Memoir Unit

Conferring & Assessment

General Notes about Conferring with Student Writers

You might find it helpful to review the “Conferences” section of our Writerly Life Unit, as this unit established the predictable routines, expectations and responsibilities of both students and teacher in the writing workshop. Go to Writerly Life module.

We confer one-on-one with students throughout every stage of the writing process, not just near the end of the unit. Through these conversations, we identify what each student is doing well and also gauge and deepen comprehension of the strategies we teach. This is where we gather the information we need to assess student progress and determine what else to teach—not only what we will teach each student before we leave the conference with him/her but also what we might need to address in whole class or small group lessons.

When conferring with student writers, teachers will want to first identify what the writer is working on and where the writer is in the writing process. You want to help students learn to lead these conferences by modeling how the conversation might start. For example, students might say things like,  "I'm writing a memoir about how playing baseball has helped me off the field, too," or, "I know want to write about my grandma, because she died last year and I miss her, but I don't know what to put in the story." It can take a lot of practice for students to own their work in this way. Most of it is learned through modeling—perhaps with minilessons devoted to what writers do to make sure they get useful feedback and/or by paraphrasing and mirroring back what they do say in a conference to teach them ways to talk about their strengths and challenges. After hearing a student describe the work she's done so far, for example, a teacher might say, for example, "So it sounds like you have a lot of notebook entries about your sister, but you aren't sure how to organize them into a memoir like the ones we've been reading. Let's see if we can think of a strategy to help you figure that out."

It is also important for teachers to think about how they will take notes about the conferences they have with students. Conferences are a great assessment tool, and the notes we take provide us with documentation of students’ writing development over time. One example of a teacher’s conference notes is provided below.

Sample Student Writing in Memoir

Below we’ve included some samples of student memoirs with remarks about what the writer is doing well and what we might teach him/her next. These examples mirror the kind of feedback we might give in a conference. You may need to click on the icon of the yellow sticky notes inside the PDF to view the comments we’ve provided. [COMING SOON]


There are multiple opportunities to assess writers throughout a memoir unit. Teachers might, for example, create rubrics to evaluate student progress at multiple stages, assessing notebook entries, drafts, revision attempts, and editing work as well as a final product. Get ideas for how to assess notebook entries here (document also listed in "resources" section below).



How to Assess Writers Notebooks

Apply these general strategies to your memoir unit

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