Conferring in Writer's Workshop

Conferring.  My favorite part about Writer's Workshop. When I first started using the workshop model 9 years ago I fell in love with this part of the day.  As teachers we don't often have the time to sit down one on one with a student and discuss their work in depth.  Conferring is that special moment each day where we can do that.  I love it! 

What's in your notebook?

Let me tell you.  I've gone around and around with what to include in my notebook.  Do I write down everything they write?  Do I write it the way they said it or the way they wrote it....or both? How do I make these meetings meaningful but keep notes in a way that will help the student move forward?  So much to consider! Here are a few things that have helped me calm the stress during our conferring time. 

#1 Don't over do it! 
I was always feeling like I needed to meet with every single student each week (I have 22-24 students in each class).  It was stressful because this would mean meeting with 5 to 6 students a day per class.  Assembly? Half Day? Day off?  My whole schedule would get messed up!  I took it down a notch and revised my schedule to meet with 3 to 4 students a day.  This ensures that I will meet with all of my students in a 2 week time frame.  My conferring time has become more relaxed and WAY more productive!  I actually meet more consistently this way. 

#2 What should I write? 
I write the child's name, the date, and a quick sentence that they wrote.  If it is pretty understandable I write it just like they do.  If their spelling is really difficult to understand I write what they wanted to say above my notes.  Like this: 
A quick note...most of my attention is on the student, not the notes! 
#3 Who should I meet with each day? 
I stopped keeping a schedule!  It was so cumbersome to try to keep up with my daily group, especially when you take into account absences.  Now I just keep one page per table.  I go to that table and meet with one student.  They might not be at the table, they could be on the floor on a rug so I go meet with them there.  This helps me keep moving, even when we are riddled with absences during cold and flu season!  This also allows me to search out that kiddo that NEEDS a conference on a given day.  Those are the moments that mean the most.  

#4  The notebook....
I used to use a big notebook and tab the pages with each child's name.....I would keep their notes together all year long in one large space.  It was a lot to carry around with me and getting it ready each year was pretty time consuming.  Now I slap a label on a 25 cent composition book and get to work.  It is easy to carry around with me, takes little time to prep, and I have extra pages to write in if I need to.  It has saved me so much time and energy this year and is more useful than the old notebook I was carrying around.  

That's it!  I started this about 3 months ago and it has turned my conferring time around.  Thanks for stopping by today!

Pencil Problems Solved

Pencils.  That's all I have to say and your heart starts to beat a little faster right?  What is it about pencils that can be so frustrating in an elementary classroom?  Well, I took the liberty of making a little list.....from a student point of view:

  • Pencil sharpeners are fun.  You can stick in a perfectly good pencil and chew it down to nothing if you push hard enough.  What kid can resist that? 
  • Those erasers are YUMMY!
  • NOT having a pencil makes that funny vein stick out on your teachers neck.  It's fun to tell her/him that you don't have a pencil multiple times a day. 
  • Losing your pencil requires you to walk around the room for an undetermined amount of time to look for a new one.  This gives you time to NOT do any work.
  • Picking the lead out of the end of the pencil (or the metal off of the top) can be challenging but if you put your mind to it, it's pretty cool when they come off. 
  • If you lose a pencil it's no problem, everyone else has one that looks just the same (and probably still has that yummy eraser!) so you can just take one and no one will ever know.  
Pencils are my personal nemesis in the classroom.  I don't like managing them, I don't like the sound of the pencil sharpener, and I really just NEED my kids to be prepared.  To crush my nemesis I came up with this solution a couple of years ago after a particularly difficult day with pencils.  To be honest, I didn't know if it was going to work or not but I was DONE arguing about lost pencils, broken pencils, broken pencil sharpeners, and just anything pencil related!  I shared this on IG last week and had a lot of questions so I did a quick little run down on how to make them today.  Pencil Labels! Here is what I'm talking about:  
This is 2 classes worth of pencils: 1 pencil each! 
 I use regular address labels to label each child's pencil at the beginning of each quarter.  With a little scotch tape these labels stay put all quarter long!  Each child gets one pencil and they have to use it and be responsible for it every day.  If their pencil disappears, there's no replacing it with a new one (otherwise they would disappear left and right!).  If they ruin it (break it in half...), eat the eraser, or just in general make a mess out of it they have to use it.  Here is a peek at pencils from the end of the quarter. 
That's after 9 weeks of use! 
Not bad right?  Well I have to be honest....the first time I did this they did not look like this.  Most of them were missing the metal at the top, they were little nubs, or the label had been chewed on so much that you could hardly read the name.  After 3 sets of pencils this year they have really learned to be RESPONSIBLE and take care of their belongings.  

How do you make them?  Easy peasy....
First: Attach a label to the pencil. (Print their names on the first)

Next: Smooth down the edges of the label. 
Then: Add scotch tape at an angle and wrap it to cover the label.  
Last: Enjoy all of your free time now that you don't have to worry about pencils! 
Can you tell that I am teaching my How To unit in writing right now??  Sorry, I couldn't resist.  

That's that!  I started this 3 years ago when I taught first grade and have used the same pencil strategy for the last 2 in Kinder and it works for all.  As an added bonus,  I collect them each day and hand them out each morning.  This has two advantages: 
#1 I can quickly sharpen them as needed so I don't have to listen to the pencil sharpener.....EVER!  and 
#2 I use them to take attendance.  Once I give my quick directions in the a.m. I hand out their pencils and they get straight to work and I have a physical reminder to take attendance.  

I hope this has been helpful to you.  I promise, if you are fed up with pencils this will get you through to the end of the year.  Enjoy the remainder of you weekend and have a great week! I have lots to share this week so don't forget to check back!