Conferring is the heartbeat of workshop teaching. In order to teach well; learn to confer well. Although the coaching institute was interrupted due to a hurricane, what I learned in those few sessions will provide me with much to reflect on in the coming months.
Over the next few weeks, I am going to really work at growing stronger at conferring. It feels like a critical component of conferring is the research. It can make you or break you. The research lays the groundwork for all of the other components of a conference. It is differentiation at its best. When you research well, you provide yourself with a storehouse to draw on for your teaching. Here are a few tips for researching well from the TCRWP.
- Try to be conversational in tone. We are more likely to be honest and demonstrate investment when we feel comfortable, cared for, and at ease.
- Keep notes to help you forge a pathway of learning. Otherwise, our conferences will be like a game of hop-scotch and will lack traction. Traction provides students with additional practice and scaffolding – a trajectory of growth. This will allow you to layer your teaching and ensure that your conferences are driven by visible goals and feedback.
- Always take a few moments to observe the writer – What are they almost doing? Skim their writing and look for patterns. This will help you formulate strong research questions. Why did you . . . ? What were you or are you trying to do here? Point to their writing when researching – It will help ground your teaching, but be careful to look for patterns – not too specific – otherwise you will fall into the trap of teaching the writing instead of the writer.
- Try to stay away from the content. Instead ask the writer: What strategies have you been using? What goals or plans are you working on? Ask: What do you plan to do next?
- It helps to think about lenses through which you can confer. Find out what a student knows about a particular writing habit or skill. This will help you stay within the students ZPD.
- Stay inside the research part of the conference for a while – after pursuing one line of inquiry – ask a question designed to take you on another. Look for multiple learning pathways. Only after researching for a while, should you decide and choose what to compliment and teach.