A Few Quick Tips and Tools for Student-Led Writing Conferences

If you’ve been hanging out in the Building Better Writers Facebook group this month, then you know that I’ve been sharing daily posts intended to help teachers of all grade and experience levels design a beautiful narrative writing experience for their students. 

Each day, I’ve shared unit plans, mini-lesson ideas, mentor text ideas, and professional resources worth contemplating. 

I’ve also started conversations about equity

Join us if you haven’t, and let me know how I can help you settle in when you do!  We’ll be talking about personal and fictional narratives from now until October 1st, and the posts that I share each Sunday will speak to these same topics, too. Interested in digging through my archives? Just use the search bar on the right or search posts by topic at the top of the page. You’ll find a bunch about narrative writing and quite a few other things there. I’ve been doing this for a while, so be gentle kind readers. Some of my first posts, which are over ten years old now, are the stuff of cautionary tales. “Here’s what not to do,” I tell new bloggers whenever I’m asked to share a bit of advice. And then I share a link to something I published here ten years ago.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————

It’s funny how, all of these years later, I still approach the same people in my network when I’m seeking advice and feedback myself. I’ve grown that circle of critical friends quite a bit, but those at the center are the same smart and savvy and sensitive people that I’ve trusted all along.

I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit this week, because I’ll be punishing  I mean approaching them with that sort of a request again soon. I just finished a new book proposal, and I’m already wondering how it will sit with them. I’m also a tiny bit afraid to share it.

And this is a good reminder for my teacher self.

Writing, particularly at this time of year, is such a vulnerable thing to ask students to do. Even primary writers, who often jump at the invitation to create just about anything, often find themselves feeling a bit uncertain, unready, and over exposed at the beginning of a brand new year. How should we handle that?

Have you ever thought about how you want a writer to feel when they walk away from a conference with you?

Regardless of how old or experienced a writer is, I always want them to feel that I listened carefully, that I read their work closely, and that I asked the kind of questions that helped them understand themselves, their work, and their goals a bit better. I always wanted them to leave feeling as if they resolved their own problems, imagined their own possibilities, and contributed to my learning, too.

I want the writers that I support to leave our conferences knowing that they taught me something.

And that kind of changes everything.

Student led conferences can be daunting to plan for and even trickier to facilitate. I’ve learned that it takes time for everyone to grow into this process. Rubrics help. Not for evaluative purposes, but for the purposes of clarifying our vision, our goals, and what it might look like to get better at what we do.

I’ll share this one with you. If you use it, let me know what you think. This is the kind of rubric that a writer carries and pursues for years, not a lesson or a unit or single grade level.

And if you’re planning to host student-led conferences later this year (as most do), now is usually the time to begin preparing learners for those critical conversations. The writers’ notebook is a beautiful tool for facilitating this, too.

It’s not a big add or a heavy lift. Just drop a bit of reflective time into your session, and give kids a chance to capture their responses to questions like these. Even if they only have a few moments in every week to press pause and think about their writing lives and how their thinking, learning, and work are changing, it’s so helpful.

Then, when the time arrives for writers to prepare for their conference, they can review their reflections and (perhaps with your support), choose entries that reveal important things about their growth.

Need to talk about all of this more? Come find me on Facebook or Twitter or drop me a comment. And happy Sunday, all! I hope the week ahead leaves you feeling settled into your new year.

Leave a Comment

Privacy Preference Center