Nudging Growth through Celebration

These are the things I’m celebrating when I assess Sam’s writing.


By rereading his first few words, he realized he started with a dependent clause. Then he added a comma and an independent clause to make it a complete sentence. I am impressed by the amount of rereading he does as a writer. I said to him, “Wow, Buddy, you started with a dependent clause, so you knew you needed a comma.” 

He responded, “Huh? It wouldn’t be a whole thought if I put a period there instead of a comma.” I think this conversation is the beginning stage of solid grammar instruction. As a teacher, it would be a possible place to linger in a conference. Kids have to learn to talk the talk.

    He is combining text and illustration to make meaning. I love his illustration style. It is filled with simple lines and specific details. Before Sam, I would have probably wanted to encourage more color and more “cute-y” details. Now, I’m learning to value the wide range of illustration styles. If he were my student and not my son, I would have probably nudged him to spend more time on the person in the final illustration. He draws great people He ran out of steam on this and since he was on a deadline, he didn’t have time to go back and revise the illustration. (Even if he did have time, I not sure he would have. Sam is a “one-and-done” kind of writer. As a teacher, revision could be a goal I would set for him.)
    His voice is alive and strong. It’s partly because of the illustrations, however, it is also because of the title, his use of transitions, and the way he talks to the reader. It’s powerful for students to know HOW they are creating voice, not just that they have a strong voice. If this were the compliment in the conference, I can see a teaching point in nudging him to add more voice to his final illustration. In the PLAN A illustration, he uses labels and numbers to help build suspense. He could use an onomatopoeia, speech bubbles or asides to the reader in the ending illustration to bolster his voice.
    Some final thoughts as a teacher of writers.
    All of these things are running through my mind as I watched him work as a writer. These are the kinds of thoughts I’m constantly filtering when I’m around young writers. I’m celebrating the work they are almost doing and looking for ways to nudge them in their growth. I wouldn’t talk through all three of these noticings in a conference. It is too much. Rather, I’d pick the one that is most pressing or the most natural.
    Then I would compliment as specifically as possible. There is power in naming the strength for a young writer. We’d high five. Then I’d nudge a little. We’d use the strength as a springboard into the new learning. We might imagine how it would look or sound in the writing. Maybe the writer will even give it a bit of a go while I watch. I’d leave the writer with a challenge and then move on to another writer. Later, I’d check back to see if the new learning became sticky and whether the writer took the risk to try the challenge. This is how we move to intentional growth in conferring.

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    1 Comment »

    1. Many parts are good, here, & I love the detail you have given to us, your readers, Ruth. I especially like this: “We'd use the strength as a springboard into the new learning. We might imagine how it would look or sound in the writing.” Exactly. And I've found it does 'stick' because it comes from the positive noticings. Thanks for a good explanation of conferring.