conferring angsts

What do you find most difficult about conferring? This is the question I posed to Two Writing Teacher readers today. It’s an important question, because by zeroing in on the specific things we find difficult, we are able to develop a plan of action.

I’m a conferring junkie. I love it. So this question gives me pause. Those are the very best questions. The ones I have to stop and think about for myself.

I’ll begin with a little history — the things I used to find most difficult…

  1. Getting students to talk about their writing processes.
  2. Waiting enough so students will respond in a conference.
  3. Having something to teach.
  4. Finding something useful to teach.
  5. Selecting the most powerful teaching point.
  6. Documenting pertinent information from every conference.
Now the thing I find myself wrestling with is how to transfer my documentation into data to share with principals. I believe conferring offers a wealth of important and useful data for schools. However, until we share this with principals, it may be difficult for them to see the relevance and importance of conferring notes. I’m searching for a way to make data from conferences be a go-to data source for making school-wide, as well as district-wide decisions.

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  1. That's interesting – I look forward to hearing more about your journey on note taking. Right now I take notes on my phone or iPad in Evernote. I could easily share it with my admin – she's a big believer in workshop and conferences. The idea of my notes being a go-to data source, right now they aren't. They're notes for me, but I'm not sure what anyone else would get out of them yet.

  2. Ruth, this idea is really intriguing to me. I would love to see our conferring notes be used school-wide, especially as valuable data at team meetings for our students receiving RtI interventions. I'd love to make the notes more tangible, more visible, and a valuable source of data. Please continue to share your thinking around this!

  3. Documenting is definitely an area I have struggled with, especially getting my thoughts down within a short time in order to get to another child. At one point, I had the bottom half of my individual student note page listing the writing standards, I could then check one off that had been addressed that day or go back and date it. I haven't been conferring in my current role, so I haven't done it with the new core standards. I did often ask my teachers which lense they were focusing on from Carl Anderson. Hope that makes sense.

  4. Can't wait to see where this takes you! My school district, like many others, has mandated weekly data meetings, complete with SMART goals. I believe I have used data to drive instruction for many years, but it's not always quantitative. Conference notes and writing samples have been an important part of my practice. It's hard, though, for me to figure out how to present it in a way that it's considered “data.”