Peer Writing Conferences

Posted by on Aug 8, 2013 in conversation as learning tool, general school | 3 comments

“Good stories are not written. They are rewritten.”
– Phyllis Whitney

Class Guidelines for Peer Writing Conference

Students need to be  able to share during all stages of writing including prewriting, development, or revising. Peer conferences will work best if you have an established routine with explicit instructions. Students also need to be held accountable for their performance.

When starting peer conferences, you need to set the stage. The activity needs to be structured. You need to decide on the size of the groups; pairs, small group, or writing teams. You need to decide if the feedback will be oral or written. In my third grade classroom the students will be in pairs and will work orally. If I have an odd number of students there will be one triad or one student conferring with me. The students also need to be held accountable for their discussion. Depending on the day, either one or both partners might share their writing. If there is only time for one, then the next day the other would share.

As with all classroom activities, students will need trained on this procedure. Start by modeling what a good conference will look like and sound like. I will be as detailed as to show them how to sit facing each other, how to use names when asking the questions, and how to establish eye contact. Students need support to be able to do this effectively. You could create a guidesheet for different types of writing; personal narrative, expository, persuasive, and any other type. I use 5 – 6 posted questions for the “interviewer” and sentence stems for the writers. I ask my writers to answer in complete sentences using one of the stems or their own thoughts. We practice using sentence stems in other activities throughout the day. This helps the students learn to use correct sentence structure and to academic language and to use it appropriately.

The “interviewer” or reviewer needs to be able to give good feedback. A basic TAG formula is one way to establish this. T is for “tell something you liked”, A reminds the students to “ask a question” and G means “give a suggestion”. I have seen posters with Star, Star, Wish. Which asks the students to share 2 positives and a wish for improvement.  Another idea is to ask the interviewer to point out one good part and tell what makes it good, ask one question, and point out a place where they’d like to know more. The “interviewer” can mirror back what was heard to help the writer focus on what the “audience” is getting from the piece.

During the conference students could be equipped with three different colored highlighters. They would then look for evidence of specific kinds of content, for example vivid verbs, details, transition words, even misspellings. These could actually be chosen in response to the writer’s specific needs at that time.

Unfortunately, these conferences need to be quick so that writers can return to their work. I plan to give no more than seven minutes a day to peer conferencing. I am hopeful that it will be a part of most days when we have writers workshop. In addition to my observations and assistance with the process, one way the students will be held accountable is when they come to conference with me. I will ask them about their peer conferences as well as look for and listen for evidence of its benefit.

If you want to see more details about my program, I have 7 different formats available for my Peer Conferencing product.

I am now working on some “Inspirational Quotes” about Writing. I can’t wait to share them. A freebie should be available soon.



  1. This is making me think of how I can simplify my peer conferencing tasks. I would like to include “read it aloud.” Thinking of how I could get an R in there somewhere!! ReTAG doesn’t really sound so cool!

  2. I’m thinking maybe we could make it GREAT! Give your attention, Read it aloud, Express a positive opinion, Ask a question, Tell about something to change.

  3. Good idea! Maybe even great…. 🙂 Although, I am starting to have a lot of acronyms!

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