Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Student-Led Conferences-My Favorite Way to Meet with Students AND Parents

The conferencing season is upon us.  Forms have come back signed, students are busy organizing their conference portfolios, and eagerly awaiting the chance to share all they have been doing at school with their parents/guardians. 

This week has been jam-packed with self-reflection, goal setting, and thoughtful work sample collecting.  I LOVE experiencing this with my students at this point in the school year.  We are into a routine and they possess this certain understanding of what it means to be a 6th grader.

We began the week with introducing the student-led conference approach to the students.  The "wait a second, I have to be there and talk the whole time?" hit a few of them like a ton of bricks, but the majority are excited to "experience some uninterrupted teacher/parent attention for 20 whole minutes."  I have to admit-this is my favorite part as well.  Seeing each student have the chance to share their thoughts about the school year so far and discuss goals they have set for themselves is thrilling for me.

I then showed them a video of a student-led conference from about twelve years ago.  My favorite quote from my new favorite student was, "Mrs. Beers, you don't look any different than you did twelve years ago."  You made my year, Jon!  Thanks!  Showing the video gave them the chance to see "exactly what they are in for" as I like to put it. 

From there, students began working on their conference organizer.  The organizer allows them the chance to reflect on their strengths in each subject area, identify work samples they are proud of, discuss their classroom management, and establish goals they hope to accomplish throughout the remainder of the year.  It is a very thorough organizer that encourages great self-reflection.

Lastly, the students write an ice breaker letter that they read at the very beginning of their conference thanking their parent/guardian for coming and explaining what they will be sharing for the remaining time we are conferencing.  Finally, we will be publishing the letters on the laptops.

Before the students sit down with a parent and myself for the actual conference, they will do a peer-share with their 6-minute solution partner, so they have the opportunity to have a trial run.  I have found that this helps with the nerves just a bit. 

Here are a few pics of our preparations...

Students working on ice breaker letters and watching a student-led conference video.

Gwen focusing on the classroom management scetion of her organizer.

Lucas working on his ice breaker letter.

Matt and Destiny organizing their student-led conference folders and making sure everything is complete.

Sample ice breaker letter-a friendly, business letter format.  With the varied levels of my 6th graders,
showing examples of EVERYTHING is essential.

I am anxious to hear how conferences go for you and your students. Keep me posted on any tools and tricks that you utilize in your classroom.  Happy November and Happy Conferencing!

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