5 Tips for Parent/Teacher Conferences

For the first time ever, I'm teaching at a school this year that has parent/teacher conferences in the Fall AND in the Spring. We just finished our second round of conferences, and I thought it might be helpful to share some of the ideas I've learned along the way.

This seems so simple, but I'm continually surprised by what I learn from asking this simple question at the beginning of each conference. It provides valuable insight into the child's home life and how s/he feels about school. Usually, we know our students very well, but I've been surprised by what parents have said on a number of occasions. By asking the question at the beginning, it helps establish the tone for the conference.

That's right, just as we teach students to set their own goals, we need to do the same for conferences. This is part of the planning stage of the parent-teacher conference. If I'm going to tell Jane's parents that she's having difficulty with self correction during reading, I need to have a suggestion for how the parents can help and explain how this relates to what I'm doing in the classroom.

Much of the work we do in the classroom never goes home, so it's helpful to show parents what kind of work their child is doing, and how they're demonstrating their learning. You can provide a few pieces of writing, reading response, or even notebooks that show a typical day's work/learning. These pieces of work make great conversation pieces!

One of the resources I created this year has come in very handy during conferences with parents and during report writing time. These are especially helpful if you're using workshop models for reading and writing instruction. I like to be able to tell parents what our goals are according to the strengths of each particular child. Identifying specific reading behaviors help parents understand the progression of learning and how they can support this at home. 

Leave your door open. Metaphorically, of course. Let parents know the best way they can reach out to you: email, notes from home, etc., and ask how to reach them if necessary.

Those are the five guidelines I try to follow for each conference. What about you? How do you handle parent/teacher conferences?

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