A few years ago, I made a shift to student-led conferences. At the time, many students had never done this type of conference and were at a loss for words. To make it more accessible, I prepped them, gave them questions to direct their thinking. The work was valuable, but it took a lot of class time.
This year, I let the work and the child speak with no prep. There might be some silent moments. But, I thought the process was necessary. The conference could be an assessment of sorts.
I started each conference by asking: What do you want to talk about first? Reading or writing? Some didn’t care. Others showed clear preferences. Their response to that question was telling.
Some students were uncomfortable. They needed prompts. There were silent moments. Most jumped in and rose to the task, approximating the work.
Students read their writing, their responses to reading, explained their self-assessments and compared their assessments to mine. We talked about the differences. Looked for evidence. Adjusted our thinking, identified what could be done to lift the level of the work, and made new goals.
One student kept stopping to edit as he read. The “oh I messed up” turned to “that is what writers do. We read and re-read our work and to make it better.”
I listened to another student read her writing. It was better than I had originally thought. We looked at the work and discovered she had instinctively punctuated each run on sentence, giving it meaning and voice. Hearing her read brought it to life and demonstrated the need for punctuation. I couldn’t have planned a better writing conference.
Every student showed what they understood and where we need to work. Many students made decisions to revise their writing. They couldn’t help but notice what was missing; they could have done more. One student reflected on how he had thought about putting things into his writing, and in fact, thought he had. But after looking, he realized, his thoughts never made it to the page.
Conferencing with parents this way was a natural outgrowth of the work we do in class.
This week, I celebrate student-led conferences not only to inform parents but as incredible learning time. Thank you, Ruth Ayers, for Celebrate this Week link up. Find more celebrations here.