This year at Concept English we have decided to include in each of our six units of instruction at each grade level 6-12 a performance based assessment (PBA) from the Collections texts. By doing so, we are making writing instruction a priority. Writing is hard because it takes additional time and is filled with our own bias. But we have begun the dialogue.
One important aspect of the writing process is conferencing. This social connection may be key to helping our inexperienced writers make the extra effort to communicate on paper. And the research is clear “oral speech proceeds the written word.” As you can see from the graphic below, at the transition between all aspects of the writing process is conferencing between teacher/student and student/student. When done effectively it can radically improve student writing.
Even the best writers do not write in complete isolation. It is true that when you put pen to paper or fingers to keys the act is completed by the writer alone, but the process of writing is social and young writers need support. I had Ms. Usinger, who was always there when I sought her out to review my gold notebook with the blue sailboat. Inside this notebook were my little gems. These short, obtuse poems where often lifeless and uninspired; however, she never let on, just continued to cull their landscapes for gold, with gentle, supportive questions that managed to pull more ideas from my creative spirit. Supporting my own ideas and initiative she was able to push me beyond what I thought I was capable of in academic writing. At Concept English we understand this critical relationship between teacher and student; it is this mentorship that is at the heart of effective Writers Workshops.
During our Fall 2015 PD sessions our focus will be on the writing process and ways to enhance our conversations with students about writing. If you read what a student has written, each individual student problem and solution becomes very clear and often very different. That is why analyzing student work leads to effective differentiation in the writing conference. In many ways a conference is the result of analyzing a student’s work (and doing so knowing where she/he is in the writing process) and then meeting informally to discuss the formative feedback.
When reading student work it is a good idea to remember where they are in the writing process and change the questions you are asking to meet this stage.
Second, consider how you want to talk with your inexperienced writers:
Third, consider how you want to implement conferencing with the class:
A significant amount of research indicates that strong rituals and routines about writing help students get ideas out of their heads and down their arms onto the page. Talking in conferences allows teachers and students to unblock the obstacles of self-doubt and fear that keep students from talking on paper.