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10 Ways to Be Ready for Parent-Teacher Conferences All Year Long

By Allie Magnuson on December 3, 2010
  • Grades: PreK–K

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you do the following things all along, you will not have to rush around at conference time.

 

 

1. ASSESSMENTS
Assessments for Parent-Teacher Conferences
Unlike grades, which are imperfect measures of progress, and which by themselves are not enough for parent-teacher conferences, assessments give us information. They answer the question of how well we are teaching, and how we can help kids learn better by finding strengths to build on and areas to improve.

Assessments Come in Many Forms

Assessments can include worksheets, games, questions, conversations, student presentations, performance tests, and observations of the child's interaction with people and materials. Written tests are also assessments. They are not for grading student knowledge; they are for the teacher, not the students. 

Assessments for Parent-Teacher Conferences

Anecdotal records that reflect each child's overall growth (intellectual, physical, emotional, social, and behavioral), self-confidence, attitude, learning styles, strengths and weaknesses, problem-solving abilities, adjustment to kindergarten, and any other significant things are a great way to keep track of individual student development.

Whatever tool or tools you decide to use, take notes. These specific observations and examples will be invaluable at conference time.

  

2. STUDENT-TEACHER CONFERENCES

Student-teacher conferences prepare for parent-teacher conferences The best way to prepare for parent-teacher conferences is to have regular student-teacher conferences. This continual assessment and planning with students will aid greatly in their school achievement. Their own opinions affect how they will perform, and if you know what they think, it will help you help them. If you have been working with your students all along, the results will show at the parent-teacher conferences.

If You Want to Know, Ask the Child
  
Talk to the children about how they feel they are Student-teacher conferences prepare for parent-teacher conferences   doing in each area. Ask them what is easy and what is hard. Discuss observations you've made. Use open-ended questions that encourage them to have an exchange with you. Do not blame a child, or imply blame in any way. Be respectful, positive, and supportive: "Is there anything I can do to help? Is there anything I have overlooked?" Get honest feedback on your teaching. Make suggestions of things you can both do, not just things that the child must do. Mention what they're doing that's working and celebrate effort. How you relate to and interact with your students makes a big difference. Write down the details of these conferences and share them at parent-teacher conferences to show how you and the child have been working together.



3. STUDENT-TEACHER INTERVIEWS

Learning is a highly individual process. Each child learns in their own way and at their own pace. Remember that it's your responsibility to see that your students learn. You're the teacher; you're the one who chooses to be there and gets paid for it. Helping kids learn is your job.

A Custom Fit

One-size-fits-all lessons aren't appropriate. Give one-on-one interviews to focus on specific lessons, rather than overall achievement, by asking students about their background knowledge, what they know about the subject of the lesson, and what they would like to know. Then you can build the lesson — the whole group time and individualized sessions — around what you have learned from the interviews.

 

4. STUDENT-DIRECTED LEARNING

Letting students set their own goals, and work at mastering their own levels and beating their own score, is more effective and motivating, and yields better results, than teacher demands and peer competition. These efforts and results are what parents really want to see at parent-teacher conferences.

Goals Are Challenges

Review your notes daily and help students set goals whenever you can. Students love to set and accomplish goals when you present them as fun challenges. I have my students play my own version of the Pac-Man video game in which each dot represents a goal. When a child meets a goal, their Pac-Man eats the dot.


Tracking Goals for Parent-Teacher Conferences

Skills Are Challenges, Too


Mastery learning gives students time to master a skill before they have to move on to the next level or Mastery Learning Charts for Parent-Teacher Conferences Mastery Learning Charts for Parent-Teacher Conferences unit of study. I help my students understand the idea of "leveling up" by connecting it to the video game Super Mario Bros. Starting from the bottom, they fill in a chart one skill at a time. The tools they use to work on their skills are their "power-ups." When a skill is mastered, they move up a level. 

Mastery Learning Charts for Parent-Teacher Conferences

 

5. SELF-ASSESSMENTS

When children are taught to self-assess and self-correct, they become responsible for their own learning. Teach them to examine their work and use "self-talk" to reflect and ask themselves questions about what they know and understand, as well as what they still need to work on.

  Self-Assessments for Parent-Teacher Conferences Self-Assessments for Parent-Teacher Conferences

Self-Assessment Fosters Responsibility

My students don't get report cards for the first parent-teacher conferences of the year, so I had them make their own. This was a wonderful, easy, and fun way to get them to assess themselves. Some were very honest; some need to reflect a little more.

Self-Assessments for Parent-Teacher Conferences Self-Assessments for Parent-Teacher Conferences
  Self-Assessments for Parent-Teacher Conferences



6. PORTFOLIOS & PROCESS-FOLIOS

A portfolio or process-folio collects samples of actual work produced by a student. At parent-teacher conferences, process-folios show parents that you are monitoring their child's learning progress, and allow them to see the data for themselves.

The Depth and Breadth of Student Performance

Portfolios for Parent-Teacher Conferences Portfolios for Parent-Teacher Conferences Portfolios can showcase a student's best work, work that shows growth, work that needs improvement, or everyday work. Process-folios contain a collection of a student's work over time, showing the progress of a written piece, the steps used to solve a problem, or the stages of a project. I put together portfolios of tests and monthly center work, which clearly show areas of strength and weakness, and process-folios of my students' writing. In addition, I have my students make folders of a few items their parents can take home with them.



7. PARENT INVOLVEMENT

Make it known early on that you hope for and expect parents to be involved in their children's education. Suggest that they come in for at least ten minutes a week. This will allow them to see their children in the school setting, as well as demonstrate that they care. Involved parents already know what to expect at parent-teacher conferences.

If You Want Something, Ask for It

Inform parents and families of your need for assistants in the classroom and at home, chaperones for field trips, volunteers to put up displays, presenters to share their skills, helpers in the school and community, etc. Sometimes parents don't know that teachers need all the help they can get.

Go the Extra Mile

Hold parent or family workshops some evenings. Go over a subject you're teaching in class, discuss things that can be done to help children at home, make games or crafts, hold a question and answer session, teach parents continuing education skills, etc.



8. SCHOOL-HOME CONNECTION

Develop a consistent connection between school and home by maintaining a regular system of contacting parents with news, updates, comments, and concerns.

Let Me Tell You About . . .

On Fridays, I send a notebook home with each child that explains what we worked on during the week. Parents or family members are expected to look at the notebooks and write a letter back if they can. I also have parents come into the classroom at the end of the day to sign their kids out, so that I can speak with them.

Read more about the school-home connection notebook in my post "Score! Teachers and Parents Team Up to Reach a Common Goal."

The school-home connection prepares for parent-teacher conferences



Tell Me About . . .

Have parents provide any information that will help you understand, inspire, and teach their child better. Ask for feedback: "What is Suzie saying about school?" Get the parent's perspective on how the child is doing. You can also request suggestions of effective strategies they have used at home that you can try at school.



9. CONFERENCE PREP MATERIALS


Miss Bindergarten Giving a Parent-Teacher Conference

Arm Parents With Materials That Will Help You Work Together

When you send home the conference sign-up sheets, include the following:

  • A list of possible topics and questions parents can bring up at the conference. At least suggest that parents think beforehand about what they would like to say and ask at the conference. If you really want to be prepared, have parents send their questions back to you.
  • Conference guidelines and a prewritten explanation of school policies and classroom practices so that you have more time at the conference talking about the child.
  • Information about yourself.
  • A list of tools you use in the classroom that parents can use to help their child.
  • An invitation for the children to attend. You can't evaluate someone without their point of view on the matter. 

 

10. Conference Follow-Up Materials

After the conference, send a follow-up letter and a thank-you note. Reconfirm any courses of action. Remind parents to jot down notes for the next conference; encourage them to call you with questions or concerns; and assure them they can plan a follow-up meeting if they want.

Implement one or all of these strategies, and you're on your way to making conferences just a little bit easier.

What do you do to get ready for conferences?


Have a thoughtful weekend!

~Allie


Comments (6)

Kate ~ I am glad you found these ideas helpful. Best wishes for successful conferences.

~Allie

This was very helpful in preparing for my conferences! Thanks.

Joy ~ I like to give the parents things to work with their child too. I find that when I give them flash cards not only do the kids learn but it helps the non-English speaking parents. It's a win-win situation. Thanks for reading.

~

I always give my parents things they can take home and use to work with their child. I've found that most parents want to help, but don't know how. Since so many of my parents don't speak English, I give them activities that they can do in Spanish, like beginning/ending/medial sounds. Its the same in either language.

Lynsie ~ you are right. I can't tell you how many conferences I went through and I felt like I had nothing to show for the family. I have a good collection of material they will be interested in this time and the families will be able to see the growth their child has made thus far. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

~Allie

Well done and said! Conference time can be stressful if you're not prepared but doing the little things along the way-like making folders or portfolios for your students really saves you time in the long-run.

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