Wait, it’s already time for conferences? Just when you thought you could take a breath because you have successfully navigated Meet the Teacher Night, here you are again preparing for another essential classroom event. Do you lose sleep over these meetings with parents or do you have a strategy that you have found to be ideal for you and your students?
I adore the parents of my students, but the planning and preparing that can go into organizing parent-teacher conferences can be time-consuming. A few years ago, my 6th grade team and I decided that the best conferencing strategy was one where our students took ownership… Where students organized their thoughts on their learning, achievements, areas needing more focus, and goals. At the time my school building was having challenges getting parents to come in for conferences. A constant frustration was that parents would schedule a time to come in, but not show up. Clearly there was disconnect between home and school that we wanted to repair.
As a staff, we wanted to improve our relationships with our families and to find an approach that was less intimidating for everyone. In addition, we wanted to make students the focal point of the conference and give them the chance to share all of the ins and outs of their days at school, successes, struggles, goals, etc. We decided that student-led conferences would be the way to go!
With all of the work that went in to preparing for the student-led conference, we found that students and parents were more likely to attend the conference as scheduled because students felt more accountable and were encouraging their parents to attend.
Here is a favorite quote I share with my students…
With the student being the facilitator of the conference, pressure and stress is taken off the parents wondering what they will be confronted with, students get 15-20 minutes of uninterrupted time with parents and teacher to share school experiences, and the teacher prep time for each student conference is minimized as students are doing the grunt work. Feedback has been especially positive from both students and families with this student-led approach.
Here is my schedule for conference preparation:
- Show students a video of students participating in a student-led conference. (I took a video of one of my student’s actual conference the first year we implemented them. They LOVE to watch and see what they are in for.)
- Discuss what a student-led conference is with students.
- Have copies of Student-Led Conference Evaluation Form for students to complete
- Students complete form and place it in a conferencing folder that I have for each child.
- Gather work samples they want to share in their conference folder.
- Write Ice Breaker Letter to parent/adult attending the conference that will begin their conference.
- Edit, publish, and place Ice Breaker Letter in their conferencing folder.
- Have students partner up with a peer and perform a “Dress Rehearsal” of their student-led conference. This peer presentation works out some of the jitters of having to share this information in front of others, helps with time-management, and allows students to make any changes needed to their form. It also helps students practice speaking and listening effectively.
- I double-check that all student preparation is complete. Make sure organizers are finished, work samples are accounted for, and the Ice Breaker Letter is complete.
- I place a post-it with conference date and time for my own organization on the cover of each folder and keep them in order. This way I know who is coming and when!
- I place a Conference Discussion Form in each folder with the student/parents’ names to have documentation of our meeting.
- We are ready to go for the following week!-Yes! I always get conference folders completed at least a week before conferences because this is the time when kids are beginning to be absent due to sickness. Don’t wait!
I hope this helps you to navigate this essential, but time-consuming element of the year! I can assure you that by giving the kids ownership and accountability, you will save your sanity!
You can grab my student led conference tools here…