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All Write! Conference Post #2

Carl Anderson presented a session about conferring that blew me away.  Here are the notes about conferring with writers in a strategic way.  I would argue many of these principals are applicable to both reading and writing conferences.

Carl Anderson:  Conferring with a Vision

Resource:  http://www.strategicwritingconferences.com/

What do I teach in a writing conference?

How long?  4-7 minutes.

Teaching should be about half of the time.

Conferring Style #1

“On the spot conferring”:

  • We start w/o any ideas of what we might teach the student.

  • We figure out what to teach during the first minute of a conference.

Start with “How’s it going?”

Need to decide what to teach within a minute.


  • Lots of anxiety

  • Too much time spent researching a child

  • (Lack of) accuracy:  Are we truly picking something that will help this child develop as a writer?

  • (Lack of) consistency:  It takes many conferences over an extended period of time to fully develop a skill.

See a lot of flat-lining of writing through a year.  

Teaching of writing takes a lot of over and over work.  

Conferring Style #2

“Strategic” Conferring

  • We have writing goals for students that help us anticipate where we might go.

  • Our goals for students help us find a focus in the first part of the conference.

  • Over time, we look to see how students are doing with those goals, and adjust our teaching to help students meet them.

Goal is to develop the skill over the piece.  

Benefits of this type:

  • Less anxiety!

  • More teaching time!

  • Greater accuracy!

  • Greater consistency!


Note-Taking Forms:  A Tool for Tracking Goals

Why we are taking notes?

  • Because we read that good writing teachers take notes.

  • Because our principal/coach/staff developer told us we should.

  • Because my principal collects my notes periodically.


Why we should be taking notes.

  • Our notes can help us track when we see students, so we don’t leave anyone out.

  • Most importantly, we take notes about our goals for students, preparing us for future conferences with them.

  • In this sense, note taking is a way to reflect on what we have learned about a student in a conference, and what to next with him/her.


Do not take notes during the conference.  

You have less conferences when you take notes.   Investment of time to make future conferences better.


Simple grid of the class.  Each student gets a box.  Place the new one on top of it in the notebook.  Flip back before each conference.  Notice the things you have been working on before the conference.


Two column chart.  

Conference Notes Goals

Has one for every student in the class.  Drawback is that you don’t see every student in the class.


What kinds of goals do we have?

  • Qualities of Writing (focus, details, voice, conventions)

  • Process (rehearsal, drafting, revising, editing)

  • Initiative


How many goals?

  • 3 to 5 goals per student for half the year.

  • Goad need to be writing goals, not unit goals.

  • Expect that you will work on these goals across several units of study.


When students meet goals, set new ones to work on over the next few units.

You might work on some goals with some students for the entire school year.


When do I set goals?

  • The first unit of study is an important time to set goals.

  • After conferences.

  • After reading students’ writing.

  • After observing students at work.



  • Set precise goals.

  • Don’t be rigid about your goals.  Still ask the question:  What’s going on?  How is it going?

  • Talk about goals explicitly in conferences.

  • Use goals to help you decide when to see kids.