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The Writing Conference

By Patrick Lashmar May 12, 2015

The writing conference is a face-to-face discussion about writing that allows the writer to get immediate response and feedback. The conference allows the teacher to individualize the writing development of each student. During the conference, the teacher does a great deal of listening. His or her main role is to ask good questions. By asking questions the teacher can present alternatives that the student may not have considered. Encouragement can be given, and suggestions made for revision.

Some conferences take only a few seconds. They may take the form of an encouraging comment. On the other hand, a conference may be a five- or ten-minute discussion with one student. The frequency and length of a writing conference depends on the individual needs of the students and the reality of the timetable.

Consider the following while conducting writing conferences.

Much more feedback can be given orally than can be written in the same amount of time.
Leave the pencil or pen in the hand of the student. Do not take over ownership of the writing from the students by “correcting” all of it for them.

Conference questions may deal with:

  • purpose
  • content
  • revision skills
  • editing skills
  • proofreading skills
The nature of the questioning will depend on the stage of the piece of writing and the ability of the student.

Don't ask too many questions.

Sample Questions for Writing Conferences

Purpose Questions
  • Why did you decide to write on this subject?
  • What is your purpose?
  • Do you think your purpose is clear to the reader? Why or why not?
Content Questions
  • What is the most important thing you are trying to say?
  • Which ideas in your writing do you consider most important?
  • Can you add to these ideas?
  • What else does your reader need to know in order to understand what you are trying to say?
  • What details could you add to make your argument more convincing?
Audience Questions
  • Whom are you trying to persuade in this letter?
  • How would your writing change if you were writing this for the principal? How would your writing change if you were writing this for a young child?
  • How do you expect your audience to react to the ideas in your letter?
Revising and Editing
  • Is there a part of your poem that you are not happy with? Why?
  • Does each paragraph have an effective opening sentence?
  • Read the last two sentences. Do you have the events in the correct order?
  • Can you think of a better way to say this?
  • Can you do anything to make your opening sentence more interesting?
  • Does your story end too quickly?
  • Is each paragraph on topic?
  • Can you combine these two sentences?
  • Can you use more exact adjectives?
  • What other problems are you having that I might be able to help you with?
Proofreading Questions
  • Read this story aloud with me. Do the punctuation marks make your meaning clear?
  • There are spelling mistakes in the first stanza. Can you find two of them?
  • Does the first word in the second sentence need a capital letter?
  • Do the subject and the verb in this sentence agree? How do you know?
  • What is the difference between the words deer and dear? Which word to you need here?

Try involving your young authors in writing conferences. These cooperative experiences can go a long way towards helping students improve their work. I'll post some links below to grade specific resources you can use to try a Writing Conferences in your classroom today!

Use the Writing Conference with Portfolios:

Use the Writing Conference with Personal StudentBOOKS:

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