“Great!” I said, although I was really thinking Oh, no! Conferencing is one of those hard parts of writing workshop that I think takes a lot of practice, and I have to admit I was feeling a little rusty. Connie explained to her writers that she wanted each of them to choose a piece of writing that wasn’t yet finished and to jot down on a post it what it was they needed help with. While this was going on, I had a chance to jot down some standard phrases in my notebook, just as a reminder:
How can I help?
Tell me what you are going to do.
What will you work on next?
I hoped I would know what to say to help these young writers.
First up for me was Hunter who came to the table with a large volume of Dr. Seuss stories (really, he could barely lift it) in addition to his writing. He was writing facts about Dr. Seuss, and the post-it said he wanted help with “bold beginnings” and interesting facts.” When I looked at his work I noticed he was trying to copy the reference information at the end of the book, thinking that it was a listing of facts. I explained to him that what he was looking at was information that told where and when each story was made. Hunter looked disappointed. Clearly, not the interesting facts he was looking for. Luckily, I had noticed that some of the references were photo credits, so I flipped to the front pages and discovered that the collection opened with biographical information on Dr. Seuss, complete with pictures. Yes!
“Hunter, I think I can show you how to find some interesting facts about Dr. Seuss. Would you like me to show you?” I asked.
“Sure,” he replied.
I pointed to a picture of Ted Geisel as a young man with two small children. We talked about the picture and I explained that one of his facts might be that Dr. Seuss had two children, a boy and a girl. Then we looked at a picture of the author as a young boy proudly holding a fish at the end of a rod.
“What can you tell me about this picture?” I asked.
“I think he liked to go fishing,” said Hunter. “And look at this one. I think he was in the Army! And I could say that his real name was Ted.”
“How did you know that?” I questioned.
“I can read some of those words,” Hunter replied, pointing to a caption.
We talked some more, and at the end of the conference I asked Hunter what he learned. “I learned I can find facts in the pictures,” he said with a smile.
Thanks to Hunter and his confidence and knowledge of himself as a writer, it was a good beginning for me, maybe even a bold one.