Sunday, October 02, 2016
#DigiLitSunday -- Conferring
When it came time for a handwritten draft outside their notebook, I didn't give my students much time to pull together all the bits and pieces of planning, leads, and snippets of dialogue. They had a tight deadline and I was brutal -- meet the deadline or forego Genius Hour. I wanted these drafts to be rough because I wanted them to understand that their work on the computer would be to create a new and better draft, not just type up what they had written on paper and call it good. By having every draft on paper, I could easily carry them all home, read carefully through each draft, and make +/- notes for each child on my clipboard chart. Once they began their drafts on the computer, I would gain the ability to have a quick conference with each student by leaving digital comments on their work.
I made sure the initial session on the computer was a short one. All they had time to do was log into their Google account, go to Drive, open a new Doc, name it with the conventions I gave them, and share it with me.
After that first quick computer session, I used my notes from their handwritten draft and left a comment for each student that might guide their work on this next draft.
Every day or two, I read through each student's work, taking notes on what they've improved and what they still need to work on. I have a little digital conference with every student in the comments, and I know exactly which students need my personal attention, and for what. I can group students who have the same needs and do small group work, and I have digital examples of exemplary writing, along with pieces that (with student permission) I can use in minilessons for craft, revision, and editing.
Conferring is the heart of writing instruction. It's what makes the teaching personal to the words the writer has put on paper or screen. Technology has given us another very powerful way to confer with our student writers.