At the very heart of every writing classroom lies the conference. The conference allows writers to feel seen and pushes them to continue to stretch themselves as they try on new strategies, new ideas, and new possibilities for their work.
It is my belief that the students should own this time. After all, we teachers are the support, not the authors.
While conferring brings joy and meaningful mentorship into our classrooms - it is hard. This is especially true now as many of us are navigating our instruction in a brand new online landscape.
Virtual teaching challenges our ability to read the room and the energy coming from students, so we need other tools to offer powerful student-centered conferences.
In an effort to offer students the opportunity to engage in student-led writing conversations, we can teach students to come to our virtual conferring table prepared to get the type of writing feedback they are seeking.
One way to do this is to share a list of conferring questions ahead of time. These questions invite students to consider their goals, the challenges they’ve faced, and think about the type of feedback they feel will help to propel them forward.
Ask students to reflect on the following questions before their scheduled video chat:
What is your current goal for this study?
Where are you in your process?
What successes and challenges have you faced?
What would you like me to help you with at our next chat?
How might I be able to help with that?
Is there a part of your writing that would be helpful for me to see before we meet?
After their reflection, students can either send you a note about their hopes for your exchange or simply come to the conference prepared to share their intentions with you.
However, if students want to focus upon a particular part, encourage them to send you their work or highlight a section before your writer-to-writer chat.
In the end, our writers should guide the conversation. We want them to know that the writing is theirs. They are the ultimate decision makers. They are the owners of this thought captured on the page.
They, not us, are the writers.