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Using Strategy Rings to Track Student Conferences

By Julie Ballew on October 1, 2012
  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

When I confer with students (in reading or in writing), I take anecdotal notes for my records, but I also like to leave them with some tangible reminder of the strategy I just taught them. That way, I have a record of what I have taught them, and so do they.

Conferring Notes for the Teacher

For my notes, I use a conferring grid, which is just a page with enough boxes for each child’s name to go in one. When I sit down to confer with a student, I make sure to write down something that they are doing well (my compliment) and something that they need to work on (my teaching point). This allows me to follow up each time I meet with that student. I always think I’ll remember, but I very rarely do, so these notes are extremely important to me. I try to fill one page each week, and I keep all of them on a clipboard that’s easily accessible.

Conferring Grid

Click on the image to download an editable conferring grid.

Conferring Notes for the Student

To leave notes with the students, I used to rely on sticky notes. That was fine in the moment, but it was often difficult for the student to find the note when I came around to confer with him or her the next time, so I usually ended up referring them to my notes instead. This left me wondering if they were even using the reminder at all.

As I thought about this more, I wondered if I could create a system of more lasting reminders that would lead to better transfer of the teaching being done in conferences. Then I thought of strategy rings. I love the ring system for several reasons: the rings are relatively cheap (and even cheaper if you use half of a pipe cleaner instead); they’re durable; and they are easy to add to throughout the year. The idea isn’t new — it’s exactly what I was doing with sticky notes, but it lasts longer and is easier for the kids to use.

Feeling Strategy Card   Dialogue Strategy Card

Every time you have a conference, just jot down the strategy you taught on a note card, and let the student add it to their ring of strategies. (Note: You might want to punch holes in the note cards ahead of time and keep them on your clipboard for easy access.)

Storing the Strategy RingsRings in Pocket

Students can keep their rings in a pocket in their writer’s notebook, or they can keep them on a hook on the side of their desk. (See photos below.) It’s just important that they have easy access to them. Also, be sure to ask them to pull them out during conferences so you can follow up on the strategies you’ve already given them. They can even trade cards with their partners when they are buddy reading or peer-revising their writing. This holds them accountable for the individual teaching you are doing, and it helps them be more self-directed as they work.


How do you keep track of your conferences with students? Leave a comment below!

Students Using Strategy Rings

Comments (3)

I love this idea of conferring notes for students to refer to. I teach 5th grade in a small East Texas district, and as I am fine-tuning for the upcoming year, this is an approach that I will put in place. I will begin writing them, but will scaffold the students to write their own for the spring semester.

I love ideas for the intermediate grades. Thank you.

i love this idea.

am wondering how i can organize and implement it for middle school where i have over 100 students i'm trying to confer with. i know, i know. i should be spending more time in the textbook, but i've found that individual conferences are the only effective way to teach reading and writing skills.

any ideas?

I agree that conferring is much more effective than any textbook. In middle school, I would have the students write the teaching point on the card themselves. So they could have a ring with blank cards, and they could write on one each time you meet with them. This holds them accountable for listening in the moment and for application later. Best of luck!

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