A Compliment Conference


In my day-to-day teaching I often get swept up in trying to load students up with next step after next step… after next step. Sometimes, what might benefit some students most, however, is clear explicit feedback on what they are already doing well.

There’s certainly an art to giving clear feedback, especially when it comes to a compliment. There is definitely such a thing as a not-so-great compliment. Has anybody ever told you, “Hey, you look great….today,” leaving you, of course, to wonder about all the other days?

A few days ago, I watched my daughter’s ski instructor compliment the group on zipping their coats. Lily frowned and looked unhappy. I knew what she was thinking. I’m not a baby. Of course I can zip my own coat.  (Of course, sometimes she can’t. She’s five. That’s beside the point.) The point is, compliments aren’t so easy.

Two books are my go-to conferring guides: Carl Anderson’s How’s It Going? and One to One: Conferring with Young Writers by Lucy Calkins, Amanda Hartman, and Zoe Ryder White. Here are some of my favorite tips from my favorite confer-ers, in infographic form. (I made it myself!).

When a compliment helps a writer become aware of a strategy that he or she may not have even realized she was using–that could become the whole conference. A compliment conference. Just lay on the compliment, nice and thick, and let the student keep writing.

Teaching Compliments