5-Minute Writing Conferences
Writing instructors understand that in order to develop their students’ writing skills, they must have them write a lot and receive significant feedback. However, we all know what it’s like to be buried beneath a mountain of student writing that must be read and commented on, and although there are numerous ways that can be used to deal with this paper load, it’s still a difficult part of our work with students.
As a teacher, I was apprehensive about the time commitment of holding writing conferences with each and every student in my classes in order to reduce the need for written comments. However, with the assistance of a colleague who had successfully implemented the practise in his classroom, I recently took the plunge and began holding writing conferences with my students, which has had a significant positive impact on my classroom and my students’ learning.
BEFORE THE CONFERENCES
Immediately prior to meeting with my students, I quickly read their essays, making no notes on the papers and instead recording three things in my own notes: a score from the rubric I was using for the essay, one aspect of the writing task that the student did well on, and one aspect of the writing task that the student needed to work on.
While I was doing this, I also made notes about some general strengths and growth areas that I could use to plan mini-lessons for the entire class in the future.
I returned the students’ unmarked papers and gave a brief assessment of the strengths and growth areas that I had identified in the essays as a group of students.
Following that, I asked students to reflect on their writings in response to the targeted questions on this handout (see below). In addition to assessing their own papers, students were given the option of selecting a specific growth area with which they would like to consult with me. This narrowed emphasis was critical to maximising the efficiency and effectiveness of our conference time.
It was important to me to communicate my expectations to students, both for those who were participating in the conferences with me and for those who were working alone and awaiting their turn. As a result, they were prepared to use the time productively since they understood and were invested in the activity, as well as because we had already set norms for solo work time.
DURING THE CONFERENCES
In between meetings with students, who were working on a long-term project that was due at the end of the week, I met with them individually for five minutes.
They would take a seat next to me and bring their essay and reflection sheet with them. I had the notes I had taken while reading the essays with me, and I had set a timer on my phone for five minutes to allow me to finish them.
Following that, I would demonstrate how I had graded the essay by utilising language from the rubric to explain to the student what he or she should have received. In most cases, our scores were similar, but when they weren’t, it was clear that we needed to work on the student’s comprehension of the rubric.
The student would then tell me about one part of their writing that they would like to work on during the conference session. While they were taking notes, we addressed how the student may make adjustments to their essay by referring back to it. Regardless of whether or not the timer went off before we were through, we wrapped up our final talking point and I reminded them that they may come see me after class if they needed to.
AFTER THE CONFERENCES
, I notified the students of the deadline for submitting their revised essays and we had a class debriefing regarding the conference process. Students stated definitely that they had gained far more knowledge from discussing their writing for five minutes than they had gained from the remarks I had written on their papers in the past.
Before, I had always told students that I was available to meet with them about their work outside of class time, but only a small percentage of them actually took advantage of this offer. After I conferred with them in class, a disproportionately large number of pupils took me up on my offer. Because they had had the opportunity to benefit from conferencing, they were willing to put forth the effort to meet with me at a time that was convenient for them.
WHY THIS ACTIVITY IS WORTH YOUR CLASS TIME
Because my classes have an average of roughly 30 pupils, this activity required a significant amount of time. It required three full class periods of 55 minutes each, as well as a significant amount of my own concentrated energy, to meet with each student individually. The advantages outweighed the costs by a wide margin.
Students were more likely to pay attention to and apply the ideas they gained during the conference if they received individually tailored teaching. This was instantly evident in the improvement in scores between the original and updated essay versions, which was immediately visible.
With the use of this tool, I was able to communicate my feedback to students far more effectively than I had been able to do with my prior brief and frequently illegible notes on their papers.
Students were able to ask questions regarding writing that they would have been embarrassed or embarrassed to ask in front of the class. It helped me understand how to make improvements to my writing instruction as a result.
After holding conferences with students, an unanticipated effect was a significant shift in the culture of my classroom. It seems apparent to me now, looking back, that engaging with each of my students and listening to their specific needs would improve our relationships. However, with the daily responsibilities that instructors encounter, it’s easy to forget the great worth of even a few minutes of connection with students.