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LANGUAGE ARTS :: SECONDARY RESOURCES :: WRITING HANDBOOK :: SUPPORTING STUDENT WRITERS THROUGH CONFERENCING

SUPPORTING STUDENT WRITERS THROUGH CONFERENCING

What are writing conferences?

Writing conferences, talking one-on-one with students about their writing, can help teachers encourage students to reflect about their writing as well as support them as they continue to grow as writers. Conferencing can be done during any stage of the writing process and may not be necessary for every student at the same time in the process. They may be formal or informal and may last as long as 20 minutes or as little as two minutes. Several different types of conferences are described below:

PROCESS CONFERENCES.
Process conferences may be held any time during the writing that the student needs individual teacher input. These conferences may be teacher or student initiated and may involve things like refining the essay topic, working through a particularly troubling piece of the writing, or discussing how to eliminate unnecessary elaboration. The focus of these conferences is generally on content, organization and style rather than conventions, although that aspect certainly may be addressed if appropriate. The student should be given the "lead" as much as possible during these conferences so that it becomes a conversation about issues that matter to the student as a writer rather than a list of recommended changes given by the teacher with no real "thinking" on the part of the student. The teacher should ask probing questions or make comments that engage the student in talking about the writing.

GRADING CONFERENCES.
A teacher may find it helpful to grade a student's paper aloud with the student present by reading it aloud without making written comments on the paper until the end. In this way students have an opportunity to see areas of confusion and better understand the teacher's expectations as revealed by the comments made during the reading of the paper.

POST-GRADING CONFERENCES.
A teacher may meet with a student after grading a paper to discuss comments and suggestions made in writing on the paper. After being given a chance to review the paper, the student then has a chance to ask about things that still confuse them, summarize their overall concerns about the writing, and make plans for future assignments.

REVISION CONFERENCES.
A student may meet with the teacher after receiving a graded essay to make plans for revision, ask questions about comments on the paper, and make a "contract" for the content of the revision. Students should be encouraged to go beyond mere editing and truly revise the essay.

PORTFOLIO CONFERENCES.
At the end of a quarter or unit a teacher may wish to conference with a student by looking at the writings that have been collected over that period. This gives the teacher and student a chance to discuss patterns in the writing, areas of concern, or goals for future writing.

Example
In Journalism I, students participate in portfolio conferences at the end of each semester as the teacher meets with them individually to discuss writing collected, with two pieces being fully polished, over the semester. Student and teacher discuss setting a goal for the next nine weeks or semester.

Example
In Early Childhood Education II, students participate in process conferences as they work to develop a curriculum for a preschool founded on the Montressori philosophy of education.

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