Paula Kristmanson
Joseph Dicks
Josée Le Bouthillier
January 2008
« Conferences are the heart of the
workshop. In a very real sense, they
are the main reason we go to all the
trouble to set up the norms, the
structures, and processes of workshop
in the first place. What we’re trying so
hard to create is time and space to sit
down with kids, one at a time, and
work for a few minutes on just what
each student needs. »
Zemelman and al. (2007)
Types of individual
conference with a student
•  Content
•  Process
•  Editing
General Suggestions for Individual
•  State your expectations at the start of the writing workshop
(phase 5 - individual writing).
•  Rule number 1 - The teacher is never to be interrupted by other
students during conferencing.
•  To maximize time, go to the student’s desk and not the
•  Be unpredictable and go in zigzags in going “physically” from
desk to desk.
•  In mini-lessons, start by teaching strategies/skills that lead to
writer autonomy (e.g., If you encounter this problem, here how
you can solve it on your own.)
•  Try to avoid dominating the students. Let the students do much
of the talking. The goal is teaching students to solve their own
problems by guiding them with cues and not by giving the
Atwell (1987)
Content Conference
•  Ask student to tell you about the content (e.g.,
the topic, theme, plot) of his/her draft.
(Sometimes as a language teacher, if you look
at the draft, you will probably have difficulty
concentrating on the content because problems
with linguistic conventions may distract you).
•  Start with a general question: Talk to me about
the content of your text or Tell me your story.
•  For more specific questions, please see the
sheet distributed.
Process Conference
The purposes of process conference are to help
1.  Learn how to reflect on their work;
2.  Review their progress;
3.  Identify their problems;
4.  Set their goals;
5.  Plan the next steps they will take.
Zemelman and al. (2007)
Questions to Ask During
Process Conference
What are you working on?
How is it going?
What do you plan to do next?
How did you go about writing this?
Did you make any changes? How did you do
that change?
•  What do you think of this piece of writing?
Graves (1983) and Zemelman and al. (2007)
Editing Conference
•  Read the student’s text and concentrate on one
problem in particular.
•  Try to give clues to the student to correct his/her
own mistakes instead of correcting him/her
•  Teach the rule or the skill to the student.
•  If you notice that one problem is common in many
texts, you can do a whole-class mini-lesson.
•  If you notice that a few students have the same
problem, you can do a group mini-lesson during
guided writing.
Examples of Questions to Ask
During Editing Conferences
•  What is the subject of your verb? What
do you when your subject is the third
person plural (ils/elles)? Can you
review your piece with that rule in mind?
•  I see that you spelled “organisation”
with an “s”. This is the French spelling.
What would you use in English?
Anecdotal Reports:
Writing Folder
•  Provide students with a folder to keep
“everything” they will produce while writing.
That includes the brainstorming, the graphic
organizer, the drafts and so on.
•  On the cover of the folder, ask students to
write the title “Published Texts”. As they
write, they will indicate in that section the
names of the texts they have completed (i.e.,
their “publications”).
Anecdotal Reports:
Writing Folder (cont’d)
•  On the interior of the cover, ask
students to write “New ideas”. As they
come up with new topics that interest
them for future writing pieces, they will
write the topics in that section.
Anecdotal Reports:
Writing Folder (cont’d)
•  On the interior of the back cover of the folder,
ask students to write “Skills/Concepts/
Strategies”. You will write what the student
needs to improve most about his/her writing
(Only 1 or 2 aspects at a time).
•  In that section, indicate what skill/concept/
strategy you taught the student during
conferencing. As the student masters the skill/
concept/strategy, indicate it with a date and
signature and add a new skills/concepts/
strategies to be mastered.
Anecdotal Reports:
Writing Folder (cont’d)
•  On the back of the back cover, ask students
to write “Topics and interests in which I am an
expert”. As students develop expertise, they
can write it in that section.
•  In the folder, you can ask the students to
include a personal grammar that they will
develop as you teach them new rules and to
include a personal dictionary as they learn
new words. You can provide them with a list
of the most common words, verification
checklists, and a description of writing traits.
Graves, (1983)
Anecdotal Reports:
Examples of Evaluation Grids
Graves (1983)
•  1 sheet per student
skill taught
* (-) poor, (o) impossible to determine, (+) good
Anecdotal Reports:
Examples of Evaluation Grids
•  Atwell (1987)
Conference report for: name of student
Title, date and
Skills used correctly
Skills taught
•  Atwell, Nancie. (1987). In the Middle: Writing,
reading, and learning with adolescents.
Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Heinemann.
•  Graves, Donald. (1983). Writing: Teachers and
Children at Work: The Essential Guide.
Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
•  Zemelman and al. (2007). Best Practice: Today’s
Standards for Teaching & Learning in America’s
Schools. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann
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