Apr 23, 2021


Conferring: The Essential Teaching Act | Grant Wood A E A Saturday Snippets

Conferring: The Essenntial Teaching Act

April went by fast! This will be the final Saturday Snippet from literacy consultants Jess Quandahl and Chris Klostermann. After this we will be taking a break from posting weekly Snippets, but keep your eyes peeled on our Facebook and Twitter as we will likely have more Saturday Snippets in the future! Don't forget, you can see Snippets archived here.

Blended/Personalized learning in the literacy classroom, as we have seen, is about developing the innate agency within each learner through a variety of collaborative conversations to help them continue to grow their literacy skill sets.  

Conferring is a powerful lever to utilize in achieving this, and if structured intentionally, can be the answer to the questions, “What did I teach today?” and “What did I learn today?” for BOTH the teacher and the student.

This intentional planning has four parts, according to author Katy Wood Ray in her book, “Wondrous Words”, with reference to Lucy Calkins work, “The Art of Teaching”:

  • Research: The purpose of starting a writing conference with this is that you, as the teacher, are trying to research what is going on for the student as the writer, and in turn, clues you in on what to teach them. We’re not trying to “fix” them, we simply want to learn about their craft and, yes, their craftiness in telling you about them as writers.  “Tell me about” is a great way to have students begin!
  • Decide: This step is possibly the most stressful, as we are trying to make a curricular decision, completely in the moment with a given student, about what they most need to learn right now.  This forces us to come in with our knowledge of writing, however small or large, and use that knowledge to help a student right there. Of course, writing is a lifelong craft, and what we know now about it won’t be the same amount as what we’ll know in the future, but that’s all good! We do the best we can with what we know in the present moment.  
  • Teach: This is the direct-instruction portion of the writing conference, but there are still nuances to attend to so that the next conference with that same student has something to build from.  For example, when you get to the end of your right-there teaching, have the student say back to you what they got from you, so that you can make sure they understood and that you can make note of what might be what you teach to the whole class or that you carry forward with this particular student.
  • Make a record: As stated in the last bullet point, the notes you take for each conference are absolutely crucial to your teaching for a host of reasons: You are actively noting the progress of each student, you are also charting where each student is at with the writing process, you are making note of what needs to be whole-group instruction, and you are constructing evidence of what should be each student’s next right step on their path of learning that they themselves know as well.    

Thanks again for hanging out with us for these Saturday Snippets in April! As always, feel free to reach out to us, or any GWAEA Literacy Consultant, for support with your K-12 literacy needs.