Saturday, October 15, 2016

Conferring in Writer's Workshop

Conferring. It's my favorite part of writer's workshop for so many reasons:
  • You get to spend time one-on-one with each child in your class (that doesn't happen often!)
  • They get to tell you all about their life, their stories, their efforts...
  • You get to affirm their strengths.
  • You get to teach them as an individual and empower them as a writer. It's so amazing!
My most challenging part of conferring is note taking. For years, I struggled to find a system that works for me. I tried a grid for the whole class, I tried post-its, I tried a notebook...I tried it all! Finally, after many years of tweaking, I landed on this individual note taking sheet for each student. It's not perfect but it's been working well for me!

Each unit, I print one for each student and I three hole punch them. Instead of putting them in a binder (hate the bulk of that when conferring!), I put a metal ring through one corner. This also allows me to divide the notes up when I have other adults helping me (lucky me...I have a part-time assistant and a language arts resource teacher who come to my writer's workshop from time to time). 

Each writer's workshop, I select a few students who I plan to meet with and put their note taking sheets on a clipboard with a laminated "cheat sheet" of teacher prompts that coincide with the parts of the conference: "Research," "Compliment," "Teach," "Guided Practice," and "Link." Having these on hand helps me to keep my conferences running smoothly and efficiently.

I also created spaces on the note-taking sheet for "folder checks." This helps to keep me accountable to peeking inside my writers' folders from time to time to get a big picture of how their work is progressing. From these folder checks, I usually make note of some kids that would benefit from small group work on a particular skill (ie. punctuation, spacing, producing a greater volume of writing, or a specific teaching point of the genre.) I record notes from these small group sessions in the "Other notes" section. 

At the end of the unit, I file each students notes in their individual file so I can have them on hand for conference prep and report card writing. I use a binder system for storing my student records so it's easy to pop these notes in since they are already 3-hole punched. 

There are SO many ways to keep records when conferring but this one has worked the best for me so far. Happy conferring!

Note taking sheet and Cheat-Sheet are available at my TPT store:

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