As the literacy coach in a K-8 building, one of my goals for next year is to provide more PD and resources for the staff. Of course, time is limited, so I am thinking about creative ways to embed learning into our existing structures. Part of my plan is to post useful literacy information in highly visible parts of the school: the copy room, the teachers’ lunch room, the bathroom.
To begin, I thought about the needs of the staff. Last year, I facilitated a study group with the primary teachers centered around conferring. One of their concerns was a feeling of uncertainty about the first few moments of a conference. They were not sure which questions to ask or how to zero in on a singular teaching point. Indeed, this can be difficult when you are staring at a piece of writing that seems to be chock full of teaching points.
My favorite resource for conferring with writers is the work of Carl Anderson. I was lucky to attend his session last year at the Annual Illinois Comprehensive Literacy and Reading Recovery Conference. When Carl Anderson sits down side-by-side with a child, his first step is to figure out what the child is doing as a writer. For this purpose, he suggested three lenses to look through:
1. Look at the child’s work on the table in front of you. What do you notice?
2. Think about what you already know about this student. Does she typically struggle with topic choice? Has he been working on adding detail?
3. Consider your minilesson. What did you teach these young writers today? Do you see evidence of it yet in his or her writing?
This is helpful advice when beginning any writing conference. While our heads are spinning with possibilities, these three lenses can help us focus our conference to one teaching point. Using the information gleaned from one of these lenses will help us teach the writer one thing.
I made this poster, and I will post it for teachers to think about while they are heating up their lunches or making copies.
Literacy Coach, Reader, Writer