Monday, October 31, 2016

5 Tips for Successful Student Led Conferences!

I love, love, love doing student led conferences. I like that the student can really take ownership of their own learning. I love how it keeps the conversation open between myself, the student, and the parents.  I love how the student is there to verify or even say the things that I want to share.

I often find myself saying things like, "So in writing we are working on strengthening our ideas and checking for capital letters. So-and-so, what have you and I been working on in writing?"

In my grade level team, I teach language arts for all the second graders, so my conference day is PACKED! Each family can sign up for a 10 minute meeting time with me, where everyone is present. Then I send them out to the lobby where the student has a reflection packet and work samples to show. The 10 minute meetings work because reports are sent home few days before conferences giving parents time to read over the narrative and process the things I've written. When they come into conferences they already know what I have to say and they can spend more time asking questions or sharing concerns.

Here are our bookboxes with all of our reflections inside!

So...on to how to make your student led conferences great!

1. Appreciate, appreciate, appreciate!

o   I begin every conference by telling my student what I appreciate about who they are and what special qualities they bring to the classroom. They often find this a bit embarrassing, but it starts off the conference on a wonderful note. Students (and sometimes parents) can be very nervous about conferences and beginning with heartfelt appreciations makes everyone a little more calm. This appreciating should also extend to the parents. I try to make it very clear to them that I am incredibly grateful for all that they do at home to support their child’s academic progress.

     2. Structure Student Reflections

o   For the majority of my second graders in the Fall, this is the first student led conference that they have ever done. Before moms and dads come in, I want those kids confident with what they are going to say and do. About a week before conferences I have the student fill out reflections on the topics that we have been learning about. These are always very specific to what we have learned in that quarter. I also have them choose a few samples of work that they can show off. I get some big ol' tables and put all the relevant reflections and work inside the student's temporarily emptied book boxes.


    3. Pass out presents!

o   And no, I don’t mean toys or candy. (I'm like the anti-candy teacher; I never give out the sugary stuff!) I use CAFÉ strategies when teaching reading to my students, so this conference each child received a ring of the reading strategies that he or she was working on. I love doing this at conferences because then the student can explain the reading strategies to their parents. This keeps the parents in the loop and gives me the opportunity to share how important it is to read at home and practice using the strategies. Also, for my lower readers, I print out and assemble a ring of sight words for them to keep at home and review.

·         4. Give ‘um stuff to look at!

o   Occasionally, (I mean, ALL the time) these things get backed up and sometimes people are waiting for a few minutes. Give them something to do!

Bored people are grumpy people and nobody wants grumpy people on conference day!

       I always try to put up a new bulletin board right before conferences so that it's new for everyone. I also always leave out a table of ipads with our class website up. (This website is my baby, I LOVE posting pictures and vids of my students on it) Students especially love sharing the website videos with parents!

The unveiled bulletin board. We had just been working on our insect unit!


     5. Ask for feedback!

o   I want to know what my students AND parents are thinking about how the school year is going! I always ask them during the conference, and have received really great suggestions, some of which I’ve then implemented immediately in my classroom. Occasionally, there are things that parents don’t feel comfortable bringing up in person. To make sure that there is an avenue of communication for this, I set up some anonymous parent surveys. During the conference day, I set up a table with survey sheets and a box to put them in. Because I work in Guatemala, I print English on one side and Spanish on the other. If you would like to snag these super, simple survey sheets, head on over to my TPT store and check them out by clicking here: PARENT SURVEY SHEETS or clicking no the picture below! I also sent out a SurveyMonkey form via email. SurveyMonkey lets me know if anyone responds and can even chart responses entirely anonymously. I want to make sure that my students and parents feel that their voice is being heard!

Well, those are my 5 tips to FANTASTIC student led conferences! I hope they help you to make conferences an enjoyable and valuable experience for you, your students, and their families!!