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Writing Conferences

Research on the writing process suggests that writers learn the most about writing when they share and reflect on their writing. In classrooms, this is most commonly done through writing conferences as part of the revision stage. Whether they occur with pairs, with small groups, or with the teacher, the social benefits of sharing writing improves writing.

Why conduct writing conferences?

  • They involve a non-threatening audience of peers
  • Peers or teacher can provide immediate feedback or can immediately ask for clarifications
  • They can promote positive attitudes about writing and increased motivation to revise
  • Students experience a wide range of writing abilities and topics
When to use: Before reading During reading After reading
How to use: Individually With small groups Whole class setting

Examples

There are many, many ways to conduct writing conferences. Teachers will have the most success if they model conference behaviors with the whole class. Class discussions can focus on what sorts of comments and actions are useful and constructive, and what sorts of behaviors are less helpful to the author sharing his or her work.

Some teachers decide to create very focused conferences, for example encouraging kids to only react to a piece of writing. Other conferences focus only on editing a piece of writing. It may be difficult for young kids to parse apart the differences. Many conferences with young kids involve both reaction and editing.

Donald Graves (1982) identified six characteristics of successful writing conferences. Conferences should: (1) have a predictable structure; (2) focus on a few points; (3) demonstrate solutions to students' problems; (4) permit role reversals; (5) encourage use of a vocabulary appropriate for writing; and (6) stimulate pleasure in writing. Most teachers use some variant of these characteristics in their classroom.

Reading and Writing Conferences: A Blended Approach

Here's a resource on Reading and Writing Conferences: A Blended Approach that includes a short video on conferences as well as the organization, assessment, and communication with parents about writing.

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Beginning Procedures for Writing Conferences

Wondering how to get started with writing, and writing conferences? Two Writing Teachers offer a short video on Beginning Procedures that you may find useful.

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Building a Community of Writers

This online workshop on Building a Community of Writers guides users through nurturing a classroom of writers, how to establish shared values of good writing, and encourages teachers to become a member of the writing community by sharing their own.

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Differentiated instruction

for Second Language Learners, students of varying reading skill, and for younger learners

  • Writing instruction with new language learners should be done carefully, slowly and with deep consideration of the student's abilities. Fitzgerald and Amendum, in their chapter from the Graham book below, suggest three writing activities that are particularly beneficial for multilingual learners – Daily News, dialogue journals, and writing persuasive essays using a mnemonic device.
  • Understanding the "Silent Period" with English Language Learners describes ways teachers can communicate verbally and nonverbally with students

See the research that supports this strategy

Anderson, C. (2000). How's it going?: A practical guide to conferring with student writers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Graham, S., MacArthur, C. A., & Fitzgerald, J. (Eds.). (2007). Best practices in writing instruction. NY: Guilford Press.

Graves, D. (1982). Six guideposts to a successful writing conference. Learning, 11(4), 76-77.

Children's books to use with this strategy

All About Rattlesnakes 

All About Rattlesnakes 

Large watercolor illustrations help to explain everything you want to know about rattlesnakes.

Flower Garden

Flower Garden

In this springtime tale, a young girl and her father plant a flower box together.

From Tadpole to Frog 

From Tadpole to Frog 

Metamorphosis can be a confusing idea, but this text and colorful illustrations give an easily understandable introduction to the life cycle of frogs.

Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn

Short poems and colorful illustrations celebrate everyday life in this poetry collection by James Stevenson.

When I Was Young in the Mountains

When I Was Young in the Mountains

In this ode to country living, Rylant shares a glimpse into one family's life.

Honey I Love and Other Poems

Honey I Love and Other Poems

A collection of poetry conveys the joys of a young girl.

Bigmama's

Bigmama's

Every year the narrator and his family take a trip down to Cottondale, Florida, to visit his grandmother, Bigmama. This autobiographical story recalls the joys of summer and the contrast between the author's life in the city and Bigmama’s lush, rural home. While the illustrations suggest it was a period of segregation, this thought never overpowers the carefree summer celebration.

The Relatives Came

The Relatives Came

A large, slightly frumpy family travels to visit their equally large and frumpy relatives to share food, conversation, and a good time, proving that there’s always room for one more! The relatives' visit is humorously chronicled in the lively illustrations and understated text of this Caldecott Honor book.

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