Conferring in writers workshop in kindergarten and first grade

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After just a few months of writers workshop you can see how far my kindergarteners have come. This post will explain the writing conference and conferring.

Writer’s Workshop and Conferring (FREE Download)

October 29 Deedee 7 min read

After just a few months of writers workshop you can see how far my kindergarteners have come. This post will explain conferring in writers workshop and give you tips to make it go smoothly!

Conferring in Writers Workshop:  Making Books

We have just completed our second unit in our Writing Through the Years unit on narrative writing.  I grabbed a few samples on my way out of my classroom door this evening and I am excited to share them with you. (I am not sure why my scanner put a red line through these images… technology fail.)

We talked about creating a cover that grabs the reader’s attention… Love the roller coaster!
Great details in her writing!
I am excited that her story clearly has a beginning, middle, and end.  She also included her favorite parts!
This writing is from a different writer.
We also talked about keeping our titles short!   Atta girl!
She told about the various things she did there!
Little Miss A included her favorite part!

After just a few months of writers workshop you can see how far my kindergarteners have come. This post will explain the writing conference and conferring.

Here are some of the anchor charts that we are using to guide our thinking.After just a few months of writers workshop you can see how far my kindergarteners have come. This post will explain the writing conference and conferring.

By studying the work of other authors, we can learn the qualities of good writing.

We used this chart all unit long to help with our spelling independence.

Because we launched writing books this month, this was a chart that was essential.   This helped remind students to go back and check their writing… not a simple task when you are 5 and  6 years old.

After just a few months of writers workshop you can see how far my kindergarteners have come. This post will explain conferring in writers workshop and give you tips to make it go smoothly!

Conferring in Writers Workshop:  The Struggle

Now for the conferring… deep breath… doesn’t this seem like the hardest part?

MY STRUGGLE:  I sit down to confer with a student and I get overwhelmed.  I know I need to get to 4 students in a 20 minute period, but I am not sure where to begin with my little writer.  I listen to them read their story and my mind is racing with various teaching ideas and I’m distracted by the chatter that is happening at the table next to me.  When the child is done reading their piece… I mumble… good job and wander away.  What a waste of time!  SO…

Conferring in Writers Workshop:  My System

I started this system towards the end of last year and it helped tremendously.

  • I have 20 students and I need to meet with EACH of them once a week.
  • Every student is at a different place in their writing development.  (SEE the free Continuum at the end of this blog post.)  Therefore, I need to have a clear idea of what my students’ next steps are.   There is no point in expecting a beginning runner to run a marathon the next week.  Same with emergent writers.

Here is the outline of the system.

Let’s assume it is Monday

On Monday, Matt, Caleb, Suzi, and Lidia will hand in their folder when writers workshop is over.  They will just put it on my desk and we move on to the next subject of the day.  During my prep (ha!  I mean after school), I look over those 4 students body of work in their writing folder.  I think about where they are on the writing continuum and I think about their next steps.

After just a few months of writers workshop you can see how far my kindergarteners have come. This post will explain conferring in writers workshop and give you tips to make it go smoothly!

Now it is Tuesday

I have finished my writing mini-lesson and excused my students to go write.  NOW Matt, Caleb, Suzi, and Lidia will stay on the carpet with me for a few minutes while I hand out writing goals.  This takes about 5 minutes tops because I am prepared.  I am not teaching anything new… just reminding them of things they should remember in their writing.  It might sound like this:

Matt:  I am noticing you are doing a great job with your illustrations.  Fantastic!  I am wondering if you could work on using colors that make sense?

Caleb:  I love you are writing sounds that you hear.  I am wondering if you could try to write more than one sound for each word?

Get the picture?  It is FAST.  5 minutes TOPs.  Once I have handed out my goals, they go off to write and I confer with those who are scheduled to meet with me.

IAfter just a few months of writers workshop you can see how far my kindergarteners have come. This post will explain the writing conference and conferring.

Now it is Wednesday

I will confer with Matt, Caleb, Suzi, and Lidia and look for EVIDENCE that they have attempted the goal I set for them the previous day.  WOW!  Talk about focus!  If they did… fantastic!  I might have them continue to work on that until I meet them again.  If they did not, my conference is a perfect time to reteach this skill.  Of course, I always have the opportunity to teach something else instead.

After just a few months of writers workshop you can see how far my kindergarteners have come. This post will explain the writing conference and conferring.

Conferring in Writers Workshop: Inside the Conference

A conference should feel like a conversation, not an interrogation.  I usually start every conference with the question, “What are you working on?”   In time your students will begin to understand the ebb and flow of a conference and they will hop right in.   At first, you will hear, “Um… writing?”
Give it time.
  • Investigate, “What are you working on?”
  • Notice and Name, “I am noticing you are…”
  • Teach, “One of the things writers do…”
  • Confirm, “So what do you think you might do?”
When you are conferring, remember that you are working on improving the WRITER… not necessarily the WRITING. This is not the time to correct their work.  This is the time to select ONE skill that you think would elevate them as a writer.  Now there might be 10 things barking at you, but you should limit your teaching point to one (or two things).

Take Notes

I can not tell you how important this is.  My conferring notebook is simple.  A spiral notebook with a tab for each student. I write their names on the tabs after the first few days of school.  I use the 3M tabs and give each student 3-4 pages for the year.After just a few months of writers workshop you can see how far my kindergarteners have come. This post will explain the writing conference and conferring.If you need to, attach the writing continuum to the back of the notebook so you can refer to it.After just a few months of writers workshop you can see how far my kindergarteners have come. This post will explain the writing conference and conferring.

What do I write?

Here is the deal… your notes are for YOU.  They help YOU keep track of this particular writer.  Don’t panic… write it down in a way that makes sense to you.

  • I usually put the title or subject of their writing.  Example: Park with brother
  • If I set a goal for them, I put a “G.”  Example:  G: Colors that make sense
  • If I taught them something, I put a “T.”  Example:   T: Add beg. and ending sounds
  • Then I can add other noticings.  Example:  Needs more help with ideas (this will help me for future goal setting).

This is an actual photo of my board in action.DSC_0019No, I don’t have 12 students.  Some students are waiting in the wings.  They are not meeting with me, handing in their notebooks, or conferring.  To be clear… EVERYONE is writing EVERY DAY.   

After just a few months of writers workshop you can see how far my kindergarteners have come. This post will explain the writing conference and conferring. A little help please

These are included in our writing units.  They will help you with conferring in writers workshop. After just a few months of writers workshop you can see how far my kindergarteners have come. This post will explain the writing conference and conferring.


Sharing is such an important part of writing.  In kindergarten, THEY all want to share every day.  However, if we did that whole group every day it would take forever. Instead, we have a focused share time.  The students that I conferred with that day (4-5 students) share with the whole class.  I do this because I can be on hand to support them and remind them of the new work they took on as a result of our conference.  It makes the whole group share time focused and efficient. THEN writing partners share with each other.

Was this the longest post in history?


Since I LOVE talking about writing, I have a few (dozen) blog posts about writing.   


Deanna Jump and I have created simple, yet powerful daily lesson plans to teach writers workshop.  We have taken the guesswork out of your instruction.

Each unit is carefully planned out.

Kindergarten Writing in September. We have made progress in writers workshop. Take a peek at student writing samples!

And it walks you through each day’s lesson.

Kindergarten Writing in September. We have made progress in writers workshop. This post will show you how our kindergarten students publish their writing each month. Take a peek at student writing samples!

You can shop our writing curriculum below:

After just a few months of writers workshop you can see how far my kindergarteners have come. This post will explain conferring in writers workshop and give you tips to make it go smoothly!

Conferring in Writers Workshop: FREE file

You can grab a FREE copy of the writing continuum and the conference scheduler below.

You can see our Writing Through the Year:  Complete Writing Curriculum by clicking HERE.



  • Sylvia Parker October 29 at 1:52 am

    Excellent post. We have a long ways to go yet. Be each day our stamina is building. More and more kiddos are trying to stretch their words. Thanks for sharing your students' progress.

  • katiemg October 29 at 2:10 am

    great post and not too long! 🙂 I like the way you organized conferring with them. You make it seem easy but I know it's all about organizing it! Thanks!

  • Miss M October 29 at 2:13 am

    Oh my word! Your kinders are FANTASTIC writers. I have so many babies that struggle with letter sounds (ie they don't know any or very few)…how do you encourage those kiddos in your classroom?

    Awesome post!
    Miss M
    The Fabulous First Grade

    • Deedee October 29 at 2:19 am

      Sometimes it helps to show them that they know them in other areas of your instruction… Like in guided reading and you have them write a sentence with you. Maybe you read a predictable text (level B or C). Then you can take that sentence and turn it into their own sentence. We did that today. We read a text that has "I can run. I can jump…" So my student wrote their own. I asked them to start it. They used the book for support. I reminded them that "can" was also on our word wall. One wrote, "I can ride my bike." but it looked like. "I can r m b." We had a little celebration. You just start them where they are. Does that make sense?

    • Deedee October 29 at 2:21 am

      You also have to make them less dependent on you. I must say 100 times a day, "Just write the sounds you hear. Does it have to be perfect? No, just do your best."

    • bridgi8 October 29 at 3:10 am

      I really like the anchor charts. I have Unit 1 but have really struggled with being successful with Writer's Workshop. I definitely need to attend one of your presentations. Thank you so much for all the amazing resources you share.

  • Chrissy October 29 at 3:39 am

    We are smack dab in the middle of Unit 2! My kinders will be adding their 2nd and 3rd pages this week. 🙂
    Chrissy ReadWriteSing

  • Mrs. Frost October 29 at 12:43 am

    Where did you get your Anchor Charts from? I have the 1st Writing Through the Year Unit and I don't remember seeing those! If you made them do you have a link?

    • Jill Dunn January 30 at 3:07 pm

      Where do you find the larger pieces for the anchor charts? I like the ones pictured here. I have the ones from the unit that are 8 1/2 by 11 but would love them big enough to use on my chart paper. Thanks so much!

      • Deedee January 31 at 2:13 pm

        Hi there!

        We don’t offer them anymore. I’m sorry! When we revised the units, we went to the easy prep single pages. If you email me, I will see what I can do!

        [email protected]

  • LilaRose October 29 at 12:28 pm

    This post is just what I needed! I have been hesitant to start conferring because I didn't have a clear picture of it in my mind. You've given me encouragement and a way to organize it. Thanks so much! You are my "go to gal" for PD so please keep sharing!

    • Deedee October 30 at 2:57 am

      You are welcome! My kinders were so excited when I shared this page with them today. They all wanted to know when it would be their turn. I hope to have more examples to share in the following weeks!

      • Rachel Gandolfo October 2 at 10:16 am

        How do I get the writing continuum??

        • Deedee October 2 at 5:03 pm

          You enter your email in at the bottom of the blog post. File will be sent to your email inbox.

  • Ashley Maybee October 29 at 4:20 pm

    I love this post and it came just at the right time for me. We are getting ready to start Unit 2 next week! I was a little worried my students would struggle with writing a book, but I have 100% faith they can do it now. I am also excited to start the conferring. I am a little worried though, I have 24 kids, so I will have 6 groups. Do you meet with only 3 groups a day? Would you recommend meeting with the lower level groups every other day and the higher groups every 3rd day? That is where I find my frustration. 🙁 I am not sure how often I should be meeting with each of my groups.

    • Deedee October 29 at 7:28 pm

      Hi Ashley, No… I just do a quick check in with a groups of 4 students (no more than 5 minutes total) and I confer with 4 others. The rest of the students will rotate in. Yes, it looks like you will need 6 groups. That is okay. It is better to have quality over quantity conferences.

  • Heather VanKuiken October 30 at 12:41 am

    I started using a version of your conferring schedule after learning about it in Vegas and I have to say THANK YOU! It has helped keep me accountable for actually conferring with my students! I am loving it!

    The Land of I Can

    • Deedee October 30 at 2:56 am

      Oh Yay! Heather!!!! I am so happy to hear it is working for you!

  • Kimberley October 30 at 1:49 am

    We have to use Lucy Calkins Reading and Writing Workshop and we have a schedule we must stick to. So I don't think I can add anything to supplement at this point. However, my conferring is severely lacking. I really appreciate you explaining your system to me. I need to be more strict about my conferencing. I get so wrapped up in roaming around that I forget to sit down and call them over!

    • Deedee October 30 at 2:56 am

      Happy to help friend! HINT: If you post it… they will hold you accountable to sticking to it! Ha!

    • Kimberley November 3 at 12:18 pm

      Okay, so your conferring strategy questions were genius! I bought a cheap, but pretty composition book and wrote those questions at the top of the page and then called them over. I did it individually. I zipped through the kids and loved how much I learned in such a short period of time. How do you manage it in a small group? Do you have similar questions for reading conferring? How often do you progress monitor? Sorry to ask so much, but you really have me thinking!

  • Nikrosie October 30 at 2:08 am

    I love your writing units! We are in the middle of narrative writing. Some days I am overwhelmed with the great divide of skills though. I have some students building meaningful stories with readable sentences and other students scribbling and writing random letters if anything. Are the stories too much for these littles??

    • Deedee October 30 at 2:55 am

      I know if feels like it at this point of the year… but I remind myself that they already know how to tell stories. They tell them to us all the time. We need to convince them that writing is just telling on paper. For those who do not have letter/sound relationships yet, they can tell their stories with scribbles and random letters. What I watch for is this: Do their random letters and scribbles have meaning for them? What I mean is … If I ask them today about their writing and they tell me it is about going to the park with their sister, do they tell me the same thing tomorrow? Or do the random scribbles mean nothing to them. If they are mindlessly scribbling, there will be little meaning. My job for these little guys is to teach them that pictures carry meaning, and as a writer they have the power to tell a story. Some come to this sooner than later. However at this point in my year (Day 51 of school) all of my students have it. NOW our job is to make our meaning clear to the READER! We will work on that for the rest of our lives… right?

      Through pushes and nudges we will guide them towards clarity. That is where the power of mini-lessons and conferences come in.

  • Erica October 31 at 12:01 am

    Here are my little posts about writer's workshop. 🙂

    • Deedee October 31 at 1:30 am

      That looks amazing! At first I about had a stroke when I saw their writing because I thought it was from this time of the year. Ha! I about hung up my writing hat!

      Isn't it so fun to see the progression!!!

  • LindseyJM November 1 at 7:02 pm

    I don't see the large version of the Reading Like a Writer poster in Unit 1 or 2 like the one you showed here, is that in a different unit?

  • Lauren Beck December 8 at 9:22 pm

    Do you have a list of the standards each unit covers? Thanks!

    • Deedee December 8 at 9:52 pm

      If you look on my side bar you will see a document that shows the CCSS correlations. You can grab it (It is right above my posting history)

  • Lauren Beck December 8 at 9:23 pm

    Also, does this follow the lucy caulkins books at all?

    • Deedee December 8 at 9:54 pm

      We did not have the LC books when this was created. Ours was completed by May, her grade level books came out in June (I believe). That being said, it is a workshop model so many of the ideas and practices are going to be compatible I think.

  • Robin ringer January 5 at 5:04 pm

    Can you please explain the Story Hand? We are beginning Writer's Workshop tomorrow and have only had one training session so far. We (there are 10 K teachers in my school) are suffering from information overload. We also begin a new reading program tomorrow. Thank you so much.

  • Claudia Zuniga August 27 at 5:48 am

    Your information is great! Do you have any posts on Unit 1 and the setting up writer's workshop. I am trying to be the best for my students in their writing. It is first year I am doing correctly hopefully Writer's Workshop.

    • Deedee August 27 at 1:47 pm


      I will do a post next week on writer's workshop!

  • Cindy May 8 at 9:57 am

    This is an amazing post with a lot of great ideas. I did a google search for kindergarten how to writing, and this popped up. So glad to find it!

    • Deedee May 8 at 10:04 am

      Thank you Cindy! I love teaching writing! It is probably my MOST favorite thing!!!!

  • Kristen October 19 at 8:51 pm

    Do you have a copy of the board you use to show which students are handing in their folder, goal setting, etc.? I have all of the writing through the year units but did not see that resource in any of them. I LOVE the way it is organized and wondered if you could share that resource. My email is [email protected] if you are able to share. Thanks for sharing your ideas and expertise!

    • Deedee October 20 at 6:40 pm

      Hi there! I offer that as part of my on-line training on Writers Workshop. This is simple… it is a series of 5 emails that trickle out over a 2 week period (roughly). So simply, put your email in the box below in this post and you will be on your way 😉

  • Denice Jeran December 12 at 7:35 pm

    Can I purchase the writing conference cards (on the ring) ? If so, where?

  • Kristine January 26 at 9:32 pm

    Great post! I would love a copy of your conferring schedule. Your writing units are amazing!!!!

    • Deedee January 28 at 3:05 pm

      Thank you!

      You can find the box at the end of the post to grab it 🙂

  • Rebecca February 17 at 12:00 pm

    Your system for conferring is so clear and organized and is the first way I’ve seen conferring done in a way that makes sense to me and makes me think I can do it! I am interested in your online training on Writer’s Workshop.

    Thank you so much for being willing to share your expertise and inspiration!

    • Deedee February 19 at 7:27 pm

      You are so welcome! I hope this helps!!!

  • Balanced Literacy Approach March 15 at 5:38 pm

    […] Writers Workshop and Conferring […]

  • Writers Workshop Mentor Texts March 30 at 8:51 am

    […] If you are interested in our writing continuum and conferring resource, you can grab it below!  If you want to read more about how I handle conferring, you can read a blog post about it HERE. […]

  • Kristen Shoemake September 7 at 10:02 pm

    I am using your curriculum for the first time and have questions. I am trying to understand the timing. If we are trying to build stamina, is the timer’s purpose to have kids work longer until the timer goes off and give a goal for kids to stretch themselves to? Or is it just to keep the lesson to a certain time? There are some kids in my class who can go for a long time! The drawing can actually take a while with some of them. Do we tell them to try to add words to their writing at a certain point? When they are not finished by the timer and put their work in the Green side of the folder,will they remember what they were writing about the next time we write? Do you find five days a week is too much?

    • Deedee September 9 at 7:52 am

      Hi there! Let’s see if I can answer these questions for you.

      Timer: At the beginning of the year, the timer serves as a goal to help build stamina. As the year progresses, my students could write for a huge amount of time, so the timer worked more as a way to keep us from spending the entire day writing (ha!).

      Writing/Drawing: At the beginning of the year, students spend 95% of their time drawing in kindergarten. Around mid-September, I start to nudge them to add sounds, but they are still spending a significant time of their illustrations. Slowly but surely, they progress towards letters and words, but they need prompting and modeling. Our lessons help guide you towards moving students towards transcription.

      Not finished work: I have not had a problem with students forgetting what they wrote. Again, our lessons help students pick a topic they feel strongly about, so they don’t tend to forget what they are working on. Five days is not too much because SO MANY skills are practiced during this time. Reading and writing are such reciprocal skills that it is a great use of our instructional time.

  • Amy October 28 at 2:47 pm

    WhAat do you with the kids that will just sit and not write or draw if you are not working with them?

    • Deedee November 6 at 1:36 pm

      We have mini-lessons that address working long and strong. I also am conferring about the room, so I can tell who is working and who is not and gently prompt them. When I confer with them, I look at the body of the work they had finished since the last time I met with me, so there is no surprise. This was never an issue for me, I guess because through the lessons I taught, my students were excited and engaged and they were writing for their own enjoyment, not because I assigned writing. The mini-lessons and modeling are KING! I hope that helps.

  • Jobena Westera May 21 at 10:36 am

    What do you use to teach the letter sounds? I’m looking for something that has a visual and action and I’d rather not reinvent it.

    • Deedee May 25 at 9:26 am

      Our Engaging Readers has the letter instruction in them 🙂

  • Liz May 29 at 3:45 pm

    The way that you organize conferences is different than methods I’ve seen before, but I like the 3 step approach that you take. I think that our kinders definitely benefit from having a goal put in place, and giving them a day to work on that goal before conferencing is a great idea. Thank you for sharing!

    • Deedee June 2 at 8:55 pm

      You are so welcome! Let me know how it goes!

  • Kimberly Gregg October 24 at 8:19 pm

    i love the schedule for conferring with each different group. Could i get a copy of that template?? Thanks so much for all the helpful information…

    • Deedee October 25 at 8:40 pm

      Yes, you just need to put your email in the box at the bottom of the blog post. Then you will get an email from me with the download link.

  • Tiffany Beckman December 6 at 10:57 am

    Could I please have a copy of the writing conference stuff? Thank you sooo much!!

    [email protected]

    Tiffany Beckman

    • Deedee December 6 at 11:09 am

      You bet! You just need to follow the directions at the end of the blog post. You will see a box where you will put your email. Then the file will be sent to you. Thanks.

  • Megan naugle October 9 at 8:38 am

    DeeDee I am trying to use this bog post for a class. I need the publish date. Can you help Please? Thanks. This has some great info.

    • Deedee October 18 at 7:54 pm

      Hi there! Here is the publishing information:

      Published on: Oct 29, 2013

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    My teaching career allowed me to experience teaching to different age groups and in different classroom environments. My heart belongs to early childhood education and I love working with other teachers who share this same love as me. Read More


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