What are writing conferences and why do we need them?

OH MAN! When I first started teaching, writing conferences were a HOT MESS in my classroom.

I literally would have volunteered to take every teacher's lunch, recess, and carpool duty for the year if just one of them would do my writing conferences for me. (Don't forget that I am located in the Phoenix area and temperatures get up to 120 degrees.) 

Yup, that's how much I hated writing conferences.

So, what happens when we hate doing something?

We stop doing it. We put it off as long as humanly possible. That explains the mound of dirty clothes you probably have sitting in your laundry room right now.

I started to reflect on the reasons that I hated writing conferences. It was actually a very simple revelation. I hated writing conferences because I was lacking knowledge and training. I had lots of questions and very few answers.

Y'all, I didn't even really understand what a writing conference was, or why I needed to have them! And who really needs a conference anyway? What are we supposed to do during writing conferences? 

I honestly thought that I was the only clueless one and so I didn't want to ask the questions.

That was crazy. I now know that teaching writing is crazy hard for everyone. When I asked my teacher Facebook groups what their biggest challenge was with teaching writing, the number one answer was that they didn't have time. The number two answer was that they didn't know how to do writing conferences. 

Are writing conferences a bit of a mystery to you?

If so, you are not alone, but I've got your back!

What is a writing conference?

A writing conference is a conversation with our writers.

It really is that simple. You are chatting about writing with your kiddos.

“Conferences are not mini lectures but the working talk of fellow writers sharing their experience with the writing process.” –Don Murray

The key to this conversation is that you are helping your students to become better writers in the process. 

The goal of every writing conference is to teach your students something about writing that they can use in their future pieces. We do this by talking to them about their writing goals and challenges. 

Why conference?

To Build Relationships 

Your students need you to build positive relationships with them. My students love guided group time and this is when I get to know my students best. Most children are more comfortable sharing ideas and asking for help when they are in a small group. Conferencing is a great time to show your students that you care about them and are there to help them grow. 

Each Student Has Different Needs

Whole group mini-lessons are great for teaching content to students. However, not every student is on the same level. Some of your students will need you to reteach those skills, or may need completely different lessons to catch up to that skill. Others will just need your guidance. Some students will need you to enrich them with higher-level skills. We hold small group lessons for math and reading, and I feel it is just as important to hold these small group conferences in writing as well to reach our learners at their specific level. 

To Help Students Make Choices When Writing

Your students may struggle making choices during writing. They may need help determining their topics or help with deciding on organization. Your students are making choices every day in their writing and conferencing with your students to discuss these choices will help your writers grow. 

To Receive and Give Feedback

Students lose motivation in writing if they do not get feedback from their teacher. Conferences are the easiest time to give your students quick and immediate feedback. It is easier to hold small conferences and give oral feedback to your students as they are working on their drafts and learning how to write. Group conferences are also the perfect time to guide students in giving each other feedback. This is a hard skill for students to learn! 

To Guide Your Future Whole Group Lessons

As you hold conferences you may discover that a lesson needs to be retaught. You may even discover that your students could actually skip a lesson! Paying close attention to what your class needs during conferences could save you time later, and is a great way to truly guide your class with meaningful lessons. 

Who Needs a Conference?


Struggling writers might get more conferences than strong writers. However, it is important that struggling writers have time to work independently and strong writers need help to continue growing.

I am going to take this one step farther. Everyone needs a conference every single week.

WHAT?!!! Jamie, there is NO WAY I can do that.

Oh, but you can my friend!

And the key to making that happen is GROUP CONFERENCES!

Just like you have small groups for reading, you can make small groups for writing! While your writers are working on their independent writing, you can meet with a small group for a conference.

It's life changing.

If you want to read more about group conferences, click HERE.

I hope that this gives you a taste of just how important writing conferences are! No more fearing the conference. Let's jump in and start talking with our writers!

Not So Wimpy Writing Masterclass

Would you like me to help you to implement a successful writing workshop that will have your students excited to write?

I have created an online professional development course to help teachers implement a writing workshop. It include 28 videos, a PD certificate and lots of printables.

Click HERE to learn more about the Not So Wimpy Writing Masterclass.

Have a Not So Wimpy day!