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Inside Writing Communities, Grades 3-5

Program 12: Peer Conferences

Third-grade teacher Jeanne Boiarsky teaches a peer conference protocol to her class and Lindsay Dibert's fifth-grade class uses a different peer conference strategy in revising personal narratives.

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Watch the 30-minute video “Peer Conferences.” Apply what you have learned in “Conversations Among Writing Peers” as you watch the extended video of classroom examples.

Answer the questions that follow each segment, jotting down your answers in your notebook or using them as discussion starters.

Jeanne Boiarsky’s Class

Jeanne Boiarsky's Class

After describing “Receiving the Piece” to her third-graders, Jeanne Boiarsky answers students’ questions. Next, she uses the fishbowl technique to model the strategy before students practice in pairs. Think about the questions Jeanne’s students ask about “Receiving the Piece.” What do these questions reveal about thinking and learning among eight- and nine-year-olds? (If you are watching the video in segments, you will find this image at the beginning of the segment, approximately one minute into the video.)

  • How does the fishbowl help clarify “Receiving the Piece”? How does it complement Jeanne’s directions?
  • What strategy does Jeanne use for pairing her students after the initial peer conference? What are some possible advantages and/or disadvantages of her strategy? What other strategies might you use to set up peer conferences in pairs or groups?

Jeanne Boiarsky: Lesson Background (PDF)

Lindsay Dibert’s Class

Lindsay Dibert's Class

The second half of the video features Lindsay Dibert and her fifth-grade students. Lindsay introduces a new revision strategy in which the students listen to each other talk about their stories, take notes, and ask questions. The video concludes with a look at students engaging in peer conferences using the new strategy.  (If you are watching the video in segments, you will find this image at the beginning of the segment, approximately 16 minutes into the video.)

  • What are the benefits of talking about a piece of writing with a peer rather than reading it aloud? At what point(s) in the writing process do you think this strategy would be effective?
  • Lindsay gives her students autonomy by allowing them to choose the location for their conferences. Evaluate how well you think this strategy would work in your classroom and with your students.

Lindsay Dibert: Lesson Background (PDF)

Looking Closer:

Rain gutters — the ones found on buildings — are mounted on walls throughout Zaharis Elementary School to hold books so that they face forward and are more inviting to students.