Friday, October 20, 2017

Parent/Family-Student-Teacher Conferences: What Works

I'm working with my team to deepen and better student-family-teacher(s) conferences. We put a lot of time into this because research demonstrates how important family-teacher relations are to the overall success of students.
  • Lead time for sign-up
  • Online sign up
  • Students present at conference
  • Student portfolios (one-inch view binders)
  • Students' stats sheet: list of student scores for early-year assessments
  • Descriptions of each teachers' focus and main teaching events so far on the stats sheet
  • Examples of students study in each learning area
  • Photos of signature events and projects
  • Students' selfie collages (Identity/Community-Building Project)
  • Offering a variety of times
  • Reflection pieces
  • Goal setting pieces
  • Evaluation pieces
  • Happiness survey
  • Lighten up the curriculum/instruction week to make time for student/teacher portfolio/conference prep
  • Timed once initial assessments are complete (after MCAS score arrival?)
Family-Student-Teacher Conference as a Learning Event
As the young girl read her marvelous story today during the family-student-teacher conference, I realized that the conference is truly a learning event.

The parent and I were learning about the student, and the student was learning about herself as she read her story and made commentary along the way.

Also during this conference period students presented portrayals of themselves as readers, STEAM leaders, students of social studies, and mathematicians. As children sat at the table leading their conferences metacognition grew and so did my understanding of where a child is at this point in his/her learning career and where I'd like to coach the student forward.

If well designed the Family-Student-Teacher conference at fifth grade can be as much of a learning event as a sharing/goal setting event. I want to explore this idea more and if you have anything to offer, please do.

Conference Script
After sitting through the conferences, and watching students share their showcase portfolios, I think a good process for each child to follow includes these steps:

  1. Introduce family to teacher
  2. Share Happiness Survey
  3. Choose a piece of writing to read and talk about
  4. Read introductory reading pages
  5. Choose a STEAM project to share (including pictures)
  6. Talk about other important aspects of the year such as buddies and social studies
  7. Share learning evaluation
  8. Review stats and goals. (I want to simplify the goal sheet)

Family-Student-Teacher Conference: Clear the Schedule
After completing most of the conferences, I can say that I am really happy with our overall structure for conferences, however, I wish I had cleared the way even more so that extreme fatigue didn't set in. The week of family-student-conferences demand that all home tasks are complete and the fridge is full of easy-to-prepare family dinners. It's also important that the schedule does not include other deep tasks or problems to solve so that the attention can be focused on the conferences and teaching alone.