Saturday, November 3, 2012

Teacher-Student Conferences On Writing Do Wonders to Improve Writing Skills of ELLs:)

Becoming fully proficient in the writing process is no easy task for many English language learners.  It takes time, practice, and regular productive feedback and guidance from teachers.  Technology, group work, partner paragraphs/essays, daily journals, etc. all assist ELLs along the way, but it is that special time with the teacher which can make a major difference in clarifying the writing process.

In my classes, I have always included that one-to-one conference time with each student when working on essay writing.  Students enjoy it because they know that for 2 or 3 minutes, they have 100% of my attention while the rest of the class continues to revise or edit their writing. 

How are such conferences conducted?  Let me share how I do it and then I will address the video clip of a teacher conducting a writing conference with a 5th grader.   For me, the type of writing conference would depend on where the student is in the writing process. 

If analyzing for grammar issues, I would tell the students that I am looking to see X amount of complex sentences in their work.  In a conference, we would read the student's work as a team with pausing to identify complex sentences while checking for accuracy.  If there were no complex sentences, we would see how some of the simple sentences could be joined and how.  I would start the process with one and then have the student try it on his/her own with me watching.

If looking for more details (The man ate his dinner-->The tall thin man gobbled down his food because he hadn't eaten in 2 days!), I would have the student pull out a sentence that he felt was weak on development and then we would collaborate in strengthening it.  The student would then try a few more with me providing feedback through the process.

Basically, the focus of the conference could be determined by the student, the teacher, or both.

In this video, STUDENT-TEACHER CONFERENCES, the teacher reviews a student's work with him.  She praises what he has done well and then, by helping him analyze the problems of his writing through referral to the sample essays in his writing book, guides him along the path to writing a more detailed, more complete, more effective persuasive essay.  Here it is crucial not to tell a student what to do, but rather set him/her on the right path to creating an original work worthy of the teacher's praise.

There are many ways to conduct such conferences AND they can be done in all content areas.  I think that they are worth the time because students can safely open up to teachers about any problems they are having with an assignment:)


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