Our days are full of predictable conversations. You can probably predict your first conversation of the day. You probably know how a conversation is going to go with a spouse, parent, or child after school. You might know how the conversation at lunch is going to go with your colleagues. You have a good idea of how your next conversation with a cashier is going to go.
Conversations are predictable.
Writing conferences are predictable conversations too. There are conversational moves teachers and students make in a writing conversation. When everyone knows the way a conference conversation goes, it becomes more powerful.
Because of this, I consider a minilesson about the structure of a writing conference to be essential. Students must know the way a conference conversation will go. This takes away anxiety and creates a safe place for students to learn how to be stronger writers.
I created a video minilesson about What to Say in a Writing Conference for you to use with your students.
To simplify the conversation, consider a writing conference as having two parts.
Part 1: Figure out what students are doing as writers.
Part 2: Help them do it better!
Every time I have a conference, I navigate through these two parts. I ask an open-ended question to get students talking about their writing work, and then I look at the writing to see if the work lines up with the talk. (Part 1)
Then I affirm the work students are doing as writers, and teach them something they can use as a writer. (Part 2)
It won't take long for us to run into a student who doesn't have much to say in a conference. It's why we often want a list of questions to ask in a conference. I've learned that the right question is only part of the secret to getting kids to talk in conferences.
Don Graves said, "A student should have more energy for writing after a conference than before." The way to get kids to talk in conferences is to figure out how to increase their energy for writing during a conference.
I've created a mini-training video of 3 Secrets to Powerful Writing Conferences. Sign up below and also get a list of my go-to questions to ask during a writing conference.