Today take note of the body language of each student you confer with. As the conference continues are they becoming lifeless or engaged? Is their pencil itching to continue working on the page or do they begin fiddling inside their desks, looking for a pencil sharpener or an extra eraser or anything else to avoid the writing? Record your observations before moving to your next conference.
What did you notice about your students’ demeanors after they had a conversation with you about their writing? If there were different reactions, what do you think
made the difference? Consider if you taught writers or writing today. Which did you teach yesterday? How can you ensure that tomorrow (and everyday after for-the-rest-of-your-life) you will teach writers, not the writing?
To me conferring isn't about "correcting" their writing. When I was in Dallas at a writing conference that Lucy Calkins presented she said something very profound and I heard several other teachers comment also. If the student's published piece is significantly more advanced than their entries in their notebooks you wrote the piece during the conferring session. Several of my colleagues have now been looking at Carl Andersons work and restructuring this time.
One of things that really helps me is to think of them as a person or my own writing partner. How do I want them to feel after they leave this session? My answer...empowered as a writer. To continue to write; not give up.
Tomorrow as I work with students on their thesis statements I plan to take note of their body language as we progress into the drafting process of a genre that makes some of them uncomfortable.
Hopefully, when conferring with students they feel we are in this together and not the teacher pointing out all of the mistakes. This may be a good survey question to ask the kids.