Please watch the videos below. They offer some insight into what independent writing and conferring could look like for you.
What is independent writing?
"Independent writing is a daily structured time that provides students an ongoing opportunity to develop their own processes of writing" (Fountas and Pinnell 2018). It is a time when our learners express by themselves and use the knowledge and skills they developed throughout the stages of writing instruction to further personalize their writing processes as they design, create and compose. Independent writing is an opportunity for our students showcase their writing proficiency and build upon their understanding as they organize and develop their individual styles and strategies and creatively and critically write to express ideas and information, defend and support, rationalize or justify and/or write for joy. Independent writing is the final stage of writing in our Responsive Literacy Framework.
What is conferring?
Conferring is having a genuine and meaningful conversations with a student to develop a sense of where they are at with independent writing and what feedback we can offer so they can move forward with their learning. We listen to their thinking, talk about their writing and provide personalized support to hone their individual writing processes. By creating a safe conferring environment, we help writers adapt and develop their own skills and strategies as they explore expression. We sit with our learners and dig deeper to individualize instruction and support our them where they are at within the reading process and the time we spend together is productive, authentic and relevant.
Why is independent writing important?
Through independent writing, our students can express a wide range of genres and topics for varieties of audiences and diversify their writing skills. By offering independent writing time, they expand their writing skills and apply metacognitive strategies and writing processes. They can compose messages, stories, speeches as they create, revise, edit and share and explore text features, literary elements and devices. When our students play with the writing process, they are able to diversify styles, hone conventions, employ personal or social or cultural contexts as they develop their individual processes. Independent writing can be driven by our learners' own interests as we are able to encourage voice, choice and joy in their expression.
Why is conferring important?
Conferring with our students allows us to understand our students' processing. As we listen to their responses before, during and after engaging in writing and ask questions to further their thinking while we discover their strengths and challenges. We can use this time to listen to a student talk about their writing, teach specific strategies, ask them to interpret, analyze or evaluate their texts to uncover what students think of writing and themselves as writers. We can also discover our writer's stamina and ethic; explore the writing process; and to gather formative assessment so we are able to offer feedback to further our students' writing skills and thinking skills.
What can independent writing look like?
During independent writing, students learn to engage in all aspects of the writing process in order to effectively communicate a message to their intended audience. Students might plan, draft, edit their texts or work on the a published version of a text. You may offer prompts for exploration or your students may decide what they want to express and in what form or structure. Schedule a time during the day where they can independently write for a period of time - beginning with a short duration and and over time, slowly build writing stamina. Encourage our writers to set goals based on our feedback and reflect on their writing comparing pieces of text over time (perhaps in a portfolio). Build a collaborative sharing process for our writers to generate ideas and be audiences to express ideas and critical, creative or reflective products. Try to celebrate our students' successes and strengths through the writing process and strive to ensure our writers find the joy in writing.
What does conferring look like?
We can pull up a chair and sit next to our writers or face to face or call them to sit with you at a table or desk. Prompt the student to share their thinking around the text they have created - like how is your writing going, how can I help, what do you think of this piece of text, what do you want to try next with your writing, what would you like to do when this piece is finished? Through prompting, we can review what the student is writing, offer feedback and teach or review specific strategies as well as formatively assess the communication aspect of the literacy competencies - expressing ideas and information; present ideas and information; and justify and defend ideas and decisions.