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!