Day 11: Listen to Student Writers

We, as teachers, want to see students get it right.  We want the students to absorb each and every morsel of knowledge we teach them, have them internalize all these skills and strategies, and demonstrate that knowledge in a picture perfect writing piece.

We have a choice.  Either end up frustrated with what the students write, or expand our definition of “perfect.”  As much as we want to fix the glaring errors that may be in front of us, we have to hold ourselves back.  Most likely, the only person learning, is the one who is holding the pen.  

The first part of conferring is to identify the student’s needs.  Start off your conference with an open ended question such as “How is it going?”, “What are you writing about today?” or “What have you added to your piece?”  Listen, as much as you want to skim and scan their work, as much as you want to list all the errors, hold back.  Listen.

Listen and respond to the cues your student may be giving you by asking more questions. You can not always plan for the direction the writer may take you, but you will get better at asking them.  You want to ask more questions to find out what they like about the piece, what they don’t like, what do they think they need to work on.  

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6 thoughts on “Day 11: Listen to Student Writers

  1. Good, to-the-point advice. Thank you for reminding us that students will grow as writers when they talk about their own writing, and that means the teacher must LISTEN. I usually face the student when we confer and never look at the paper. When I started doing that I had to really sharpen my listening and I realized how little I was listening. Sadly and mistakenly, conferring is often intervention.

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  2. I’m a veteran teacher and a former literacy coach. I still am frustrated with my lack of consistency with conferring, however. What do you use for conferring notes? I’ve used Post its, a binder with a sheet for each student, a plan book with the squares, and even the ccpensieve app from The Sisters. Nothing lasts my tests of time and efficiency.

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  3. My favorite line: Most likely, the only person learning, is the one who is holding the pen. I say Amen to the truth. And I love that you are always reminding yourself not to correct first–so smart of you. What a beautiful journey to walk alongside your students in learning to express themselves for an audience.

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