A Peek Inside Conferring Toolkits Blog Series

Conferring Toolkits: Creating Visuals for Teaching Tools

Conferring Toolkits Series - Two Writing Teachers
There are three teaching methods that most writing workshop teachers use regularly. The star of these is the demonstration method. “Watch me as I do this helpful/interesting/important thing in my own writing. I’ll show you how, and then you can give it a try,” says the teacher.
The inquiry method is also a champion. Students and teacher study something together, often a piece of writing, and think, “How did the author…?” and “How might I…?”
Today, I’m writing about the less famous but perhaps just as widely used cousin of those methods: explain and example.  In this to-the-point, self-explanatory  method, the teacher explains a writing move, a strategy, or a technique, and shows a quick example.  Such as, “Writers often start a new paragraph to show time has passed. See, like in this story.”
As a quick, fix-up teaching method or to fuel student writers with pointed tips as they work, explain and example works wonders. Likely many teachers use this method constantly without naming it.

To help with the explain part of this method, simple graphic representations of strategies are often worth, well, more than 1,000 words. Consider popping a few of the below in your conferring toolkit or even making them on the fly as you work with kids.


Visuals to Support Narrative Writing


The image below shows a graphic designed to support elaboration and balance in narrative writing. When explaining that narrative writing often has a balance of dialogue, action, and thinking, the written words and image of a scale can solidify this concept for students. The visual also has pre-made examples to further help explain the idea.


I can’t take credit for this next one. I got the idea from a clever teacher with a breathtaking conferring toolkit. With her class, she’d been working on character traits and feelings in reading workshop. They’d made a chart with lists of possible feelings and traits. The teacher wrote all of the feelings on cards, and used them to make a  visual like this one. To help the kids with showing, not telling in their narrative writing, the teacher channeled kids to look through the feeling cards, then decide which one best matched what their character was feeling in a scene. They planned what the character might do, say, or think as a result of this feeling, then went off to write their ideas into their stories.

Feeling Cards Visual

Here are a couple of great visuals to support conventions in narrative writing. These could easily be altered for expository writing.

Commas Visual      IMG_2467

Visuals to Support Expository Writing

The following visual can support information writers in two ways. First, if a writer is exploring a topic toward the start of the writing process, perhaps by doing some flash-drafting, the listed structures can give the writer some ideas and entry points to help with this drafting. For example, she might compare two concepts within the topic, or compare the topic to a different topic to grow ideas. This visual can also support writers who are farther along in the writing process but who are struggling with elaboration. Using these structures to say more about a topic (or a subtopic) can be really beneficial. Note that this visual could be used to support opinion/essay writing as well.

Exploring Topics Visual

In this interactive visual, writers revise a sample table of contents, which can be much less daunting than jumping right to revising their own. This visual certainly would help writers who need some support in doing the main idea work necessary to come up with apt and informative chapter titles. But using this visual could also help writers in another way – they might see that two of their chapters are too similar, or that they are missing a key chapter that would help to fully explain the topic.

Chapter Titles Visual


The possibilities for teaching visuals such as these are endless. We look forward to hearing about (and possibly seeing!) some of your favorites at our Twitter chat on Monday.

Let’s chat!
Looking forward to hearing from you all in the comments sections of our posts and convening with you all on Twitter (May 11 at 8:30PM EST).
Click on the image for more information about the Twitter Chat.
Click on the image for more information about the Twitter Chat.

6 thoughts on “Conferring Toolkits: Creating Visuals for Teaching Tools

  1. WOW!

    Now I want to see ALL of your visuals! The balance is the one I keep returning to for the students who want to hang all their narrative elaboration on dialogue. I think this visual is ALSO perfect for teachers as they study elaboration across all writing genres.

    Thanks for including so MANY visuals. I, too, need to SEE examples to get the ideas to stick in my brain. Such a wonderful post in this series!


  2. Great post! I completely agree about having an example to illustrate a point. That is how I learn best- I really need to SEE something to understand it and I think most of our students need that real-life example, too. I’m almost thinking of different levels of examples, too for differentiation. So if the skill was “starting a new paragraph”, maybe you would have some examples of easier text for your struggling students and a more challenging piece to show your higher level students. They could be in the same pouch of your toolkit. These posts are really giving me a lot of ideas about more tangible ways to help my writers. I just need more hours in my day….(or someone else to teach my math lessons, which would work for me! Ha!)


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