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Citation: Anderson, Carl. (2000). How's It Going? A Practical Guide to Conferring with Student Writers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Title: How's It Going? A Practical Guide to Conferring with Student Writers
Year: 2000
Publisher: Heinemann
City: Portsmouth, NH
Medium: Book
Author(s): Anderson, Carl
Grades: Second Grade to Eighth Grade
Category: Writing Partnerships and Peer Conferences Writing Conferences
Annotation: Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned teacher who confers with students, this resource will be a wonderful learning tool for you. Carl Anderson’s opening chapter title, “Conferences are Conversations,” captures the spirit of this groundbreaking book. He defines a conference as a conversation. He approaches students as fellow writers and listens intently and with compassion. The simple truth is that conferences really are talk; talk with the intention of getting to know our students’ strengths and next steps and then deepening their understanding. The hard truth is that creating meaningful and practical one-on-one conversations with students can feel like herding a cat as students ramble and we get sidetracked. It’s easy to become so worried about “doing conferences right” that we either avoid or over-structure them. We get bogged down with questions such as, “What should I do during conferences with my students?”, “How can I create time for conferences?” and “What are the other kids doing while I meet with just one student?” Through actual conference scripts, readers are able to “listen in” on Carl’s conferences. It soon becomes clear that there are an infinite number of ways to develop and engage in responsive and rigorous conversation with students. His modeling and many suggestions can help you establish a predictable structure and focus for your own on-on-one collaborations with students.

Carl provides teaching tips to strengthen students’ writing strategies, suggestions for further professional reading, examples of student writing, and advice on how to bridge minilessons and conferences. Additionally, in the appendix, Carl includes mentor texts organized by various genres for both primary and intermediate grade students. For coaches, administrators, and staff developers, this short resource would be a perfect book study for any group interested in studying how to confer effectively with students.

Pages 146-150 in "How’s It Going?" might be helpful as an introduction to the concept of writing partnerships. Carl Anderson notes that classrooms from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Workshop have begun using “writing partnerships” as a beginning step in the process of peer response. The “partnership” has a brief turn-and-talk right after the teaching part of the mini lesson to engage in thinking and sharing about how they might use the teaching point in their writing for the day. He also mentions that if you feel that your students are ready for actual peer conferences in which they are giving specific feedback, the best way to teach them is to “fishbowl” the process. This means that the one group of peers (pairs or a small group) would sit in the middle of a circle of the rest of the class. You would give a small amount of background information; then you would ask the peers to begin to confer. Throughout their conference you would periodically briefly stop them and name the moves they are using to the rest of the class. And you might even stop in the middle of their conference and teach them how to improve.