Again, I find myself in agreement with a teaching great. There is very little I can even moderately shrug a shoulder at about what Nancie Atwell explains as the importance of the writing conference found in chapter 7 of In the Middle. Here she suggests that the teacher should make an effort to visit with every student daily to be help him or her to progress as a writer. This daily conference is why lessons must be kept as brief as possible in order to provide the time required to make the rounds.

There are several reasons for writing conferences discussed by Atwell throughout the chapter, but I would argue that the most important reason for the daily conference is that it creates a safe work environment for students to create original work.

Atwell suggests that you visit as many students as possible and to move around the room rather than moving down one row of students to the next. This allows the teacher to maintain classroom management while conferencing and eliminates showing favoritism through the order taken with the conferences.

While in the conference with the students there should be an established procedure in which both teacher and student maintain a low whisper. Whispering is important for several reasons. Primarily, whispering makes those in the conference more comfortable with sharing his or her writing, and conversations about that writing with the teacher. Secondly, whispering prevents other students from being distracted by the voice of the teacher or the student.

Perhaps my favorite lesson so far in my short career deals with sound in the classroom. The lesson was about being a successful student by being courteous to those around you. In this lesson, we discussed auditory learners and I informed my students that it is easier to be distracted by sound than it is to be distracted by sight. At the end of the lesson, I clapped my hands loudly saying you cannot ignore this, over and over.

Atwell outlines these and other guidelines on pages 224-226. During the conference, Atwell suggests that teachers should read students work to make comments and suggestions without marking on any student paper prior to the student turning in a final draft. The idea behind this is that students will edit along the process without feeling judged by others, thus improving their confidence and eventually their ability to write. Perhaps nothing else is as important for the development of our youth.

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One thought on “Methods #12: The Conference

  1. Conferences were the hardest thing for me to manage in my classroom. I never really got the hang of it within a 50-minute time period, but I know other teachers do. Do you follow a blog called twowritingteachers.wordpress.com? They have a lot of great posts and resources written by teachers whose classrooms are organized as workshops.

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