RM Winter 2016 FLIP

Ready, Set, Goal! StrengtheningWriting Conferences through Goal Setting

Amanda Pringle, Orchard Park Elementary, Fort Mill, SC Shawnna Helf, Winthrop University

Reading Matters Teaching Matters

of how goal setting can be introduced and implemented within the framework of Writer’s Workshop and (b) describe several considerations for using goal setting during writing conferences. Writing Conferences Writing conferences are an integral part of Writer’s Workshop. Conferences provide teachers opportunities to individualize instruction and offer guidance to students in a supportive writing environment (Calkins, 2004). The teacher uses this information to evaluate the student’s progress, determine whether the student is applying the skills presented during the mini-lessons, support students who require additional instruction, and inform their instructional decisions. Effective writing conferences follow a predictable structure, focus on a few key points, and specifically address the student’s need (Anderson, 2000; Calkins, Hartman, &White, 2005; Graves, 1982). Essential to the success of the conference is student ownership. A writing conference typically begins with the student sharing a piece of writing they’re working on and identifying what is being working on as a writer. This provides the teacher insight into how the student thinks about their writing as well as the writing process (Graves, 2004). It is important that writers learn to take ownership over their writing, which might lead to increased motivation and engagement in the process. Among the evidence-based practices associated with effective writing conferences that can be used to increase students’ ownership and responsibility is goal setting (Troia, 2014). Goal setting has been found to be effective in improving writing among a range of learners (Estrada &Warren, 2014; Gillespie & Graham, 2014; Graham & Perin, 2007; Hansen &Wills, 2014; Schunk, 2003). As Troia (2014) describes, in order for writing goals to have the biggest impact on writing behavior, performance, and engagement they should be “challenging (i.e., just beyond the student’s current level of writing skill); proximal (i.e., attainable within a short period of time); concrete; and self-selected or collaboratively established (because real or perceived control boosts achievement motivation)” (p. 31). When students set goals for their writing, they are better able to focus on the important aspects of their writing and become more self-directed in their work. Mermelstein (2013), describes self-directed writers as the “bosses of their own learning” (p. 6). In fact, the process described in this article aligns with Mermelstein’s work in Self-Directed Writers: The Third Essential Element in the Writing Workshop . Involving students in goal setting and encouraging student participation

Abstract —Conferences are an essential component of Writer’s Workshop. They provide teachers opportunities to individualize instruction and offer guidance to students in an effort to support their development as writers. In this article we describe how goal setting can be introduced and implemented in order to improve writing conferences and student engagement in the writing process. Considerations for implementation are discussed. Chase carried his writing notebook back to the conference table and sat down with a sigh. I asked him, “How is your rough draft coming along?” He showed me his rough draft, which was written in one huge block of writing. It lacked paragraphs, indentations, and transition words. He did not have an introduction or conclusion. I thought, “Was he not paying attention when I modeled how to write these in my mini-lessons?” I pulled out a piece of paper and showed himhow to rewrite his rough draft using the correct format. I essentially wrote the whole thing for him, using his words and integrating mine. He followed along and nodded in agreement as I pointed out each important element. He took the paper back to his desk and began his final copy. I thought, “That went well. He seemed to understand what he needed to do to make his writing better.” The following week I met with Chase again to discuss another piece of writing. He pulled out his rough draft. Again, it was written in one block of writing, without paragraphs and indentations. Again, it lacked an introduction and conclusion. I was confused and to be honest slightly irritated. Why had he reverted back to his old way of writing when I had clearly shown him how to organize his writing? He did not apply any of the changes I had shown him during our last conference. He was waiting for me to fix his writing for him, instead of doing it on his own. I (Amanda) realized I needed to change the way I was conducting writing conferences in my classroom. It was so important to me that my students improve their writing. That was the problem! It did not matter how important it was to me; I was not the writer. The improvement needed to be important to the student. I began asking myself, “How can I shift the desire to improve their writing fromme to them? How can I give my students more ownership of their work? How can I motivate them to want to improve their writing skills?”My answers to these questions led me to begin involving my students in setting writing goals. This has not only transformed my writing conferences but also the way I plan and implement writing instruction in my classroom. The purpose of this article is to (a) provide teachers with an overview

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