For the Love of Conferring (SOL #16)

I love conferring. It’s one of my favorite things to do as a teacher.

When students are engaged, it works beautifully. I get to sit and chat with students about their writing and give them one-on-one instruction. The other students are engrossed in writing their own papers. (Not that this is how it always plays out.)

Right now, my classes are working on argument writing. They studied and researched the topic of child soldiers, and they are arguing whether or not child soldiers should be granted amnesty. They have struggled with this topic – with the real world implications, with the complicated decision of what makes someone a victim and what makes someone a perpetrator, and how to craft an argument around such a delicate subject. Most of them knew nothing about child soldiers before they began this research.

So I love seeing the discovery in their writing, and how their thinking plays out in the writing process. I keep telling kids that their arguments or reasoning is so nuanced, which makes what they’re writing even stronger. Some get stuck. “How do I explain my evidence?” Lucky for them (and for me), I have prepared a set of materials beforehand with tips on writing counter arguments, transitions, and more. I gave them a checklist to use, which has become one of the most important tools in my writing conferences.

What makes me the most proud, though, is seeing their hard work. They are learning. They are becoming smarter, and they are recognizing that this process of working through the struggle will make them better writers. I told them at the beginning of this unit that this will probably be the hardest writing they have ever done, and that I expected them to push themselves.

They are rising to the challenge.

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