It’s no secret that parent teacher conferences are an exhausting time of year. But, dare I say, they can be highly rewarding, too. In this post, I want to give you the skinny on how you can make parent teacher conferences as low stress as possible, whether they are in-person or virtual.
Student-Led Is Best
Student-led parent teacher conferences give students a sense of pride. They also allow students to practice important leadership skills.
Doing conferences this way paints a clear picture of strengths & areas to work on.
Whether or not you do student-led conferences depends on the expectations from your district, administrators, and students’ parents. If you cannot do a 100% student-led conference, you could do a hybrid version of parent teacher conferences.
In this case, students lead the first part of the conference and then the second part can be a more traditional parent teacher conference where you “download” the parents about how their child is doing and answer any questions that they might have. Starting with the students puts a really lovely positive start to the meeting.
Decide which evidence students will showcase. This is a great time to prep and/or clean up student portfolios to be ready to be shown off. This is also when I make sure that I set aside time in class to: prepare evidence, complete self-reflections, and practice how to host their conference.
I love to have students complete a summary sheet for the end of the term/semester to share with parents. This also helps students to recall what they have learned. On this sheet, students write about what they’ve learned that term. They also note things they are proud of and what they want to improve during the next term or semester.
It’s important to me to have evidence from all core subjects. I like to have at least one piece of evidence for each unit that we’ve completed in writing, math, science, and social studies. It's best to choose end-of-unit projects or those “bigger” pieces of evidence to paint the fullest picture possible. I also let my students include any other pieces of evidence (from any subject) that they are proud of.
Behaviour & Leadership
To give a complete picture to parents about what their child is like in class, I like to share evidence of their behaviour, leadership, goals, etc.
My favourite way to do this is to have students explain and share their behaviour tracking calendars for the term. Learn more about how I use behaviour tracking in my classroom here.
I also have students share any goals that they have written that term and any classwide or school-wide leadership roles that they’ve done.
On top of the evidence that I like to have students share, I also like to have students complete conference student reflections in core areas & about their behaviour. I find that students usually answer very honestly and it can spark some great conversations about what they should be proud of and help them see areas for improvement.
In Person Vs. Virtual Conferences
The way I host in-person and virtual conferences is similar. However, there are some key differences that I’ll highlight below.
The main difference is that I keep conference packages at school for students to share when they come in with their parents. I get students to give their parents a tour of the classroom at their first parent teacher conference of the year. I also allow students to share anything else that they want to since they are in the classroom, anyway. Incorporating hands-on or “on the spot” activities when we are in person is great because parents get a taste for the kinds of tasks that we do in class. I’ve done this in different ways like having my students play a math game with their parents, read a page from their favourite book, complete a science experiment, revise and edit a paragraph, etc.
The main thing to help virtual conferences go smoothly is a simple sign-up and hosting setup. I like to have my students’ parents sign up for a conference slot on SignUp Genius. The week of their conference, I email them an individual Google Meet link that I set up through Google Calendar. Although it’s extra work, I like having an individual link for each family so that I can make sure that conferences don’t get interrupted early so that each family gets their full time.
When doing virtual conferences, my time frame is shorter than in-person conferences. Therefore, I start by having students go over their conference package with their parent(s) and myself and, afterward, I lead a quick synopsis on how their child is doing and answer any questions.
A Key Resource
Are you looking for additional help with parent teacher conferences? These self reflection sheets for conferences are a huge help in having students reflect on their term/semester. They make great conversation starters during conferences.