Writing Conferences


     Review the Conferencing Overview


While students are involved in independent writing, I use this time to confer with some writers.  I take notes during conferences to document students' progress and to plan future mini-lessons.  During this time I may:

  • Listen to students read their entries aloud

  • Help students decide what they want to say

  • Provide feedback

  • Re-teach skills taught during mini lessons

  • Teach necessary new skills

  • Reinforce a writer's strengths

  • Give writers new ways of thinking



How do I Conference?

     During this independent writing activity time, I am circulating around the room,  at the beginning of class, writing anecdotal records, or conferring with individual students about their written assignments they are working on. [I use a clip board to keep track] If the student is writing in his/her quick write notebook -  or writing about their territories,  or independent writing, then I stop and ask a few questions concerning the ideas they are planning for future writing. 

      I focus on the strategies being used by the writer and not the specific text conventions and patterns. During this conference I use a chart for marking and use it in assessment of student development skills. The goal is to guide students in developing strategies that will transfer to many different types of writing. It is helpful to keep notes about what was discussed in the conference as a part of ongoing assessment.

     As writing workshop starts, conferences are short (1-2 minutes) meetings. Later, longer conferences will be needed to discuss and help students reflect on their writing.

For a quick overview of all students I use this form to monitor which form of writing the student is currently working on.



What do I look for during the Conference?

    Besides the above form- I also use  the questions below which I keep on the back of a clipboard to help the student verbalize writing strategies they may be using. I try to recall for the student a previous mini-lesson, so that the student connects with their writing and internalizes the mini-lessons.

  • What are you working on at the moment?
  • How is it going with what you're writing on?
  • Why did you choose that particular topic?
  • What type of writing would suit this selection?
  • What main ideas are in this piece ?
  • How would you change the way you began this piece?
  • What can you write to make that point more clear?
  • What will you write about next?
  • What do you want me to notice/help you with today?
  • What are you learning about yourself as a writer?
  • Can you read this part out loud? Do you think that sounds correct when you read it out loud?
  • What did we say about using commas?

I have mad a small list of typical conference problems with the writing and questions I might consider asking during workshop.


How many students do I confer with each day?

     During Writer's Workshop, I try to confer with six or seven or more students every day. Through these conferences, I gain a sense of each student's progress, and I am able to respond immediately to each student's work, offering individualized assistance as needed. I usually move in a random fashion around the room to confer so that students do not anticipate who I will confer with next. My reasoning for this is some students will only pay attention to what they are doing for that time frame when they know they will be asked something about what they are doing. I spend a few minutes with each student to assess his/her application of that day's mini-lesson.

     I rarely have the opportunity to confer with every student every day, but I can check in with every student at least once or twice a week. Small group conferences can also be effective to reinforce a skill or strategy with a number of students who are struggling.


Why Conference?

     The Reader's/Writer's Workshop provides an individualized classroom curriculum that implement the key learning outcomes outlined in The Foundation Documents (Atlantic Province Educational Foundation Documents) as given by the Department of Education.  Teachers can explore, assess, evaluate and confer in a student friendly setting. As a teacher I have found I have time to really get to know my students as readers and writers. I learn about what they care about. I learn about their personal lives and develop a deep connection to who they are as students and as people. It doesn't get any better than that! An added benefit is my students feel free to come to me because they know I care.