Creating Enthusiastic Student Writers
In an era of texting, blogs, tweets, and wikis, there is a flowering of public writing happing. However, it may not be surprising that writing instruction in the schools is not similarly blooming with as much enthusiasm from students. Many educators agree that students are not getting enough instruction and practice on how to become a truly skilled writer.
In 2003, the National Commission on Writing (NCOW) issued “The Neglected “R”: The Need for a Writing Revolution“, which called for schools to double the number of hours students spent writing because, at that time, most elementary students spent fewer than three hours per week writing.
Now thirteen years later, a national survey found that elementary students still wrote for only an average of two hours per week —about 25 minutes per day—and received just over an hour’s worth of formal writing instruction per month. When writing students mostly wrote paragraphs and short pieces, not longer texts.
Relegating writing practice and instruction to merely a few hours a week for K–8 students has long-term consequences as they move not only through school but also into the world of work. In that situation, they likely encounter writing tasks for which they are under-prepared.
What can we do to help increasing not only the amount of time spent on writing, but also increase the overall quality?
Writing conferences are still an essential component of teaching students how to write effectively and eloquently. Conferencing can take the form of either teacher-student conferences or peer conferences, which can be done with partners or in small groups. Benefits of conferencing include increased opportunities for students to talk and share their progress of writing tasks and for the writer (s) to receive feedback on their work. Research recommends that conferences should take place within an uninterrupted block of writing, such as with the Writer’s Workshop strategy in order to have a significant impact on student achievement.
There are many benefits of both student-teacher conferences and peer conferences. Initially, teachers may struggle with the management of the conferences or become frustrated with the time it takes to implement, manage, and schedule. However, once mastered, conferences can serve as an authentic tool to enhance student-centered instruction that helps to meet the diverse needs of all students within any given classroom.
Conferencing can occur with any subject area but may be easier to initially implement when working with students on the writing process. Teachers may want to visit other classrooms where conferences have been well established and/or to observe the management of conferences during their own personal learning phase. Remember that establishing routines and structures of conferences will take time. It may be easier to implement teacher-student conferences first.
Once the management structure is in place, consider peer conferences with students when they are comfortable with processes and with working with peers together independently. Remember to give feedback to students as they peer conference and over time, they will become more proficient at conducting them. If peer conferences are established in other classes or other grades, consider having these students to come in and role play or help around the room. Although both student-teacher and peer conferences may seem daunting and overwhelming, the benefit of student reflection and independence is well worth the effort!
The purpose of conferencing with students is to aide in the reflective writing process and to have students become comfortable talking about their work, which will ultimately help them improve their writing skills. Writing conferences should be centered directly around refining each individual students writing ability through consistent feedback and differentiated writing mini-lessons based on the student’s needs. “Conferences are designed to allow teachers to be responsive and attentive, focused on talking with a student individually, promote rich dialogue, provide specific feedback, and then leave promptly to allow students to work independently” (Fletcher & Portlupi, 2001).
Through writing conferences, students not only learn how to dialogue about their writing, but conferencing can also help teachers assess individual student needs and priorities. Through the use of conferencing logs; teachers can also help keep track of student progress over time, as well as identify student challenges and provide corrective feedback more frequently than otherwise available.
Consider the following online courses in supporting your efforts in creating an engaging and effective writing environment for your classroom.
- Course: Creating Enthusiastic Student Writers, Grades 2-5
- Course: Engaging Students with Writer’s Workshops for the CCSS (Grades 6-8)
- Course: Reading and Writing: You Can’t Address One Without the Other (Grades K-5)
- Course: Highly Effective Writing Instruction for Secondary ELA Classrooms (Grades 6-12)
- Course: Me? Teach Reading and Writing? Teaching Literacy Across Content Areas
Remember all Teach n’ Kids Learn (TKL) online courses are accredited for re-certification and graduate credits. For more information please contact us at PD@TeachnKidsLearn.com or toll-free 1-855-498-4400.