Here’s yet another post where I share what I learned from “The Art of Teaching Literacy” workshop in Hong Kong. This session was presented by Matt Glover and it was called “Conferences that Nudge Writers Forward.” Matt Glover is an author and presenter who focuses primarily on teaching our youngest writers, grades preschool to first grade, how to write. If you missed the other posts, you can check them out here and here.
– “Conferences are in the moment teaching.” ~Matt Glover
-Nudge vs. Push
- It’s your job to find out what they can already do to determine the next small step.
- A nudge is something they can do that is within their zone of proximal development.
-Writing Conference Structure
- Research– ask questions to figure out what you need to teach, this is where you decide what the student needs, allows you to differentiate
- Name Strength– identify what they are doing well as a writer
- Decide on ONE Teaching Point
- You many see many things that the writer needs to improve upon, but it’s important to narrow it down to just one teaching point.
- Choose between a focus on composition or conventions, not both.
- “What can I teach you that will help you down the road?”
- Teaching means I’m going to show you how to do something that you don’t know how to do.
- Don’t confuse reminders, telling, or correcting with teaching.
- Tools to have with you during your conferences:
- Mentor texts (picture books mainly)
- Your own writing
- Another child’s writing
- Matt carries around mentor texts and notes in a folder to make it easier to confer.
-Conference Viewing Form: A form to use when observing a conference or watching a video of a conference.
- Conference length- suggested time 5-7 min, increase efficiency
- Research- Look at types of questions asked (open-ended, filler, shifting ownership, positive presupposition, questions I already know the answer to), how many questions
- Strengths- identify and name students’ strengths
- Decisions- teach to their strengths or areas of need
- Teaching Point
- Generating a teaching point
- Narrowing down to a teaching point
- Sticking to a teaching point
- Generate both composition and conventions teaching points
- Which mentor texts to use and why
- Do I teach to the minilesson or something else?
- Invitational or directional teaching point?
- Tone, language, and word choice in a conference
– Conference Tips:
- Say “book” not “story” because when you call their writing a “story” you are implying that they are writing a story when they may be writing an informational text, list book, etc.
- Need more time to decide on a teaching point? It’s helpful to slow down the conference by asking more questions to figure out more information.
- Use writing samples and videos to improve skills at conferring.
- Conferring notes should include:
- Teaching point
- Next steps
- Take notes AFTER the conference so the kids aren’t distracted during the conference.
- You’ll never know if your teaching point was the best one to teach or not. You only have once chance to teach. Then you can reflect and get better next time. So don’t beat yourself up about it.
-Book recommendation- Sit Down and Teach Up by Katie Wood Ray and Matt Glover- an ebook that contains videos of 15 conferences with preschool, kindergarten, and first grade students as well as notes, charts, and explanations of their thinking. You can purchase it on iBooks or download a PDF version from Heinemann’s website.
I love learning from Matt Glover. Even though he makes conferring seem effortless, when he’s presenting, he slows down the process for us, revealing his thoughts and reasoning behind the choices he made. If you haven’t read his work, you should definitely check it out! Engaging Young Writers and Already Ready (co-written with Katie Wood Ray) are great reads for teachers of young writers. And if you ever get the chance to see him present, jump at the opportunity! You will not be disappointed!
Matt and I at the conference. I was a little starstruck!