TAG! You’re It!

Every year I start my writing curriculum with hopes and dreams to hold writing conferences throughout the year. I give myself a break if the conferences do not begin in the first few weeks, we are setting up writer’s workshop I tell myself. After the first month, I tell myself that we are finishing up our first unit and it would make more sense to start conferences the second unit.

In all honesty there is not time for me to hold writing conferences when I do not have a separate Writer’s Workshop time. Our writing lessons are 10 minutes long each day and students complete their writing during Daily 5 rotations. In those rare moments when I do get to walk around and check in with students (schedule changes do occur), I notice that my verbal instruction is not at the level needed during this precious time.

At the beginning of the year, I found the TAG! You’re It! resource for writing conferences. My first thought was to give the students time to conference with each other, but that required teaching on my part. After reading Chapter 5 and 6 in Choice Words by Peter H. Johnston, I am thinking about TAG as a framework for my writing conversations with my students.

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In Chapter 5 Flexibility and Transfer (or Generalizing), Johnston gives strategies for teachers to work with students through transferring knowledge from one place to another students.  I believe that many students have to be taught to transfer knowledge. Some students see classrooms and subjects as compartmentalized.

Johnston discussed in prior chapters the idea that students need to make connections. It is interesting when a student makes a connection from one subject to another, but needs help transferring the knowledge and using the knowledge to better the learning.

My favorite writing conference strategies that I plan to use from Chapter 5 – Flexibility and Transfer (or Generalizing):

  • “How else….”
    • This encourages students to be reflective about their writing, whether they are celebrating or changing the writing. This gives the student the opportunity to lead the learning and the improvements.
  • “That’s like…”
    • This gives the student the option to make the connection and then independently lead the connection to help make the improvements.
  • “What if…”
    • This question gives the student the option of agreeing or disagreeing with the statement. The student is then positioned to make the decision to make the necessary changes. This is also another way to encourage learning without a strong teacher direction.

My favorite writing conference strategies that I plan to use from Chapter 6 – Knowing:

  • “Let’s see if I’ve got this right”
    • This statement shows the student that you have been actively listening and want to check that you understand what they have said.
  • “How did you know?”
    • This gives the student the opportunity to share his/her thinking or show where they found the information. It shows that the teacher is proud of what the student has accomplished.
  • “How could we check?”
    • This gives the teacher and the student the opportunity to work together to solve the problem. The student does not feel that the teacher is telling what needs to be corrected, but rather the student sees the partnership.
  • Silence
    • This shows that the teacher believes in what the student knows and cares enough to wait to hear what the student wants to say.

All of these strategies are great resources to use with TAG and I look forward to putting the strategies in place in the near future.

How do you conduct your student writing conferences?
What do you say to your students?
What do you expect from your writing conferences?



One thought on “TAG! You’re It!

  1. Cara,
    I am just like you with my writing conferences in the beginning of the year. I had good intentions of doing them during writers workshop, but it just felt like it never worked out. I tried writers workshop, but my students would be stuck on the conference part with me, and the list just kept growing. I then realized that writers workshop was not working for my class, so we have not stopped and the conferences have gotten even less frequent.


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