Sunday, January 22, 2012

Let Them Lead

I have to blog this because I laughed out loud as I was reading it.

I'm working on my Capstone and I'm studying conferring, and I'm reading this book No Better Way to Teach Writing, which is about how a group of Australian teachers. After listening to Donald Graves and reading one of his books, they decided to implement Writers' Workshop, which they called "The Conference Approach." One teacher highlights her struggle to let the child lead during a conference, allowing him to teach himself rather than just telling him what to do:

"Wait," I said. "Where is that part in the story?"
Irritated, he looked, then said, "I haven't wrote that yet."
"Well, where would you write it so the reader knows your story is about a car race?"
He picked up his pencil and wrote the sentence--at the end! Into my impatient mind flashed the uncharitable thought, 'No, dimwit, write it at the beginning.' But I managed to stay silent...When he finished, I asked him to read it back.
...he said..."That sentence doesn't make sense there."

Isn't it amazing what can happen when we allow children to take the lead in conferences? Providing lean prompts, asking good questions, directing children to notice and consider pertinent aspects of their own writing...because she let him figure out for himself that it didn't make sense, this student learned a skill that he could use in subsequent pieces, all on his own. He learned the importance of telling the reader what his story is about, and how to use an arrow to insert information that is missing from the beginning or middle of a piece.

Holding back our own ideas and letting children lead in difficult, but so powerful.

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