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Conferring with Students

Last Updated: Jan 09, 2017 01:28PM PST

Over the course of a unit, how frequently should I confer with my students?
As you teach each unit, plan to hold a formal writing conference at least once with each student. In longer units, plan to formally confer at least twice. The “Do Ahead” section in the Week Overview will alert you when conferring should begin. Veteran teachers of Being a Writer have found that, in addition to these formal conferences, they can usually confer with several students every day for quick “check-in” conferences. This means they can confer informally with every student at least once a week.

One teacher describes how she uses technology to enhance and record writing conferences: “Using the ‘Conference Notes’ record sheet in the CCC Classview App and the audio tool on my iPad (which converts voice to text) allows me to capture the conversations with my students efficiently. I can also take photos of student work to upload into their digital portfolios. Using these digital tools has really enhanced my ability to capture students’ thinking and my teaching points.”

How will I decide with whom to confer on a given day?
After you have joined the students in writing for the first few minutes, scan the room to see if any students have had trouble getting started. You may need to have a brief conference to help one or more students begin. When planning for the unit, consider the number of Teacher Conference Notes and the length of the unit to plan how many days you will have to meet with each of your writers across the unit. This can help you to make a tentative plan about who to meetwith each day.

What should I focus on during a conference with a student? 

Most importantly, follow the student’s lead; however, the Teacher Conference
Notes within the lessons provide guidance by offering questions that will focus the conference on the skills and writing craft being taught in the lesson. The notes are written specifically to support each genre unit, and the focus changes depending on where you are within the unit. The focus of all conferring is on supporting the students as they become better writers. Remember to refer back to your previous notes during each conference with a student.

What questions might I ask in conferences in addition to the ones in the Conference Notes? 
The Introduction of the Teacher’s Manual suggests open-ended questions you might ask. These questions convey genuine interest in the students’ writing and in the students as authors. Examples include:

  • Where did you get the idea for this piece?
  • What have you learned about good writing that you can use in this piece?
  • What is one question you want to ask me about your piece?
  • What do you want help with?


How will conferences change over the course of the year? 

Conferences start in Unit 1 (grades 2–5) or Unit 2 (grades K–1). Early in the year,
conferences will focus on just getting to know the students as writers—their skills, motivation, and interests. As the year progresses, the focus will shift to particular aspects of writing that you’ve taught in the lessons, including writing craft, author’s purpose, and writing skills and conventions

Where should I hold conferences?

Your Teacher’s Manual suggests that you confer with students at a back table. Having a specific conference space in your classroom sets a familiar location and experience for each conference. You may also consider conferring with students at their desks (either pull up a chair or kneel). This option helps to reduce transition time and allows the writer to experience less interruption from the writing process before and after the discussion.

How will I record the notes I take during a conference?

You can record your observations from each conference on the corresponding “Conference Notes” record sheet (CN) in the Assessment Resource Book or in the CCC ClassView assessment app.

How should I organize my conference notes? 

The “Conference Notes” record sheet (CN) in the Assessment Resource Book captures your experiences when conferring with students using the Teacher Conference Notes found in the Teacher's Manual. The record sheets may be kept in a folder, binder, or separate student writing folders. Using a clipboard during conferences may be helpful. You can also record your conference notes directly into the CCC ClassView assessment app.


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