Parent and Teacher Conferences
If you are looking for more ideas for communicating with parents, please check out the Parent Communication page!
I have been so lucky. Because I team team, I sit through both my homeroom and my partners' homeroom conferences. About 45-50 conferences in all. Well, that may not sound to good, but here is the good news! While I prepare most of the literacy information and handouts and so on, my partner takes care of all the scheduling and hunting down parents and so on. So keep in mind as you read this, it has been a long time since I did this "on my own."
UPDATE 2/08 This year I am all on my own as I am not team teaching so I did it this year by myself! It worked pretty smooth!
At my school we have two formal conferences a year on release dates in November and February. About three weeks before conferences begin my school gives teachers a letter to send home to parents requesting a conference. If you need a letter, make sure to see if there is a district letter for the formal conferences. If this is at yours or the parent's request, it is appropriate to type your own letter. An example letter can be found here at the Busy Teacher Cafe.
As parents return the conference notes, the teacher plugs the parents in as close to their requested time an date. Here is an example of a scheduling sheet I created awhile ago. Then a confirmation notice is sent to parents letting them know what date they have been scheduled for. I found this excellent confirmation notice that is also a parent questionnaire at Education World.
To keep myself organized, I pull a manila file folder out. I labeled the front "February Conferences 2008" or the year really BIG on the cover, not just on the tab- this way I can always see it!!! On the left hand side I staple in a scheduling sheet, like the one listed above. On the outside of the folder I staple a small (1/4 a sheet) class list and mark off kids as they return the sheets, so I know who I need to send another form. Whenever a student returns the scheduling form, I stick it in this folder and then begin filling in the schedule on the left. When students return the scheduling forms, I staple them all together so none of the forms will slip out. I do the same with the returned confirmation forms. As students return the confirmation form, I check off the name so I can follow up on parents who have not yet responded. It is all in one spot and easy to use. When conferences are over I am able to file it away in my documentation cart since it is all together!
Here is one hint: make sure to ONLY mark reschedule on this schedule in the folder. I made the mistake of rescheduling two conferences- one using the folder and another one using the schedule posted on my door. Whoops! I scheduled at the same time! Luckily the parent I and I have a great relationship so we just laughed it off and she was great. But it could have been ugly and I felt AWFUL!!!
Keep in mind, not all kids will fit in a 20 minutes conference time. Students where you are concerned with their progress or need to have a nice long conferences with to nurture that parent relationship (because this WILL make your life easier in the long run), give them two time blocks. You know your kids, schedule them accordingly.
On the same note, if a parent has a history of not showing up, I am really hesitant to schedule them in that 7:30 am time block. I would hate to get to the school an hour early when I don't need to (I am an evening worker- not a morning one!!).
I will post more add more information below about what information I discuss with parents as well as how I schedule and organize parents for conferences. The links below are the two sheets of paper I will have out for parents. One paper will discuss how to help your child read at home and the other will be tips on helping with writing at home. I DID NOT create these sheets. I found them on this website and then edited them for the information I wanted to include.
On one of the message boards I visit a teacher posted a checklist they used during conferences. I do not know who the teacher was (Sorry! This was awhile ago!) but I cut and pasted the checklist and my partner and I adjusted it to our own needs. This gives parents a more detailed look at what they need to work with their child on.
Since I have moved down to second grade, the checklists from above did not seem appropriate for the younger kids. I created a new checklist that I think it is easier on the eyes than the one above.
This is terrible, but I am all about looking competent and in charge in front of parents. I think this is because at the beginning of my career, I looked really young. Some how this isn't a problem any more, I somehow have gotten old and fat!!!!
We are required to keep recent running records of our students reading progress. Prior to conferences I make sure that I have a good feel (either from observation in guided reading groups or from a formal running records). I pull out my handy Guided Readers and Writers by Fountas and Pinnell book. Then I turn to the back where all the leveled books list are.
I have a chart of all my reading levels documented on one spreadsheet for organization ease. I look at each students instructional level, drop a level or two to their independent level. Then I match it to the letter in the Guiding Readers and Writers. I mark a students name with a post it note and then the letter and stick it out like flag in the book. I do this for all the students, then I take the whole book to the copier and make copies. As I am making the copies, I pull the post off of the book and slap it on the copies so I know who the copies are for. At conference time I give the book list to the parents and now the parents have an individualized reading list to take to the library to look for appropriate books. I also do this at the end of the year and enclose in the report card envelope to encourage summer reading.
It looks really good and the whole process from looking up levels to copies takes me about 20 minutes!
Compliment the child and parent! Praise goes a long way too setting the tone for a conference.
I always stand up and greet the parent. I go up to them, not the other way around. If the parent looks open to it, I always stick out my hand for a handshake. Some of the parents in our school our not comfortable at school and it is area effort for them. Make them comfortable.
Always start out with a compliment or a cute anecdote about their child. Regardless of how involved, every parent loves their child and will be appreciative if they know YOU appreciate their child.
Break out the paper work. Be prepared!
In a conference I try to go over a the checklist from above, district benchmark paperwork on reading and writing levels and a writing sample.
I go over my checklist from above, using mostly oral explanations for progress. I always have a running record ready, just in case, but it is my experience, most parents tend to glaze over when I explain what all the checks mean on a running record or what meaning, structure or visual cues mean. Go for layman terms.
I always try to keep a student writing sample because I DO think parents benefit from seeing what kids write like. This is way easier to explain with a sample.
If you have academic concerns with a student's progress...
If a child is reading below grade level, have an example of a book at their instructional level AND a copy of a book that an on grade level student is reading so they can see the difference. This usually floors most parents and is a pretty good way to illustrate your concern without being negative. If done in a correct tone, it can really demonstrate in a caring way your concern.
If you have attention concerns with a student...
In the past I have had students where I was very concerned about their attention and I thought it may be more than age (as in, maybe they need to talk to their doctor). To illustrate this for parents, I simply take up any assignments that kids don't finish or take a LONG time to finish. Then I clock the assignment, writing anecdotal note on the bottom of the paper. For example I have written on the bottom of a child's work (a story elements comparison chart of guided reading texts), "Worked on for two guided reading groups of 20 minutes each. Sent student hall to complete for 30 minutes on list date here and study hall for list date here for 20 minutes. Total time assignment was worked on : 100 minutes. "
If you do this on a few assignments, this can be a real eye opener. Once again, your tone can not be over rated here. You must have a caring tone. I have tried the line "We both know how (creative, interesting , funny, etc), and I just can't help but wonder if he can be this (funny, creative, bright) when he is not focused, what could he do if he WAS focused."
PLEASE be very careful about what you. It is to my understanding that we as professionals cannot diagnosis a student with ADD or ADHD. I have been told, that if we tell a parent this, then we can be held financially responsible for the treatment and diagnosis of ADD or ADHD.
If you have behavioral concerns with a student...
When stuck or you are try to feel out a parent to see why in the world their child can be a little boogie sometimes. Give specific examples of behaviors and ask, "Do you notice these behaviors at home?" If they answer yes ask," How do you handle this at home?" Parents need to be a part of this and feel like they are a part of this. I have even asked parents what they say to their child and then try to mimic (if it is appropriate, some parents are a little more rough around the edges than I am comfortable being) it when the child does this at school. If the parents answer no, then I usually give them prompts like "Does he have a hard time getting homework done? What makes it a battle? How long does homework take? Does he sit at the table to eat or is he moving around a lot?" This can sometimes give you a good lead in.
Thank the parent.
I always end with a a thank you and a handshake. I also try to walk the parent to the door (like I would a guest in my house). This is a great way to get rid of the very talkative parent! : ) It also allows me to be ready to greet the next family.
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