For those of you who have been reading my past blogs, you know I have recently been focusing many of them on ways to get kids to become more self-directed. I’ve settled for now on the word self-directed (Thanks, Jen if you are reading this!) I just think it’s more rigorous than simply saying I want kids to be independent. Yes, I want kids to work by themselves, but I also want the work that they do to be of high quality. The word self-directed embodies more of that image.
Today I want to share a quick conference I had last week with a first grader named Hasik. I share this conference because while doing this conference (and really all conferences) I keep in mind not only the content I’m trying to teach, but also how to ensure that what I teach gets added into the repertoire of what they do during the independent phase of the Writing Workshop. In this way, they are not only working by themselves, but they are also doing high quality and very individualized work.
I decided to write this blog because at times I think teachers are more focused on what they’re teaching kids in a conference and not as focused on ensuring that what they taught will help kids become more self-directed during the independent phase of Writing Workshop.
After, I share the conference, I’ll name out a few of things I deliberately did in order to move Hasik into become more and more self-directed.
I began this conference by watching Hasik write independently. What I noticed through my observations was that Hasik began by rereading his writing piece.
(It’s important for you to know that Hasik’s teacher, Marnie had not conducted a focus lesson that day on rereading.)
He pulled out a pen was just about to mark up his writing when I called him over.
Leah: I noticed that you were rereading your writing today without your teacher telling you to. That’s such a good idea. Tell me a bit about why you decided to begin today by rereading.
Hasik: I was looking to see what was wrong.
Leah: Say more about what you mean by that.
Hasik: (He points to a sentence on his page.) This is wrong. It says: I mad a snowman. That doesn’t sound right.
Leah: I have to compliment you. Without anyone telling you to, you reread your piece looking to see if anything was wrong, if there were any parts that didn’t make sense, if there were some changes that you wanted to make. It’s one thing to do this when the teacher asks you to, but it really shows your understanding of it when you do it without your teacher asking you to. If there is ever any time in Writing Workshop where you find you’re not sure what to do next, you can always do what you did today. You can reread and see if there is anything that is wrong, anything that doesn’t make sense or that you want to change.
Leah: You’re right, I mad a snowman doesn’t make sense. What do you want it to say? What would make sense?
Hasik: I made a snowman.
Leah: You want to change ‘mad’ to ‘made’. You’re right that would make more sense. I bet you’ve seen the word made before in books that you’ve read. Can you picture that word in your head?
Hasik: (Hazic closes his eyes. The class has practiced this strategy before.)
Leah: Why don’t you try to write the word made in my notebook?
(Hasik writes maed.)
Leah: You have all of the right letters, but we just need to change the order. Make another picture in your head. What do you think the order of that word might be?
Hasik writes the word correctly now.
Leah: Look, you got it! (I pull out the book The Snowy Day, which has the word made in). Look at how you spelled the word made and now look at how it is spelled in the book, The Snowy Day. Can you point to the word made in that book? You were able to write the word exactly the way it looks in books. From now on, I want you to spell that word made the way it looks in books. Let’s practice it a few more time before you leave me. Write it big. Write it small.
(Hasik practices writing it a few more times.)
Leah: From now on without a teacher telling you to you can reread your writing and see if it makes sense and make changes just like you did today. You can also from now on spell the word made the way it looks in books. Have a great rest of your writing time.
Now that you’ve ‘seen’ the conference, let’s look at through the lens of this question:
What did I do to ensure that Hasik would add what I taught to his repertoire of things he could do during the independent phase of the Writing Workshop?
I’ve highlighted some of the words below that I think were important components of my conference. These are the components that I believe will help you turn any conference into one that teaches kids new content, as well helping them to become more self-directed.
First, I watched Hasik to see what he did by himself on that particular day.
Then, the next thing I did was question him about what he was doing.
After listening to him, I mirrored his own words back to him and let him know how amazing it was that he did that without his teacher asking him to. I asked him to continue doing this type of work during future independent periods of Writing Workshop.
Later in the conference, rather than giving him the correct spelling of made, I made sure he was engaged by asking him to picture the word made and then try to write it. When he didn’t get it the first time, I had him try it again letting him know that he had the right letters but they were not in the right order.
I then showed him the word made in the book The Snowy Day. I had him practice writing the word a few times to further engage him in the process. Finally I ended the conference by being clear with my language on what he could now do during the independent phase of Writing Workshop.
I would love to know your thoughts!
Have you tried any of these techniques in your conferences?
Are there other techniques that have worked in your conferences to help kids become more self-directed?
What are some of your struggles with this concept?