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One-On-One Conference

One-on-one conferences are often the most productive ways to help young writers develop their thinking and writing as they work their way through an assignment. Conferences are effective because unlike written comments, you are able to judge whether or not your students understand the expectations of a given assignment on the spot. Furthermore, conferences are an opportunity for students to provide you feedback on the assignment, to let you know what makes sense to them and what they found difficult in understanding the writing task.

Using your time wisely during the one-on-one is important. In his “The First Five Minutes: Setting the Agenda in a Writing Conference,” Thomas Newkirk writes that, “both student and teacher need to come to a meeting of minds fairly early in a writing conference; they need to set an agenda, agree to one or two major concerns that will be the focus of the conference. The agenda often deals with a possible revision of the paper, but there are other possibilities: it could deal with the writing process of the student or with a paper that is yet to be written. Unless a commonly-agreed-upon agenda is established, a conference can run on aimlessly and leave both participants with the justifiable feeling that they have wasted time.” Newkirk stresses that teachers and students should work to establish clear objectives for a conference in the first few minutes of their meeting. It is also important to keep in mind that holding a conference is a balancing act between how much you speak and how much the student speaks. It is important to provide the student with enough space to be able to talk through their writing issues. However, it is also important to know when it’s appropriate to step in and provide guidance.

One-on-one conferences provide teachers a deeper understanding of how students are handling writing assignments. Taking the time to meet with students helps them feel more confident about the direction their writing is going. Conferences also give teachers better insight into students’ composing processes, which makes it easier to address student writing concerns by adjusting how to teach/talk about writing in class or how to construct assignments.

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