Spending time on a college campus as finals near always leads to hearing familiar complaints in the air. These are complaints about the workload, upcoming exams, and, of course, writing papers. “I hate writing” is one of the most common complaints that I’ve noticed at a wide variety of grade levels. Students will often actively try to avoid writing if possible. Why is this?
While good writing does include knowledge of grammar and mechanics, I would argue that good craft is even more important. Craft is how successful writing develops, and when it is ignored, students grow only in grammar and cookie-cutter formats. They lose their creativity due to a lack of encouragement and lessons about craft itself. Then, they end up hating to write.
The beginning of writing time can start with a mini lesson that highlights a form of craft that they can use in their own writing. Then, the students should be able to write independently in a notebook that is personal to them. It is during this independent writing time that the writing conferences occur.
Compliments can be found everywhere. Even a student who spelled a word incorrectly, but took the time to sound it out in a way that makes sense, can be complimented on that effort because it can still be read. The conferences also provide a good time for the teacher to make note of what the student may be ready to do in the future and what the whole class may need to work on in a classroom lesson.
By structuring conferences this way, the teacher is building the student’s confidence instead of pointing out things that are done incorrectly. The grammar lessons are saved for another time with different pieces of writing. Conferences provide a time to praise children who may not be used to getting positive feedback. If a child has done something particularly well, it can even be highlighted to the entire class, which will likely make that student’s entire day. It leads to students who believe in themselves and can do more than format an essay “correctly.” By lifting students up in this way, we can prevent the hatred of writing and craft better creative writers.