Monday, November 19, 2012

Conferences... Done! (Almost)

Thirty-one conferences finished and one to go!

Fonts by Jessica Stanford

It seems like every year I try a different strategy to make conferences run more smoothly. And, every year, I think: Next year I am going to try something different!

My conferences are twenty minutes long, and I usually end up wishing I had a half an hour instead. After eight or nine conferences in a row, I am asking myself: "What were you thinking?! If these conferences were half an hour long, your comments would be completely nonsensical! You don't even remember your OWN name, not to mention the name of the child in front of you!" (More than once, I had to look at the child and think (quickly!): Oh yes, I DO remember you!)

Graphic by Scrappin Doodles
I have parents whose schedules vary greatly, so I try to have a "something for everyone" approach to conference scheduling. Kids come to conferences too, so that requires a further twist to the arrangement. I choose one day to stay late and a few mornings to come in extra early. (Our start time for kids is 7:40, so "extra early" is EARLY!) I was surprised that some parents chose the 6:40 to 7:00 AM slot. And I was not surprised to find there was competition for the 6:40 to 7:00 PM slot! As it stands, everyone found a time that worked for them (and one family that is still rescheduling).

The schedule for conferences tends to unfold like this:
Fonts by Jessica Stanford

Of course my favorite part is the student presentations. Students deliver a presentations about their progress in sixth grade. Although they have note cards, they cannot read them; they have key words that prompt them for each element of their presentation. There are four "categories" that the students talk about: The subject I am best at... The subject I need to improve on (or the subject I find challenging)... My behavior in class and at school... and My favorite thing about sixth grade... followed by a heart-felt: "Any questions?"

Originally the students wrote a statement to match each category.

Then they eliminated the superfluous words, leaving them with the key words or "talking points." They were only allowed FIVE, so they had to choose carefully. This type of thinking (and some extra practice time) helped to cement the comments into their minds--which reduced their nervousness--at least a little.

They were able to look at the key words and then express their sentiments in a sentence or two as they spoke about each category. So, one of my "math-magicians" was able to look at this card, hold it behind his back and then recreate his sentence: "The subject I am best at is math because decimals are easy and algebra is challenging and fun."

I was (as always) amazed at their poise and candor. Some of them were able to embellish their comment cards with very little difficulty. There were a few giggles, one round of tears, numerus sighs of relief, and plenty of smiles.


I took "action notes" so that I could follow up on questions, suggestions and requests, which resulted in a To Do list that I hope to complete soon (before I lose it!). I have flash cards to find, kids to add to my tutoring group, a few grades to re-investigate, and some books to purchase that students have requested.

One last discovery... While looking for some "parent-teacher-student conference clip art," I found a set at Scrappin' Doodles (There is so much cute stuff there!) The set included some adorable graphics and this sweet apple comment. I need to figure out how to thank some parents for their involvement and I need to discover a way to encourage some parents to take a more active part in supporting their kids' learning. 

I just like what this little apple says! I'm thinking of a conference thank-you note...
(And I am definitely going to use this graphic for Back-to-School meetings next year!)

Graphic by Scrappin Doodles

I hope that your conferences went smoothly... and that you are looking forward to at least a few days away from school this week. I have so much to be thankful for... and vacation days are currently on my list!


  1. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea of having them write what they are good at, et al. and then take only the 5 key words. Perfect for my kids to get at summarizing. What a genius idea...and for parent conferences too! Fabulous!!!

    Teaching in Room 6

  2. YAY for such a concise, thorough review of this amazingly promising practice!!! You ought to get some sort of award . . . or a jewel in your crown . . . what a gift you've given to these parents and their children! I am in awe . . . and inspired. I agree with Stephanie - fantastic!!


  3. Great ideas! This year was the first time that so many parents didn't bother showing up, and didn't want to reschedule, and many of the people that did come... well, I now understand quite a bit about why the kids think the way they do. I love how you had them do the key points.

    I Love My Classroom

  4. Wow! Thanks for the incredible ideas. I would like to do some type of student led conference for third quarter. Congrats on being done!

  5. Wow, what an amazing idea Kim!! I can see how this would be fantastic in so many ways.

    Congrats on your conference-success! Was today your last day?

  6. Hi Kim!
    Love what you did with the student note cards!! I will have to give that a try.

    My Life as a Third Grade Teacher

  7. Great idea Kim! Congratulations on being (almost!) done with conferences. They really do take a lot out of you! Our have been postponed until mid December because of Hurricane Sandy. As if December wasn't stressful enough! :-)

  8. Hi Kim,
    I was just stopping by to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

    The Picture Book Teacher's Edition

  9. I do not envy you with conferences!

    Happy Thanksgiving sweet friend!

    Journey of a Substitute Teacher
    Endless Pinabilities!

  10. ugh...conferences, but wow for the great idea you did! :)

  11. I am feeling like a desperate underachiever after reading this! Great ideas for P/T conferences here! I am glad I'm not the only one who always thinks about something new to try next year when conferences roll around again!
    Justin K.
    Writing Pad Dad


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