A lot of times people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.
I agree with Steve Jobs’ words regarding innovation, but I think it’s equally true that people often do know what they want. Take my recent shoe shopping experience, for example. I have very small feet, and anyone else out there with atypically tiny or large feet knows that shoe shopping can be discouraging. I was looking for black boots, and I handed a pair off the display over to the sales associate when he asked if he could help me.
“These in a size five, please,” I said.
He came back with two boxes and a big smile. “I didn’t have anything in a five, but I brought out two different sixes to see if those would work.”
Sixes? Unless my feet had magically grown during his trip to the storeroom, there was no way those would work. Because I once worked in sales, I understood his response. Often there is an expectation to never come back to a customer empty-handed. The whole idea behind “add-on” sales was to add more revenue, or at least leave your customer appreciating your personal attention. But the key is understanding the customer’s needs, not just suggesting anything that comes to mind.
I reflected on this experience when responding to an email request asking if I had any lessons to get students to follow prompts more closely. Helping kids make prompts their own is my specialty and I have plenty of opinions about how young writers are overprompted, but I didn’t have what she was asking for. So I replied honestly, “I don’t have any lessons like that. Let me know if you are interested in ways for students to develop personally engaging and relevant approaches to prompts.” I believe it would have been a waste of our time if I brought out the sixes when she was asking for fives. She was clear on what she wanted and I was clear that I didn’t have it.
This week we are clear on the power of conferring for helping readers and writers of all ages grow. We’re highlighting conferring resources, plus more as always. Enjoy!
Senior Editor, Choice Literacy
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Here are three pieces from the Choice Literacy archives to help you build your conferring skills.
Ruth Shagoury and Andie Cunningham have tips for conferences where language is a barrier in The Art of Listening in Writing Conferences with English Language Learners:
Debbie Miller explains The Difference Between Conferring and Touching Base:
Patrick Allen, the author of Conferring: The Keystone of Reader’s Workshop, has advice for teachers in this podcast:
Snow Sculpture is a beautiful poem about talking with children from Your Daily Poem website. If you love poetry, we highly recommend their free service of poems delivered to you inbox every morning:
The daily routines of writers are fascinating. This compilation is great fodder for a minilesson on habits, or just fun reading if you enjoy a peek into the lives of your literary heroes:
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Midyear is a wonderful time for taking conferences to the next level, now that you know your students well and they trust you. In Looking for the Open Door, Beth Lawson gently challenges a young writer in her fourth-grade classroom to reach his full potential:
Amanda Adrian concludes her series on peer conferring, analyzing the value of students working on their own after instruction and practice:
We have a video-rich edition of the Big Fresh this week, since one of the best ways to ponder student conferences is to view them.
Katie DiCesare confers with first grader JJ, and reflects on the challenges of building decoding and comprehension skills (as well as stamina) with young readers:
In Sean Moore’s conference with second grader TJ, the strategies of backing up and rereading as well as attending to the “bossy e” are discussed:
Franki Sibberson helps fourth grader Anna meld her love for lists of animal facts with her plans to write a report:
This final conference was filmed just last week, in the midst of The Hobbit movie craze among teens. Katie Baydo-Reed confers with one of her eighth graders who is just beginning to read the classic, and discusses the fantasy genre with her:
That’s all for this week!