Conferences that Nudge Writers Forward- SOL #17

SOLS button 2013

Here’s yet another post where I share what I learned from “The Art of Teaching Literacy” workshop in Hong Kong. This session was presented by Matt Glover and it was called “Conferences that Nudge Writers Forward.” Matt Glover is an author and presenter who focuses primarily on teaching our youngest writers, grades preschool to first grade, how to write. If you missed the other posts, you can check them out here and here.

– “Conferences are in the moment teaching.” ~Matt Glover

-Nudge vs. Push

  • It’s your job to find out what they can already do to determine the next small step.
  • A nudge is something they can do that is within their zone of proximal development.

-Writing Conference Structure

  • Research– ask questions to figure out what you need to teach, this is where you decide what the student needs, allows you to differentiate
  • Name Strength– identify what they are doing well as a writer
  • Decide on ONE Teaching Point
    • You many see many things that the writer needs to improve upon, but it’s important to narrow it down to just one teaching point.
    • Choose between a focus on composition or conventions, not both.
    • Teach
      • “What can I teach you that will help you down the road?”
      • Teaching means I’m going to show you how to do something that you don’t know how to do.
      • Don’t confuse reminders, telling, or correcting with teaching.
      • Tools to have with you during your conferences:
        • Mentor texts (picture books mainly)
        • Your own writing
        • Another child’s writing
        • Matt carries around mentor texts and notes in a folder to make it easier to confer.

-Conference Viewing Form: A form to use when observing a conference or watching a video of a conference.

  • Conference length- suggested time 5-7 min, increase efficiency
  • Research- Look at types of questions asked (open-ended, filler, shifting ownership, positive presupposition, questions I already know the answer to), how many questions
  • Strengths- identify and name students’ strengths
  • Decisions- teach to their strengths or areas of need
  • Teaching Point
    • Generating a teaching point
    • Narrowing down to a teaching point
    • Sticking to a teaching point
    • Generate both composition and conventions teaching points
    • Which mentor texts to use and why
    • Do I teach to the minilesson or something else?
    • Invitational or directional teaching point?
    • Tone, language, and word choice in a conference

– Conference Tips:

  • Say “book” not “story” because when you call their writing a “story” you are implying that they are writing a story when they may be writing an informational text, list book, etc.
  • Need more time to decide on a teaching point? It’s helpful to slow down the conference by asking more questions to figure out more information.
  • Use writing samples and videos to improve skills at conferring.
  • Conferring notes should include:
    • Name/Date
    • Strengths
    • Teaching point
    • Next steps
    • Take notes AFTER the conference so the kids aren’t distracted during the conference.
    • You’ll never know if your teaching point was the best one to teach or not. You only have once chance to teach. Then you can reflect and get better next time. So don’t beat yourself up about it.

-Book recommendation- Sit Down and Teach Up by Katie Wood Ray and Matt Glover- an ebook that contains videos of 15 conferences with preschool, kindergarten, and first grade students as well as notes, charts, and explanations of their thinking. You can purchase it on iBooks or download a PDF version from Heinemann’s website.

I love learning from Matt Glover. Even though he makes conferring seem effortless, when he’s presenting, he slows down the process for us, revealing his thoughts and reasoning behind the choices he made. If you haven’t read his work, you should definitely check it out! Engaging Young Writers and Already Ready (co-written with Katie Wood Ray) are great reads for teachers of young writers. And if you ever get the chance to see him present, jump at the opportunity! You will not be disappointed!


Matt and I at the conference. I was a little starstruck! 

10 thoughts on “Conferences that Nudge Writers Forward- SOL #17

  1. blkdrama

    Thanks Jennifer for a taste of Matt’s work. I love this: he slows down the process for us, revealing his thoughts and reasoning behind the choices he made.
    I will check out his book. 🙂

  2. Melanie Meehan (@MelanieMeehan1)

    Thank you so much for sharing your learning at this conference! Would you mind it I print out your post so that I can share it with teachers in our district as I am the writing coordinator. I love to present them with concise information that might change or inspire their practice and your post is perfect.

  3. Lyssa

    Thanks for sharing these reminders about workshop. I’m going to check out his new ebook and also see if he is coming to an area near me!

  4. elsie

    I own and have read all his books (as well as Katie’s books too) so I am so jealous you got to see him in person. Maybe someday, sigh. I love the reminders, especially is it composition or convention. He does make it seem effortless.

  5. jee young

    These are great conferring tips!! I needed to hear them, especially the one about carrying around mentor texts. I need to remember to do that more often. Also, have you tried using the IPAD app CONFER? I’ve started using it and it’s makes notetaking a lot more efficient!

    1. aggiekesler

      I have tried Confer. I like it because it keeps all my data in one place and it organizes it, but I find that I’m better at writing when I’m doing in the moment conferring. I find that it’s distracting for the kids if I’m typing into my app while conferring. I may be too slow of a typer! I usually input my data after the conference.

  6. jen b.

    Great resource here! Thanks for posting. I just shared it to my FB page for my teacher-friends. I LOVE the difference between a nudge and a push!! Right off the bat, I had something to take away.

  7. Robin

    Awesome! You have shared some great learning with us here. I saw Matt Glover and Katie Wood Ray present together a few years ago. It was amazing!


I {heart} comments.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s