Conferencing with kids during writers' workshop can be overwhelming in the primary classroom...

How am I going to have time to get to #allthekids?

Can little kids really write independently while I try to conference?  And for how long?

What do I even conference about?  How do I choose what's most important to talk about that day?

All these burning questions and more go through the minds of new and sometimes even experienced teachers.  I'll be honest, after 10 years in the classroom, I sometimes had to remind myself that it was OK that I was conferencing about the same 4 or 5 things every. single. day.

Here's a peek into my routines for conferencing during writers' workshop.  We talk about how I decide who to conference with each day, how I choose which point to conference on and how I manage the how class during conferencing time.

Setting Up Writers' Workshop for Successful Conferences

On the second day of school, we write about what they want to learn in first grade.  Really, this is just a pre-assessment for me.  You can use any prompt at the beginning of the year.  I collect the papers and sort them into four stacks:
1) Super low (below basic) writers,
2) low (basic) writers,
3) proficient writers and
4) advanced writers.

This is not a formal's just a quick, gut reaction on where each kid is at the beginning of the year before they get much help from me.

Once I have my piles, I divide each pile into 4 groups {pink, orange, green and 1...I usually have a yellow group instead of a 1 group, but I could not find any of these silly stickers that had four colors this particular year!!!!  GRRR!  So, I had to settle for a "1" group! :)

Anyways...I give each colored dot a friend from my lowest stack until I'm out of lows....then I pass out the proficient stacks to each dot....then the advanced ones.  This gives me 4, heterogenous groups to work with.  Each group has 6 friends in it.

My groups aren't on anything fancy....just the ol' handwritten index card with dots.  But it works!!  Monday-Thursday I conference with one of these colored dot groups.  Fridays I can conference with an additional group, a different group {like more intervention for my lows} or it just leaves it open to not conference and do some whole group writing activities.  I've used this system for most of my 10 years teaching and I love it!

I should also mention that pink dots aren't always on Mondays.  Sometimes, our weeks are cRaZy! #truthtime So the most important thing to me is to make sure I meet with everyone as equally as possible.  That means if I met with my orange dots the last time we conferenced, then I meet with green dots matter what day it is!

Why heterogenous groups?  Mainly, it's a time thing.  If I conferenced with all of my low writers one day, it would take for. ever. to finish our conferences because they need so much from me.  If I conferenced with all of my highs one day, I'd be done in 5 seconds.  So, I mix it up so that I use up just the write amount of time conferencing!

Managing the Whole Class During Writing Conferences

Writing conferences happen during independent writing in writers' workshop.  That means we've had a quick mini-lesson as a whole group and they've been sent to their seats to write independently and practice the skill we learned about in our mini-lesson.

When, I release kids from the carpet/mini-lesson, I always release my conferencing group first.  This gives them time to get their writing folder and meet me at my back table.  I'll say, "Pink dots, go get your things and meet me at the back table."  Then, I dismiss my independent writers.

As a set up note... at the beginning of the year, after I organize my kids into writing groups, I revisit my seating chart.  Usually by the end of the first week (or first day, sometimes!) there needs to be a few adjustments in our seating chart.  When I do those first adjustments, I *try* to make sure each group of four desks has one person from each colored dot.  No, it's not always perfect.  But I try.

The reason I try to do this is so that when I'm conferencing, I never have a "full" table of independent writers.  There is always at least one person missing from the group table.  This is just a management trick I use to keep the talking quietened!

My conference kids start writing independently at my back table.  They do not wait on me.  Once, I've released everyone, I turn on classical music.  This is our writing music.  My rule is, "If you can't hear the music, you are too loud."  This does a really good job of helping kids manage their voice levels!  Once the music is on and my independent writers are settled, I head to my back table to begin conferences.

How long is too long to write independently?
My experience in first grade is that independent writing time will vary depending on  your group of kids and the time of year.

In general, I start with 15-20 minutes of writing time at the beginning of the year.  And I slowly increase that to 30-40 minutes at the end of the year, depending on how independent the group is.

How Do I Know What To Conference About?

Once I'm ready to conference, I just dig in and get started.  It doesn't really matter who you start with...I've changed that up over the years and haven't found that any way is better for me.

The first thing I do is look at our mini-lesson skill.  Let's say, for example, we are learning about opinion writing and we spent our mini-lesson modeling and working on our introductory opinion sentence.  When I start a conference, I read through the student's story so far and look to see if he has a good introductory sentence.  If not, I revisit the mini-lesson with that student and help her write a strong intro.

For my lower babies, this may not be something I even look at.  Depending on how low they are, I may even have already given them an intro sentence to copy before I start conferencing.

After I take care of this mini-lesson skill, I refer to the writing rubric we've been working on.  So for this writing sample below, the opinion intro is there.  The self-check shows that she thinks she did all 6 mechanics skills correctly.  I notice that she doesn't have a good handle on capitals or periods.

But there are more mistakes with capitals.  So that is my conference point for the day.  I will do a quick mini-lesson or reminder about capitals.  It might sound like this....

"Your opinion intro is great!  But I notice a few mistakes with capitals.  Where do we use capitals in first grade?"  (first of the sentence, the word I, and names)

"And where do we NOT use capitals?"  (in the middle of words)

"Let's look slowly together at your writing and see if we can find the 3 mistakes that I see."

Then, I will have the student run her finger under each word very slowly.  If she passes a capital mistake, I'll stop her and we will chat on that.  If she doesn't find any capitals, then I will help by circling all of the capital mistakes and have her go back and fix those.  Then after I have conferenced with another person, I'll go back and check to see that the mistakes have been fixed.

This conference would be about 2 minutes or less.  But in order to do my conferences effectively, I have to know my writing standards and rubrics like the back of my hand!

I use these rubrics during my mini-lessons because they are kid friendly and many are for self-assessing.  They help the kids and me learn what I expect for each type of writing.

Then, once I know the rubric well, I can mentally go through the rubric to find the most important point of conferencing.

And that's almost it!  If I finish all 6 conferences before our independent time is over (which happens more towards the end of the year), then I walk around and conference with my low babies to check in on them!

So, we've conferenced, now what??  Next week, I'll blog about how I follow up with kids after conferences, help them remember their conference points, and use conferences for share time and planning mini-lessons!
I just recently updated my preschool classroom for our Sunday School class in a rainbow theme.  I've loved the bright colors so much that I've added a decor packet with some additional pieces to use with these sweet kiddos.  I love the simplicity and how bright and easy it is to read for primary classrooms!

Here's a closer look at some of the decor sets from this decor bundle.

Every bulletin board looks better with pennants! #teachertruth

This set comes with word wall sized letter cards, the first 100 Fry sight words, plus some of the 200 words, color words, number words to ten, months and days of the week.  And they all come with black on white or white on black cards. (Some of the specialty words come with photos or colors as shown.)

Plus, all of the Fry sight words included are the same sight words used in my first grade digital phonics curriculum!

Still prefer doing an old fashioned calendar over the digital calendar format?  This set has you covered!

In this rainbow set, dates 1-31 are available in white or black so you can build your own patterns each month.  American holiday cards and birthday cards are included with coordinating color letters.

Month cupcakes are available in the same coordinating color the month cards are in and black candles.

Or, if you'd rather have the birthdays all in one spot, use this printable to write in names in each month!  This is a super easy reminder to have right by your desk if you're like me and kid birthday's sneak up on you!

Here's a look at some other pieces included in this calendar packet!

And that's not all!  This Rainbow Decor Bundle includes tons more posters, charts, editable decor basics, labels and much more!  Grab this bundle at a big discount here!

I love decorating my classroom!  But I really love getting pieces for my decor and bulletin boards that are tried and true and can go with lots of themes!  And that's exactly what this modern stock photo decor set does.  I love that it's simple and easy to read for emerging readers.  I love the real photos used throughout to help support those ELL babies.  And I love the flexibility of this set to go with lots of themes!

Here's a closer look at some of the decor sets from this decor bundle.

Every bulletin board looks better with pennants! #teachertruth

This set comes with word wall sized letter cards, the first 100 Fry sight words, plus some of the 200 words, color words, number words to ten, months and days of the week.  And they all come with black on white or white on black cards. (Some of the specialty words come with photos or colors as shown.)

Plus, all of the Fry sight words included are the same sight words used in my first grade digital phonics curriculum!

Still prefer doing an old fashioned calendar over the digital calendar format?  This set has you covered!

In this black and white set, dates 1-31 are available in white or black so you can build your own patterns each month.  American holiday cards and birthday cards are included with photo backgrounds.

Month cupcakes are available in white or black with black or white candles.

Or, if you'd rather have the birthdays all in one spot, use this printable to write in names in each month!  This is a super easy reminder to have right by your desk if you're like me and kid birthday's sneak up on you!

If you want to change up this packet, just copy the white background pieces on bright colored paper!  I love the flexibility of this packet!

Here's a look at some other pieces included in this calendar packet!

And that's not all!  This Modern Decor Bundle includes tons more posters, charts, editable decor basics, labels and much more!  Grab this bundle at a big discount here!

It's no secret that I LOOOOVE a good anchor chart.

That's probably why I have an entire Pinterest board called "Anchor Chart Addiction."  It's definitely a legit problem!

Here's a look back at some of my favorite Math anchor charts we've made over the years.

Math Practices Charts

I use the Standards for Math Practices as our goals for each week in math.  You can read about that routine in detail here. When we introduce it we start the anchor chart and then add to the anchor charts throughout the year as we learn more and understand more about that math practice standard.

Here are a few examples from most of our standards for math practice using our old chart printouts! #throwbackpics Find the updated charts here!

Number Sense Charts

In addition to our Standards for Math Practices charts, sometimes we need specific charts to help us understand a bigger number understanding in math!

Our fractions chart from when we discovered how to equally divide shapes. Read more about the activity with this chart here.

When we learned about relationships between numbers and equations, we learned about related facts with this fun jingle that we charted together.  Read about that activity in detail here.

One of my all-time favorite math charts is one of the simplest too!  When my kids discover commutative property during math talks or our math wall time, we chart it.

I'm a big believer in calling a spade a spade.  So, equations that use the commutative property are not "flip flop facts," because that's not what real mathematician's call it.  They call it commutative property.  And so do my first graders! #steppingoffsoapbox

BUT, I love using the flip flop as a visual anchor chart reminder of what the commutative property is!

During our Counting Collections routine (read more here), we chart our expectations for building number sense during this weekly time.

Math Skills Charts

While about 80-90% of my yearly math instruction is spent on building number sense and algebraic thinking, we do spend some time on math skills too!

But since we don't spend much time with them, we need fabulous charts to help these skills stick!  Here are a few of my favorites!

When we work on our data investigations, we use this chart throughout that week to add to our ideas about what data displays need.  Read about that engaging investigation here.

We did a similar investigation on measurement using these digital math talks slides on measurement.

And more measurement with our pumpkin investigation.  Can you tell I like to make anchor charts into shapes! #easytofind

And, of course, our clock investigations and crafts which you can read more about here!
We just finished our healing unit in preschool Sunday School.  And my littles had a BLAST learning about God's healing power!  Here's an overview of this engaging unit.

Healing Exploration Stations

For each bible unit, we have exploration stations for the first 10-15 minutes of our Sunday School class.  Kids can choose which station to go to.  (You can read more about that here.)

Our "hospital" dress up station was a HUGE hit this time and stayed crowded each Sunday!

Healing Bible Stories

After our exploration stations time, we come to our carpet circle and read our Bible story.  I use these readers available in my healing unit to read the story.  I add details during the story too, since this is set up as a "reader."  Then, this story goes in our book nook for the kids to read during stations.

The Bible stories and readers included in this healing unit are: The Blind Man, The Deaf and Mute Man, The Paralyzed Man, Jarius' Daughter and the Bleeding Woman, and Lazarus.

After Bible time, we pray while we are still in our circle.  We used this healing unit to talk about the power of laying our hands on our friends and praying for them! #socute #bestillmyteacherheart

Table Time

After prayer time, we go to our kidney table and color.  I play a song that goes along with our unit and we sing and color!  The song we used for this unit was, "Is Anything Too Hard?"  My little loved this one!

When we colored Lazarus, I even had friends who added green "stinky fume" lines! :)

Healing Games for Preschoolers

After our coloring time, we play a game or do a craft that goes with our lesson.  This doesn't always work out for every single lesson, but for our healing unit, we had a game for almost each week!

When we learned about the blind man, we played Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

We we learned about the friends helping the paralyzed man get to Jesus, we used our creativity to find ways to get our "paralzyed" friend to "Jesus" too!

And our favorite...we wrapped our own Lazarus people and told them to "come forth" to be healed.

When we learned about Jarius' and the woman's faith to be healed, we made a healing craft by telling what we had faith that Jesus could heal on us.  **NOTE: we used washi tape for bandaids because my regular size bandaids were too big.  The mini bandaids would work great though!**

Line Up!

At the end of Sunday School, I walk our kids to children's church.  Each week, the line leader gets to choose how we walk (like soldiers, etc...)  But during our healing unit, I choose how we walked based on our lesson.

Any guesses which week this was?

Yep, we were the blind leading the blind! LOL!

So many fun things to do with this unit to engage littles in learning about our foundational healing doctrine!  You can find the lesson plans and materials for this unit here or get 2 years of units here!
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