Preparing for Parent Conferences
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5
Parent conferences can be intimidating, nerve-racking, and fast paced, but I can show you a few simple tips to make it run smoothly and painlessly. The first meetings with parents, at Back to School Night or Meet the Teacher Night, are usually quick and light. You introduce yourself and acquaint the parents with their roles in your classroom and with your class policies. You might touch on your teaching background and philosophy, your discipline plans, the way you celebrate special occasions, and the curriculum for your grade level, but you don't discuss the goals, needs, or behavior problems of individual students. You save those detailed conversations for parent conferences, which is why they require more planning. Here's how I do it.
Photo courtesy of Microsoft Office Word.
At Back to School Night, I put up a huge, easel-sized sign-up sheet for conference appointments, volunteer sign-ups, and a classroom wish list. About 75% of my class has a parent that attends. For those that weren't able to attend, I send home materials and assign them a conference week appointment. We exchange emails and notes to arrange a time that is convenient for the family and fits into the schedule. I call Spanish-speaking parents who don't attend and let them know in Spanish that translated materials are coming and then arrange their appointment for conference week.
The week before conference week, I send home reminder notes, put labels on kids' shirts, and email parents as a group. To organize your conferences and help your parents be proactive in their child's education, use a conference reminder, learning contract, "Ways You Can Help Your Child" worksheet, and parent conference checklist.
I also include a short list of questions for the parents to think about before coming to conferences. Our appointments are 20 minutes long, but I schedule 30 minutes. That allows me a little bit of extra time if a parent is running late, or if I need to run to the restroom or make a quick photocopy. It also allows the parents to ask any quick questions that they might have that I didn't address. I use a timer to make sure that parents get their allotted time and that the next appointment will begin on time. If a parent is 10 minutes or more late, I reschedule them. I usually have some quick sorting, cutting, gluing or labeling near me to work on if I have a no-show. I always ask the parents to invite the student to attend the conferences so that they know what we are talking about and feel as though they are an important part of their educational team.
During a parent conference, you will:
- Share the student's scores on beginning of the year assessments, and look at how they compare to those of their grade level peers
- Show samples of student work
- Discuss academic strengths and weaknesses
- Talk about the student's study habits and playground behaviors
- Set goals for student improvement this reporting period
- Explain what parents can do at home to help with meeting their child's goals
- Give them your email address and school Web site URL
- End the conference on a positive note, with a quick compliment for the student, a smile for the family, and the reassurance that you are always available to them.
Join me next week as I post about some great educational Web sites that you may want to add to your list of Web sites for students to use. These Web sites are geared towards leveled practice of academic subjects such as reading, spelling, math, science, social studies, and writing, and can be used at a classroom computer center, in the computer lab, or at home.