Parent/Teacher Conferences — Having Students Take the Lead
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
My dear teaching friend, Cindy Jones, will be retiring at the end of this school year. Cindy is an amazing teacher, and it just won’t be the same without her at our school. As I was walking by her room this week, I saw her students preparing for student-led conferences. Later I sat down with her and asked her for some tips on launching conferences that I could share with interested teachers. She allowed me to share all of her resources with you to use for your conferences this year and in upcoming ones.
Having Students Take the Lead
After a year full of communication with parents, it’s really helpful to end the year with student-led conferences. Some of Cindy's tips include:
- Give students time to practice. She gives her students at least two practice sessions before the real event. This includes a set of student “parents” and lessons on introductions and language.
- You need time. A typical conference may be rushed in fifteen-minute increments, but a student-led conference works best with a thirty-minute window. Cindy includes an agenda for each student that is organized down to the minute.
- Physically set up your room so that you are removed from the main table.
- If a student begins to cope with nerves in a peculiar way (i.e., getting emotional, making it into a joke), calmly ask the student to go out in the hallway for a second and give them a pep talk to keep the conference running smoothly.
- If a parent asks for an individual conference with you, of course you will want to schedule that. However, Cindy advises waiting until all student-led conferences are completed first.
- Cindy provides a folder for each student. It is decorated by the student, and the sheets inside (provided below) are all color-coded to help with organization. Students also make little notes to themselves on being firm and keeping eye contact.
- Allow students to put some negotiating skills to the test. Cindy assists her students in selling their strong points to their parents so that they might receive a reward or recognition of some sort from their parent.
All of this sounds simple, but I’ll admit that before my conversation with Cindy, I was too scared to try it out on my own. I wish I had talked to her earlier and asked for her resources. All of the work is already done for you. So, save yourself some time and check them out.
Cindy sends home a signup sheet, then posts the schedule for each day on the door. She types up an agenda, which the students share at the start of the conference. She also uses a parent checklist, with room for goals at the bottom, to help with the self-analysis part of the conference. Additionally, there's a short grammar exercise, the Shurley sentence, for parents to complete. Afterwards, the child goes over their work, which typically contains many errors. It's a confidence booster for students and demonstrates the difficulty of fifth grade standards to the parents.
Feel free to ask any questions you have here, as Cindy teaches across the hall from me.