Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Teaching the writer, not the writing

This is the ultimate goal, right? Right. Am I doing it? No. Would I like to? Yes!! How?
Questions abound after reading this first chapter in the Anderson book. It's the book I chose to do my book study on, specifically for the purpose of it being about conferencing. As I started reading, I thought to myself, "Of course I do conferencing! I meet with about 5 kids each day. However, I know I don't get to every kid each week because I'm always checking in with my lower kids-the ones that can't form a sentence or the kids whose writing you cannot read. I leave the kids that I think "have it" out of the conversation piece because as I read through their writing, the stories seem ok. Well, that has to change!

I agree with Anderson where he says, "I've watched many well-intentioned teachers get sidetracked during conferences and lose sight of why they're conferring" (Anderson, 8). I think that is so true when I think of my first graders. It is a time when I try everything to get them prepared for so much of what will come in second grade and beyond: Can they write a sentence? Check. Can they write a story? Check. Can they add details, edit, etc? Check. Ok! You're ready! I never take the time to make the conversations about them as the writer. It's usually about the product I would like them to have in the end.

I connected with so many things from this chapter, but one thing I think I can do comes from page 9 where he writes about the questions he asks. "What work are you going to do today? or What can I help you with today?" are questions I can ask of my kids as we begin writing time, and then I can change the questions to go with the end of the writing time. What worked best for you today? What can you try differently tomorrow? Those are questions my kids can answer.

I really enjoyed the simplicity of the "conversation" structure, as Elizabeth said. As I think about the structure, it still seems daunting with first graders for the first half of the year. The kids are so simplistic in their stories that it is hard as a teacher not to "fix" their stories to be longer. As Anderson wrote about helping students figure out how to "write narratives (other) than starting when he woke up and ending when he went to bed" (Anderson, 9). As I think about this simplistic form of the conference, hopefully that will help me think about the kids and the writers rather than the writing.

1 comment:

  1. You have a great plan for asking your little ones questions! On another note, the structure of the conferencing conversation might seem simple but the actual work is really much tougher than it seems. I find that the deep listening and "thinking on your feet" are difficult skills to master.