Five minutes are not to be scoffed at! It is amazing what can be accomplished during a 5-minute one-on-one writing conference with a student writer. Here’s how:
- Have the student read the rough draft aloud. Your job is to protect and promote the student writer’s idea. This is accomplished by listening and caring! It was tempting to ask this CORE Level 2 student to add more details to this tiny paragraph, but in listening (and in knowing where this student was in the process of skill acquisition), I realized that this type of “ask” would certainly be discouraging. So, first and foremost, do everything to listen and encourage.
- Now choose your battles. I’m always on the lookout for opportunities to help students open their paragraphs with a sentence that will draw the reader into the idea. This paragraph needed a HOOK. Often students, once they begin flowing into an idea, will have a sentence that, with a little rearranging, is transformed into a terrific hook. This is the case with this Section 2 paragraph inspired by Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. While there is nothing wrong with the first sentence, it is certainly more intriguing to begin: We all lived together for a week.
- A simple skill that young writers can learn easily during the 5-Minute Conference is to leave space on the page—space between words, space between sentences, space at the margins. A trick I’ve learned is to remind students why space matters and I do this by demonstrating somewhere within the rough draft white space. As example I might say and write: “Do you mean ‘yummyapples’ or ‘yummy apples’ here?”
- There are no misspellings here, but there is an opportunity to add a comma in a sentence that is made up of a dependent and an independent clause. “The word ‘if’ is the clue, “I say to my student, “Can you hear where I pause after the word ‘me’ in this sentence?” And then I plop a red comma down, right where it should be: If I had to share a story about me, I would share about Utah.
- The twist at the end is set perfectly for a simple OMIT edit. I simply point out that the phrase “big family vacations” is used twice in this sentence and suggest omitting the last phrase and replacing it with a single word: one. The student loved this idea!
Not only were skills introduced, I guarantee these skills were mastered during this meaningful 5-Minute Conference.
[As an aside, just to prove my point, I read this student’s work and the above post aloud to myself. This took 3.5 minutes!
FIVE minutes, once a week will make all the difference in the world!