When I began my teaching career, I had conferences the traditional way- the parents and I. All my conferences were back to back, completely rushed, and seemed to pass by in a blur. After a few years, I began to invite the children and involve them in the conference. After all, the little one that we were talking about was THEM! Why student led conferences?
After much research on the internet and through professional teaching books, I learned there are so many benefits for students taking the lead. One of the most important benefits to hosting student led conferences is that the students take ownership over their behavior, academics, and learning. I couldn’t wait to see for myself!
After the parents requested their 45 minute block of time, I made my conference schedule and placed 5-6 families during the same time frame.
Here was our conference day agenda, which the kids knew like the back of their hand!!
As the students walked into the classroom, they went straight to their desk…just like I taught them!
After I gave a brief 3 minute welcome and explanation about the conference format, the students became the star of the show! They began by talking with their parent (s) and sharing their snapshot of learning. (ALWAYS start with the positives, no matter what conference style you are having, right?!?). The students moved right onto their “top ten” things that they wanted their parents to learn at conferences.
The students also handed their parents a copy of the agenda for the conference and the students picked up their copy of the agenda. This is what they used as their guide to walk them through the conference and remind them what items to discuss.
Students then walked around the room and visited the different stations that were set up. All the stations reflected what we were currently learning about in class for the different subject areas. I purposefully chose centers that were hands-on, engaging, and challenging! The students were to be little show offs at the conferences!!!
Goal Setting Station:
Here, students took a few minutes to share their self-reflection with their parents. The students took out their “self reflection” for the quarter, which was already filled out, and shared with their parents their strengths and areas for improvement. The students worked with their parents to create a goal that could be accomplished by the end of the school year.
Students also went into depth explaining our classroom economy and how many credits they earned for good choices and good behavior. They also explained their debits for bad choices. Hence, the student self reflection!!!
Parents were really impressed with some of the rewards that they were able to purchase with their hard earned money!
Parent Place Station:
Here, the parents picked up their child’s manila folder that included district and classroom assessments, information about their reading level, and other information about how they could help their child at home. I made sure I was at this center every time a new family got there, so I could review the paperwork.
At the Reading Station, students showed their parents their book nooks and explained how they went shopping for a “just right” book in our classroom library.
They showed the hard work they accomplished in their reading (thinking about their reading!) and explained our guided reading block of time. (I was happy to overhear some kids say that they love guided reading!!!)
Students went to our display of anchor charts and “taught” their parents all about our reading workshop mini-lessons.
Math Station was a huge hit!
The student had a plethora of math projects to show their parents. The students also demonstrated how we use math manipulatives to master some tricky math concepts- making arrays, perimeter, area, quadrilaterals, ect. Many students also started playing a multiplication math game with their mom/dad!
I made my students promise me that they would visit this station last…the TREATS station! Spending ten dollars at Super Walmart goes a LONG way and is well worth it. The candy was on sale because of Halloween!
I didn’t know if 45 minutes was TOO long of a block of time but it turns out it was just right! In fact, I think some of the families could have stayed longer….not one family left early!!
When I talked to my colleagues about this idea of student led conferences, they told me “good luck” and “sounds great” but were not willing to be a guinea pig with me.
One of their main concerns about having student led conferences in this format was, “How are you going to talk with the parents privately and address their questions and concerns?” GREAT QUESTION!!!! My boyfriend, who teaches fourth grade also wondered the same thing and was a **TAD** bit skeptical. Where was their faith in me!?!?
Here is the key: I offered the option for a ten minute private conference when the parents signed up for a time. (Two parents out of my 25 requested a private conference.) Also, I already had private conferences with a couple of other families in September and October. (See the conference note that I sent home above!) I had concerns about their behavior and/or academics and wanted them to addressed in a private setting.
As another way I made sure that I addressed concerns or questions the parents might have, I sent home a preconference form. By sending this home a week prior to conferences, I was able to gather information to answer the parents questions and have that prepared for our conference time.
Although I was well aware of the value the format of student directed conferences, I was not sure how the parents felt about them. After all, this format was completely new for not only me, but my students and their families as well. Although I felt conferences went well and the students did an AMAZING job teaching their parents about third grade, I NOT sure how the parents felt about how the conferences went. Even though I had lots of great feedback DURING the actual conference time, I still wanted to hear their honest thoughts and suggestions for improvements.
SOOOO…I was brave and sent home the feedback form. I was nervous, but mainly very curious!, to hear their thoughts and feelings! I truly wanted to know if they thought as highly about them as I did and needed their feedback to guide my conference format scheduling in the future!
I had 22 families attend the conferences (1 phone conference and only ONE family that did not come!!) and 16 families return their feedback form.
Here were their comments, and you have to trust that I didn’t change them. Also, I didn’t “keep out” the negative comments- there were none!!!
“I really enjoyed the student-led conferences. I feel like I have a better understanding of my daughter’s day at school and what she is learning about in each subject area.”
“I loved this conference format because I felt like there was NO rush throughout the conference. Other teachers should follow the same style.”
“I loved it! I wish more teachers would do this. I think including the students is very beneficial.”
“Thank you for addressing the concerns listed on the preconference form. We definitely thought the student led conference was a great idea!”
and my personal favorite…
“Please continue to think outside the box!”
I KID YOU NOT! LOVED reading that!!!!
This is a ZIP file. There is a PDF version, for those customers who are not interested in making any changes and using the ideas exactly as presented in the file. However, a 15 page PowerPoint file is also included. The slides in the PowerPoint file allows you to add your own text box to the templates (conference agenda, student pages). You can add your own wording to customize the pages for your students.
This file contains very detailed directions about the format of student led conferences, lots of pictures, and a ton of forms for your students to use at their conference. This resource is great for use with 1st through 5th grade students.
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