A How-To Guide on Writing Conferences

Spending time making notes on your students writing assignments is only half of what needs to be done.  Most students do not look at their graded papers when they get them back.  For most students, conferencing will make a difference in knowing what they did well and what needs improvement.  

Just like when you scaffold and model the requirements for an essay in a mini-lesson, you do the same thing individually for each student through conferencing.  Many students don’t need to hear the lessons you taught at the beginning of the school year.  Conferencing will help you deliver differentiated instruction.

You want to conference with your students on each writing assignment even if it’s for one minute.  Review no more than five ways they can improve their paper and it is imperative that you find something you like about their paper. Even if it’s their handwriting.

Making one on one eye contact with students to let them know what they should do differently and keep doing makes a difference in their progress.  This also builds a relationship between you and your student.  It’s important not to get hung up on what they can’t do, but what they CAN do!

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It’s helpful to have a monthly schedule, student’s anecdotal notes, and teacher’s anecdotal notes to keep documentation.

Always set a positive tone for each conference.  Start the conference off supportively with at least one compliment.  Once you state the compliment, be sure to talk softly so that other students can’t eavesdrop on the conference.  Then constructively recommend 3-5 suggestions of ways to improve.  Lastly, close the conference in a way that builds excitement for your student!

Make it a habit for your students to feel success after each essay.  They put the time in to write the assignment.  Many times their effort and accomplishments in a paper are overshadowed with the mistakes.  If you have trouble finding something your student achieved in the writing assignment, here are some compliment ideas from my conference card:

  • Great word spacing.
  • Good job indenting.
  • Terrific use of punctuation.
  • Perfect spelling/grammar.
  • Excellent capitalization.
  • Fantastic job using vivid words.
  • Wonderful use of transition words.
  • Logically ordered reasons.
  • Introduction paragraph ties in with main idea.
  • Superb topic sentence(s).
  • Amazing facts and details.
  • Marvelous knockout in your conclusion, I can’t wait to read your next one!  
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Forms to help your future instruction.

I usually conference with students once I finish brainstorming on the next essay.  That way it gives me time to grade the previous essay and then students know exactly what to improve on while working on the new essay.  Another option is to walk around during the editing and/or final draft phase to conference.  You can either call students to sit by you or conference while you are already circulating around the classroom.  Every classroom and schedule is different, therefore you’ll want to find a way that works best for you.  It’s hard to fit the time in, but it truly pays off later in the school year!


Writing Conference Forms CoverClick here for my conference card and tracking sheets.  Excellent for mixed or leveled classes to give students individualized instruction.




12 thoughts on “A How-To Guide on Writing Conferences”

  1. Conferring with writers is one of my favorite parts of writer’s workshop. It’s like gold mining! Your tips and suggestions give us a great place to start when we’re stumped. Thank you!

    1. You’re welcome! It’s my favorite part of our writing workshop as well. It’s a great way to get to know your students better!

    1. Many times conferences get pushed to the side with all that we have to do in our classrooms. These ideas should help teachers get started.

  2. You provide many great tips. I agree, conferring one on one is the most effective instruction. Thank-you for the tips and reminders!

  3. Conferring with students is so important to individualizing instruction! I love your sample comments and clear & easy forms. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I agree that conferencing with students about their writing is the way they learn. I spent too many hours grading papers, using editing marks, writing comments. None of this has the impact of a short conversation with the student. Thank you for your great tips.

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