Conferencing a piece of writing: What I do…

12439093_10153689901384132_8793394185808958194_nI’ve been asked to explain how I review a piece of writing with a student. This is an interesting question. When conferencing a piece of writing,  I’m not giving the writing a mark against standards. I’m looking for how to help the student be a better writer. I like to call it taking a global close look at the writing with the student. There is a risk of becoming too micro driven when teaching writing. This is one reason why I love Steve Peha’s book Be a Better Writer because Steve talks about the things which matter most.

And yes, I took those words from Steve Peha’s book Be a Better Writer.

be-a-better-writer-2Secondly, when a student gives me a piece of writing to review the first thing I like the student to do is read their writing to me. This often prompts the student to make initial corrections and pose questions about their own writing. This is where I start asking the student simple questions. Why did you write about…? What structure did you use?

I never write on a student’s piece of writing. I will either write the whole text out if really needed or ask the student to make corrections using notes we have made. Ownership is very important!

My purpose is to collect information around what the student knows, understands and can do.

What does the student’s writing tell be about their understanding of:

The Text:

Have they written for a particular audience? Do they know the purpose for their writing? Does the student have an understanding of structure and organisation? Has the student used a taught genre structure? What language choices has the student made?

Text Features:

Has the student used paragraphs? What knowledge of sentence structure does the student have? Is there a consistent tense throughout their writing? Are they aware of pronouns and conjunctions even if they cannot articulate why?


Is the student using correct sentence punctuation? Is the student using articles, plurals, prepositions, subject-verb agreement even if they cannot articulate why?


Has the student used correct grammar at the word choice level? Is the student using verbs within their text? Is the spelling reasonable?

When working with a student, I am looking at how to improve their writing at their point of need. At this stage, the student and I will look at their personal learning goals and set new goals. Goals are set for text, text features, sentence structure and word choice.

A formal assessment of a piece of writing is a different process and I will share how I do this in a future post.

Cheers Nina

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