Has the following ever happened to you? You are conferring with a writer in your classroom. You do your research by asking, “How’s it going? What are you working on as a writer today?” You pinpoint a teaching point that you would like to teach this writer. Then you go blank. You’re not sure how to teach it off the top of your head. You know there must be a good mentor text you could use to demonstrate your teaching point, but you can’t put your hands on it at the moment or you don’t even have a title in mind. So you make some half-hearted attempt to teach or you cop out all together and say, “Good job, keep working, thanks for sharing your writing with me today.” A wonderful teaching opportunity is lost.
I know I have been in this situation plenty of times. Well, this week I learned about a technique that I can’t wait to try. A literacy consultant shared this tip which she learned when she studied with Lucy Calkins and the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project in New York City. It is called a Conferring Toolkit. The toolkit is housed in an expandable file and contains a variety tools that can be used during the teaching portion of the conference. Here are some of the items I plan to put in my Conferring Toolkit:
- mentor text picture books that are sticky noted with a variety of writer’s crafts
- my own writer’s notebook
- anchor papers from various genres (narrative, persuasive, poetry, expository, etc.)
- examples of both strong and weak papers (from previous students) that can be used to demonstrate various teaching points
- conferring prompts
- a list of teaching points for each genre of writing
- maybe a small white board and marker
- assessment sheets
The toolkit is portable, so it can be carried from table to table or student to student. You could make a general toolkit or have a specific one for each unit of study. In either case, the toolkit provides valuable teaching resources at your fingertips. I’m excited to organize my toolkit and experiment with it in my upcoming writing conferences. I’m thinking it will help me to be more prepared and to conduct more effective conferences.
Want more information about this? I found a video of a teacher explaining her conferring toolkit. I thought it was really helpful. Click here to view. If you have tried this technique, I would love to hear how it has worked for you.
For more tips and techniques on conferring with young writers, I highly recommend these two books by Carl Andersen and Lucy Calkins.