groups to confer on topics already taught.
Conferring is the heart of writing. Listening is powerful. I don’t know otherwise how a teacher can really know what to teach.