I like to keep my writing toolkits pretty plain and simple. I don’t want a lot of extraneous stuff in there cluttering up my folders. So, in order for something to make it into my toolkit, it has to be helpful for a lot of kids, for a lot of reasons.
That’s why I find class stories, shared writing and interactive writing to be indispensable tools for conferring.
In case you aren’t already familiar with the power of writing together, you can read an older post about shared writing, here. And another post about oral storytelling here. For even more, you should read Interactive Writing, by Andrea McCarrier, Gay Su Pinnell, and Irene Fountas.
Whether it’s storytelling, or shared writing, or interactive writing, any piece of writing that your whole class created together is going to be extremely helpful to have at your fingertips while you are moving about the classroom conferring.
I used to do all my shared writing and interactive writing on very large chart paper, so that I could easily display it on the walls and kids would be able to read it from their spots around the room. I still do this–but I’ve been doing lots of shared and interactive writing lately using regular sized copy paper on a document camera. I can still tape the smaller pieces to a larger chart-sized paper to display the whole story–and I can make photocopies of the work to carry around with me more easily.
Here are a few ways that I use shared writing and interactive writing as part of my conferring toolkit:
Tip #1: When your whole class knows a story, you can easily pull it out during a conference to work on revision. For example, check out this story, written together with kindergarteners (they told me the words, I drew the pictures and wrote).
The original story needed some work, don’t you think? In a conference with one child, I taught her about making a beginning that really sounds like storytelling. We used interactive writing: she wrote the word wall words for the new beginning, and I wrote the other words:
In later one-one conferences, the story wound up getting put in a different order, and a new ending was added. Copies of this story still live in my narrative conferring toolkit, and I use it often for adding labels, adding dialogue, and many other teaching points.
Tip #2: When the text is familiar, it makes a great piece to have kids add to or work on during a conference as practice with a new strategy, before transferring the strategy to their own writing.
In a first grade classroom, we started this poem as a group one very warm day in April (the heat in the building wouldn’t turn off even though it was 70 degrees outside!).
Then, when I taught a small group that they could use repetition, we did this:
Of course, none of the kids were writing about being hot in their own poems–that is certainly not the point! No! But they did all work on using repetition and comparisons. I added both group poems to my poetry toolkit, to use with future kids — as great mentors for using comparisons, punctuation (or not), and repetition.
Tip #3: I often will manipulate the class writing to intentionally leave parts out, so that you can add those parts in conferring or small group work. Like in this persuasive letter that a group of third graders worked on (telling me their ideas, with me scribing:
Notice the ending is somewhat weak? That was intentional on my part. The kids told it to me that way, and I left it. I anticipated that endings/conclusions in persuasive writing would be something to focus later on in the unit, especially in small groups and conferring, so I decided not to write a strong ending the first time around. I made copies of the letter and stuck them in my conferring toolkit so that whenever I meet with a kid or two and want to teach different ways to write endings/conclusions, we could practice on this letter.
Don’t forget to stay with us all week long as we share what’s inside our conferring toolkits!
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