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Communicating With Families: Assessment Strengthens Writers


communicating-with-families“Good evening and welcome,” I say to you as you walk in the classroom. We shake hands and exchange pleasantries. It is Parent/Teacher Conference night and my opportunity to talk with you about how your child is progressing in third grade.

When it comes time to talk about writing, you, of course, want to know how your child is doing.

And I take a deep breath….

There is so much to share with you about the writing instruction that takes place in our classroom. Last year, I created a presentation on The Parent’s Guide to Writer’s Workshop, to try to answer some of the questions parents often ask about a workshop approach to teaching writing. But tonight, you want to know what our grade level expectations are and how your child is progressing. You are also curious about how I assess your child as a writer.

I tell you that early in the year, I ask students to complete a writing interview (inspired by Dana’s post). This helps me get a sense of what your child is interested in writing and how he feels about writing. I let you know that I observe the students, note who gets to work right away, who needs more time to think, who tells me she can’t think of anything to write. The goal is to use these noticings for future small groups and conferences, to help teach the writer just what he/she needs to develop more stamina and independence.

I explain that we do an “on demand” piece prior to starting a new unit of study. This past one was a personal narrative. I show you your child’s piece and we look at the expectations for personal narratives in third grade.  We notice how your child is currently not writing in paragraphs and that is one skill we will work to develop.  We notice that your child is writing with voice and using bold letters and punctuation to create an effect. We celebrate this!

Together, we look at your child’s blog posts and discuss how the blog will be a type of digital portfolio, helping us see how your child grows as a writer through the year. By June, we hope to see writing with more stamina, elaboration, and more control over conventions. We discuss your child’s excitement about blogging and willingness to write even on the weekends.

I share that conversations with your child is another powerful way for me to assess how he is growing as a writer. When I confer with him, I can see how the writing is going and if he is trying out some of the strategies being taught in the minilesson. The conference is also a time for me to teach him something targeted to help him develop.

Our conference time is over, and I hope you have a better idea of how I get to know your child as a writer- the ways I use assessment to understand your child’s current attitude towards writing, skill level, and stamina. These assessments help me to plan the next best steps to strengthen your child as a writer.

November 2016 #TWTBlog Series


  • This giveaway is for one copy of Conferring with Young Writers: What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do by Kristin Ackerman and Jennifer McDonough Many thanks to Stenhouse Publishers ( for donating a copy of this book.
  • For a chance to win one copy of Conferring with Young Writers: What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do (, please leave a reaction to any post in the blog series, including this one, by Sunday, November 6th at 11:59 p.m. ET. Kathleen Sokolowski will use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names she will announce in our blog series’ IN CASE YOU MISSED IT POST on Monday, November 7th.
  • You may leave one comment on every post in our Assessment Strengthens Writers blog series.   
  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so Dana can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, our contact at Stenhouse will ship your book out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
  • If you are the winner of the book, Kathleen will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – CONFERRING WITH YOUNG WRITERS. Please respond to her e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

26 thoughts on “Communicating With Families: Assessment Strengthens Writers Leave a comment

  1. In my other life as a classroom teacher, I implemented a system where parents could respond to writing prompts on the weekly newsletter!


  2. Great post! I love hearing about parent involvement as in some cases parents usually hear the negative things that may have happened with their student. In my college course today we talked about how calling home and saying a positive thing may help with the relationship from home to classroom!


  3. Great post, as always Kathleen! I am sure your parents leave your conference with a true sense of their children as writers and confidence that their children are in the best hands!


  4. I enjoyed reading this post! I liked reading how you shared the students work with their parents because that helps the parents see what their child did well on and what they can improve on. Instead of just listing off the things the student did well on or could improve on, the parents were able to see their child’s work which is very important. Nice post!


  5. Love how you used student work to show exactly what the child’s work looked like. This helps make things so much more real for parents. Your language was warm and inviting. I will be passing this on to our teachers as we head into parent teacher conferences next week!


  6. Yes! Focusing the conversation and giving parents access to what is happening in the classroom as a window into their child as a learner. I would only add a student reflection piece to this scenario.


  7. I haven’t read the book yet, but something I do that I find so validating (for everyone) is audio recording our conferring. It is so easy to share with students AND with parents. I have been pulled aside by parents who just want to touch base about their child and my ability to pull out my phone and share an audio file of their son/daughter talking about the decisions they make as writers sheds so much light onto the work we do. The more parents are informed about what conferring looks and sounds like, the more I find that they appreciate (and want more) conferring.


  8. Having the writing rubrics/scored samples available at conferences helped lead our conversations to how we can all better help their child progress in writing.


  9. Thank you. This is a great post, and just in time for the conferences in our district where we are newly implementing Writer’s Workshop. :o)


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