Tag Archive: writing conferences


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We are cruising along in Kindergarten.  At the beginning of March we transitioned into READING BOOKS!  This is such a big deal.  Learning to read is such a monumental life experience when you think about just everything you need to do at once to be able to read.  For the last several months we’ve been “practicing” getting ready to read by labeling, word by word matching, learning letters and sounds, putting sounds together, learning word parts, building simple words, and finishing sentence starters.  We’re reading basic patterned books and still working on those word by word matching skills, but we’re getting there.

IMG_0413One thing we’ve had to work on is keeping our eyes on the text unless we need to check the picture for help with a word.  Many friends memorize the pattern and only look at the picture, but when a page changes the pattern of the text then students have difficulties.  We’ve had to really work on even if we think we know the pattern making sure we are correct by looking carefully at words.

IMG_0417We’ve even transitioned from finishing a sentence Ms. Acuff has written to students actively participating in the Interactive Writing and writing the stories themselves.  They practice words on their white boards while another student adds the word to our chart.  I help with more difficult words I know they don’t know.

We still do the cut up sentence portion of the lesson, but instead of students copying the cut up sentence, they then write their OWN sentence about the story we wrote together.  Most of the kids are doing a great job of using parts they know (ee, ou, ow, oa) and applying them into their writing.  Some IMG_0416students still need a little more support and structure with the writing as this is very new for us.

I’m starting to notice students writing in capital letters as they are more comfortable with those than lower case letters and we’ve had to work on when we use capital letters and also working on letter reversals.  These are common and we just keep practicing the correct way to write them.  We’re also working on different punctuation–periods, exclamation points, IMG_0415and question marks–when do we use them and how do we make them?

We are seeing lots of great things in Kindergarten and are overjoyed with how well students are applying their phonics knowledge every day.

Bad Zeus!

img_0261Ms. Acuff loves to write stories about her dogs Zeus and Hercules.  She read us Bad Zeus about when Zeus steals food from around the house–like pizza, pop-tarts, bagels, cookies, and more.  We like when she reads aloud to us.  She shows us where to start, which way to go, where to go at the end of a line, and models fluent reading.  These are all things we’ll be doing very soon when we start reading books at group with her.

img_0259When she was finished reading to us, we had to write a sentence about the story.  We decided we wanted to write The dog is bad.  The sentence seems simple, but it gave us lots of opportunities to use sounds we know to build words like dog and bad.  We each got a spacer to put in between our words.  We looked at our old writing to see how much easier it was to read our sentence today with those nice big spaces.

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When we were finished writing Ms. Acuff did a conference with us to talk about things we did really well and things we could work on next time–like starting our sentence with a capital letter.

IMG_0101IMG_0109I have noticed my 2nd graders have needed more support than just Guided Reading Plus.  I decided to layer interventions with this group, which was something new for me.

We started out by doing a study on snakes.  I read 2 mentor texts on snakes and then I had the students read a book about snakes a couple levels lower than their instructional level because I wanted the focus to be on writing and writing more complex sentences.  This happened to tie in perfectly because this is exactly what they have been doing in the classroom as well. (I get to go in during their writing block and help in the classroom with writing.)

After we read our snake books, I wrote a snake story in red. (To the left)  I did take input from the students as I wrote on interesting facts I could write about.  The following day I took my purple marker and I had them help me come up with ways we could add more details to make our sentences better, change word choice, and make our story more interesting.  They were very engaged and involved and loved telling me how I should make my story better.  They were actually quite good at this and I give big kudos to the 2nd grade classroom teachers for their awesome teaching on this.

IMG_0108The next day I had them write their own snake sentences. (Photo at the top of the page.)  I highlighted lines so they would write every other line and that way they could easily go back into their writing and add details, change the word choice, make edits.

Once they had had a writing conference with me, they were able to put their sentences on chart paper.  We then had to conference again about how once we make edits on our sentences and fix mistakes, we have to make those changes on our final copy, too.  We can’t put those same mistakes back on our final copy.  Thank goodness for post-it white out tape! 🙂

The next book we ended up reading was Hang On, Monkey and we did some work on monkeys.  I wanted them to then apply the skills they learned with snakes by writing monkey facts.  I did type up their stories and print them out for them so they could then go back through their writing and highlight capitals in IMG_6742the wrong place, forgotten punctuation, and spelling mistakes.

After they had gone through their writing on their own, I then was able to have individual writing conferences again.

This whole process took us about two weeks, but I feel like we got a lot of great work done.  I’m super proud of the 2nd graders for their hard work.

Kdg Interactive Writing

IMG_8057My Kindergarten kiddos are rocking and rolling!  I’m loving the progress they have made from the beginning of the year.  We have been working on a 4 day process.

Day 1 we read a new story.  Lately I’ve been using book builder books where I get to put in a name.  I’ve been using their classroom teacher’s name, which they find funny.  Mrs. Byers has been swimming, running, jumping, eating treats, and doing all kinds of fun things in our silly stories.   We do word work with each of our stories.  We highlight these high frequency words in our book.  We’ve been working on building and writing words such as: the, in, on, see, up, can.  These are words we need to know to be ready for 1st grade.

Day 2 we re-read our silly story for practice.  This gives me a chance to see what reading strategies they are using.  Do they have word by word matching?  Do they use multiple strategies when stuck?  Do they follow the correct direction? (They do!!)  Then I have a picture that we label.  This gives them a chance to see how words look.  We work on what letter sounds they hear in the word, specifically the beginning.  They get to locate something in the picture, draw the line, and then I label it.  We have a lot of fun finding all the new things.

Day 3 we look at our picture we labeled.  We come up with a story from our picture we labeled.  Each student gets to come up with a sentence of their own.  We write our story as a group.  They each get a white board and they practice writing the words in the story.  If they know the word they get to write it on our group story.  If they don’t know the word then I get to write it.  I often have them help me with the initial sound in the word as that is something they are able to do.  They get to put in the punctuation in our story, too.  Everyone gets lots of opportunities to write on our group story.

Day 4 we re-read our group story.  We practice rereading and word by word matching.  Then they come up with their own story that they write in their personal journal.  They can pick the same sentence they said yesterday, but they have to do it independently.  I’m looking for spacing between words, punctuation at the end, and getting multiple sounds in an unknown word or the whole word for high frequency words.  They get to draw a picture at the end and I get to conference with kiddos.  I check mark each correct sound they got in the words and then show them “how it looks in a book’ and write it the correct way for them to see.

That’s our whole week!  Then we start all over with a new book and picture the next week!  We definitely work hard!

2nd Grade Labeling

IMG_6823My 2nd graders read All About Robots during group time.  Not only did we learn a lot of different things about robots, but we learned about how labels can help a reader learn more information about a picture when reading non-fiction texts.

IMG_0179After we read about robots we made a list of things robots do, look like, and places they go.  Most of what we listed started out as things from the book, but quickly the boys added other things that a robot could have–mostly what they look like.  And in typical boy fashion, they wanted to add all kinds of weapons!  Ha!

This was our catapult to writing.  The boys were to come up with a robot of their own.  They had to make a list of all the things their robot would do, look like, and places it would go.  This was a lot of fun for the boys as now was the time they could amp up a robot of their dreams.  We had to scale back on the weapons to make it more school appropriate, but I was impressed by the imaginative things they came up.

IMG_6828After they had made their list they were given a homework assignment to draw a picture of their dream robot–including the things they had on their list.  If they said their robot could go in space then there should be something on the robot that would make it possible for the robot to go to space, etc.  The boys came back with very creative robots.

From there they had to start putting the list into sentence format and label their robot.  They labeled the most important parts of their robots.  They then had to write about how these parts they labeled helped the robot.  We discussed how we don’t need to label everything on the robot because not everything is super important.  We also discussed that if we labeled it on the robot then it had to be included in the writing otherwise it would confuse a reading.  It was challenging for the boys to pick what was most important as to them, EVERYTHING was important!

I was able to conference with each of the boys on their writing.  This was a great time for us to make sure everything that was labeled was written about and go over spelling and grammar.

After conferences the boys were able to write a final copy to go with their robots.  They were pretty proud of their work and didn’t want me to hang them up in the hallway because they wanted to take them home.

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IMG_5612In my previous post I wrote about conferencing with my students on their writing and how spacing has been an area of focus.  A strategy that has worked well for me is spaghetti or meatball spaces.

It seemed like every time I talked to students about spaces they were inconsistent.  If I asked for bigger spaces then there were these huge gaps between the letters in the word and then if I talked to them about the large gaps then there was no spacing at all.

We talked about how when you write you should only be able to fit a piece of spaghetti between the letters in the word and when you write you should be able to fit a meatball between each word in your sentence.

The kids think this is funny and it has really seemed to help.  It’s a bit silly, but it does get the point across.  All I’ve had to say is are you going to make a spaghetti or a meatball space?

1st grade writing rubricIn a previous post you saw my writing conference sheets I use with my 2nd and 3rd graders to help them focus on some goals they need to pick for their writing.  This wasn’t appropriate for my 1st graders, but I felt I needed to establish something that would have them making reflections on their writing as well.  I found a Kindergarten writing rubric online (which you can download here for free) and thought it fit well with where my 1st graders are developmentally as well. (Photo of the rubric to the right.)

Currently I am not having my 1st graders fill out the entire form.  I have them focus on the top 3, which are my biggest priorities right now–handwriting, appropriate capitals, and spacing.  Typically I let my 1st graders draw a picture to go with their writing for the last 2 minutes of group and they like to fill out the drawing portion of the rubric as well.

IMG_5604It was a big overwhelming to try and take on everything on that sheet.  Plus, there just isn’t enough time.  I would eventually like to be able to focus on the bottom half, which talks about mastering sight words and moving away from invented spelling.  Right now we need a starting place and then seemed like a small enough chunk for my 1st graders to bite off.

But honesty is a really hard thing to deal with when you are still so small.  I let my kids circle what they think first, while I’m working with other kids.  Then I conference with them and we talk about what they IMG_5603circled.  We had to have a group conversation that this does not mean you are a bad writer, but that this gives us a goal on how to be better.

After that conversation I started to see some more honest reflections on their writing.  Students we recognizing when they had capitals in the wrong places and whether their handwriting could be better.  I was proud of them for looking at their writing and evaluating things that could be improved upon and celebrating things that are going well–such as our spacing!  Woo hoo!  We are finally getting to a place where MOST of the time we have spaces between words.  We’ve been working on Spaghetti and Meatball spacing–I’ll tell you more about that in another post!

IMG_0068Part of the Comprehensive Intervention Model (CIM) Guided Reading Plus intervention is to have reading and writing conferences with your students.  I conference with my students regularly, but I was beginning to feel like what we conferenced about wasn’t sticking with the kids.  And to be honest, it wasn’t really sticking with me either.  I often times couldn’t (and can’t) always remember what I’ve told the kids we should work on.  Then I started to feel bad because 1. I couldn’t remember giving them praise on anything particular they were doing well, and 2. I don’t think I was showing value in the conferences if neither of us could really remember what we had talked about.

So I had seen plenty of guided reading conference sheets online, but I wasn’t finding any writing ones.  I decided to develop my own.  I thought about all the things I was harping on the kids to do and typed them up.  It’s a half sheet and we ended up conferencing today by looking through each of the journal entries and decided what they were doing well and what things we could continue to work on.  I highlighted what they were doing well and what they needed to work on.  To make sure I didn’t lose them we glued them to the back of their journals right by where they glued in the synonym rolls.  Now before they write I can ask them to check their writing sheet to see what they need to focus on for the day.  This is a good reminder for me so I can check it before I conference with them.  Then as they start to make those goals into strengths we can check them off the list.

The students seemed pretty excited about the sheets.  I hoping this helps make our time a lot more productive and meaningful.  If you would like a copy of this please shoot me an email or leave a comment on this post so I can get it to you.