Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Going Beyond "How's it Going?"

Ever Wonder What to Ask a Writer in a Conference once you have posted the initial question, "How's it going?" While that question is a perfect opener and often drives the conference, sometimes it sits there like a lame duck, or the student just doesn't know how to answer beyond, "Uh, fine." It's times like these that we need to tap into our own schema, pull out our loaded guns, and ask a more probing question.

After we've had a minute to read the child's writing, our own schema kicks fires up and we know where we want to go with this writer. We see an opportunity to work with an individual child on a particular skill or craft and it's time to ask the question... but what might be the best questions to ask?

Below is a chart I adapted from Carl Anderson's Assessing Writers. See what you think.

Conferring With Students On Their Writing:

Asking the Right Questions

Start with: HOW’S IT GOING?

Situation                                                                        What to ask

The meaning isn’t clear                         What are you trying to say here? (point to a
                                                             spot and read aloud)

The genre doesn’t fit                             What can you do to make it look more like a ___?

The structure is off                               How did you organize your writing?

                                                             What parts are really important ones that help you
                                                               make your point?

                                                              How might you break this really long paragraph
                                                               into littler ones?

The details & support are lacking        How can you help your reader visualize ___?
                                                                      (pick any sense)
                                                                     What else might the reader need to know?

The writer’s voice is not present                  How have you tried to get your voice in your

                                                                    How can you use punctuation to give your writing

The conventions are absent or incorrect
(word choice, correctness)                          What are you looking for as you edit?

                                                                 What kind of punctuation do you need here___?

                                                                 What other words can you use to help your
                                                                  readers understand that you’re sad?
                                                                (Find a way to ask them to consider that they’ve
                                                                 said the same word repeatedly)

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