Planning for the Conference: You’ll want to capture the details of the peer review by either taking turns jotting down notes about what each person or group of people have to say or by video recording the conversation. Conference are typically most productive when they are 35-45 minutes long.
The writing conference is a time for focused, productive dialogue between writers and readers. This dialogue is important as writers work to revise their writing. Revision is a messy and complicated process, and the writing conference can provide a space for for writers to receive meaningful feedback, support, and encouragement. During a writing conference, the writer should talk most– posing questions, thinking out loud, discussing his or her process, challenges and satisfactions.
The reader or reviewer should never write on the writer’s work and never tell the writer what to do or how to revise. Those are the writer’s decisions. The readers can, however, use “I” statements to give thoughtful response to the writer’s work. For example, a reviewer might comment “I think this strategy works because…” or “I am really drawn to this last paragraph because… or “This sentence seems unclear because…” or “I’m not sure your draft meets the assignment guidelines because…” It is very important to monitor your time carefully so that you can participate in a conference as both a writer and a reader. Before you read your partner’s paper, discuss the following questions to prompt discussion about the rhetorical choices the writers have made:
- What is you purpose for this piece? What do you want readers to know, see, think, consider or do after reading it?
- Who is your audience? What are their beliefs, interests, background knowledge about the topic or experience? How did you work to meet those needs?
- What is the context of this piece? Was it produced as an assignment? In what physical locations would you readers have experienced this text and why does it matter?
- How did you choose your medium? Why is it effective for this piece? What strategies did you use to achieve your purpose? Were any of the strategies specific to the medium?
- How did you arrange/organize the essay? Why do it think it works?
- Who have you shared this composition with? What feedback have you gotten so far and how has it impacted your writing process?
After this discussion, you should have a good understanding of what the writer is trying to accomplish in the composition and how the writer plans to accomplish it. Now, ask the writer.
- In this draft, what are you most satisfied with? Why?
- In this draft, what are you least satisfied with? Why?
- What are the three most important concerns you want me to address about this draft?
- Taking into consideration the audience, purpose, context, and medium we discussed, what suggestions do you have for improving this draft?
In a perfect world, the writer would read his or her draft out loud while the reader listens and makes notes, focusing on the writers three most important concerns. Since we have 25 writers in class, this would be very distracting; therefore, I ask that you read each others’ drafts silently and make notes as you read. Once you are done reading, let the writer know your overall impressions of the draft. What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses? Use the rest of the time to address the writer’s specific concerns and provide feedback focused on those questions.
Remember that being overly nice is not necessarily helpful for the writer. Also remember that the writer needs detailed, actionable feedback in order to improve.
Repeat the process by changing roles from writer to reviewer.