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Conferencing

Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.
— Tom Stoppard, quoted in Read Write Teach by Linda Rief

Conferencing is one of the most important ways for teachers to provide individualized feedback and instruction to student writers. Conferences usually take place during the independent writing time of the Writer's Workshop. It does not need to take a lot of time, sometimes as little as four or five minutes per student. The idea is not to spend the conference time going over an entire piece of writing, rather, isolate an area in the content of the writing that needs work. 

Asking questions is an effective way to structure the conference. The purpose is not to provide answers, but to  guide and support students as they explore possibilities.

Download sample comments/questions

 

Conferring helps with ongoing assessment of learning. What do you notice that your students need help with? Would a mini-lesson be helpful? Your observations can provide you with mini-lesson topics based directly on the needs of your students. 

Peer Conferences

During peer conferences, students share drafts of their writing with a partner. The partners focus on positive aspects of the piece, ask questions and make suggestions for clarity. It is up to the writer to decide what to revise. 

Effective peer conferencing is a learned skill that needs to be modelled and practised in order to be effective.

Additional Resources

Teacher-Led Conferences: High School teacher Penny Kittle offers video examples writing conferences and use of conferencing questions in her blog.

Peer Conferences: Strategies and Consequences” by Jack Wilde. In this article you will find some concrete suggestions for teaching students effective, non-threatening conferencing skills.

Student-Led Conferences: In this resource you will find ways to harness conferences to encourage students to own their writing.