Record Keeping- Why and How: Assessment Strengthens Writers


We teachers keep all kinds of records and notes- attendance records, records of the books our students read, records about math concepts mastered, and spelling words missed. Yet, many of us struggle to figure out the how and why of record keeping in writing workshop.

If you don’t believe me, Google “record keeping in writing workshop.” Not only will you find posts here on TWT, but you’ll discover Pinterest pages, PDFs and plenty of other blog posts.

Why keep records in writing workshop? Because. It. Matters.

Writing workshops are busy, and at any given time there are many different things happening simultaneously. The truth is, that there is no way we can keep track, in our heads, of the compliments given, teaching points shared, and craft moves tried for each and every student in our class.  The truth is, that until we commit to keeping records, we aren’t going to realize their full potential for strengthening writers. The truth is, we will strengthen writers if we use records to strengthen our teaching.

Assessment should drive instruction. And in our workshops, we are constantly assessing, albeit informally, as we decide who needs what next. If we aren’t keeping good records about what we’re instructing, and how our writers are using what we teach to grow their writing, we will miss opportunities to maximize progress.

Records and conferring notes hold us accountable. They also help us hold our students accountable.

How should we keep records?

Committing to keep records is the first step. Finding a method and rhythm that works for you and your writers, is key.

  • First, decide what you want your records to reflect. At a minimum, keep records about conferences with writers. Keeping records about other things like sharing opportunities offered and taken, and writing partnerships, is also a good idea.
  • Next, decide whether to go digital or stick with paper for conferring records.

Evernote is a great digital option. If you’re new to Evernote in writing workshop, read Cathy Mere’s guest post here on TWT.  

If you choose paper records, consider creating a simple grid or using a form like this:


Using a form like the one above, you will quickly see common needs among your writers, and forming small groups will be easier.

Another  relatively easy option is a teacher-created binder with a blank page for each writer. During the conferring part of your workshop, carry a clipboard with sheets of blank address labels with you. Jot notes from each conference on a label (writer’s name, the date, compliment, teaching point, etc). Later, paste  labels onto the corresponding students’ pages in your binder.  

What do we do with our records? We analyze them to tailor our instruction. The next whole class minilesson, the next individual student conferring session, the next small instructional group- all become more apparent from our records.

Assessment strengthens writers. Record keeping strengthens teaching. Meaningful assessment and targeted instruction lead to maximum learning. Let’s “JUST DO IT.”


To celebrate this series, we will be giving away a copy of Conferring with Young Writers: What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do.


  • 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 Ackerman and McDonough’s 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. Dana Murphy 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, Dana 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.