It’s that time of the semester again! Student conferences!
I do look forward to having conferences with my students. I enjoy sitting down with them and talking about their drafts. To be honest, this is why I became a writing teacher – so I could talk to people about their writing. I love the process of figuring out with a fellow writer how the piece of writing they are working on could be developed and revised.
Although the goal of these conferences in first-year writing is to work together with the student/writer, there is no one correct or perfect way of doing it. Me—I prefer to collect the students’ drafts ahead of time. I read through the drafts and then make notes and questions about things I want to talk about. Then when the student/writer comes in I use this as the start of the conversation. I begin by asking questions and (hopefully) the dialogue begins and together we work out a plan for revision.
I know others do it differently – some teachers have the students bring in their drafts, some people have group conferences. But I like the chance to think about the papers before I respond. However there is a danger here. Sometimes I think too much about the drafts and I have to be careful I’m not telling the students what to do. In other words I have to be careful that I don’t take their papers over. I also need to be careful I don’t spend too much time responding to the draft before the student/writer comes to my office. One of the advantages of having student conferences is so I don’t have to spend a lot of time writing comments. The 20 or so minutes I spend in the conference is supposed to be my responding time. So I don’t want to spend another 20-30 minutes planning out my response before the conference. So I limit myself to a small post-it note. I read through the draft, make notes on a post-it note. This limits my response and also allows the conversation between myself and the student to develop since I haven’t scripted out a plan for the student’s paper. I also always begin by asking the student to tell me what he/she is thinking. And since we have done a round of peer response before they have come to the conference, I ask them what their responders have said too. And since their responders usually have good ideas, it makes my job easier. I can validate their peer responders and build off what they have said.
But this is just the way I do it. How do you do your conferences?