Step back & Enjoy Student Led Conferences

Student Led Conferences are an incredibly reflective experience for all involved; teacher, student and families. This post will walk you through what I’ve found to work well over the years. Please read on, take what you like and enjoy.

Our “class” sitting at their desks, awaiting our visitors.

Form: what is it? 

The shift from a private, teacher led conference with parents to a student led conference is exactly as it states. The teacher takes a step back and is simply the facilitator of the students’ preparation prior to the conference and the child takes the lead on the day of the event, leading their family through a snap shot of what they have learned, how they learn and how they are progressing.

It is a simply amazing experience to see how children step up to the challenge. They are beaming with pride as they guide their family through their classroom and involve the parents in the process of their day to day learning. Even the most shy pull out their communication skills as they show their visitors around their classroom- a place where they feel comfortable and know.

Behind the Scenes: 

Once the family invitation letters have been sent out, along with the parent information letter, “What Are Student Led Conferences”, the preparation for Student Led Conferences can be overwhelming at first. After 8 years, I’ve found the best way to prepare is to actually set aside time in the day for at least a week before the big day. This of course may have to be adjusted based upon your class’s age and your school schedule. But a few hours a day, for a week, does it for me. This preparation can easily be incorporated into writing, speaking and listening skills with group discussions and expressive arts with role play and craft.

Over the years, I have created a selection of tools and forms that make it easier to record goals, communicate with parents and reflect upon our learning. A selection are editable to suit my changing needs with each class.      ( not to mention that I’ve switched from 3rd, 5th, 4th, 3rd and back to  5th in 5 years! Phew!) They are easy to print and go and mix and match. These can be found here in my store for free. Yup Free! 🙂 

The Portfolio:

As an IB World school, our children have a record of their learning throughout the years kept within their Student Portfolios. This portfolio plays a key part in our reflection process.  If you do not have a portfolio already created, I have a great selection of cover sheets to create your own, within my Student Led Conference Kit.

I like to have the children select  pieces of their work that show their learning within  Language, Maths, Social Studies/Science and Expressive Arts from our most recent unit of inquiry.( these are usually six week long, cross curricular units)

We focus on things that we are:

  • Proud of
  • Found challenging
  • Demonstrate our progress

This can be something that we have displayed on our walls, photocopied from their notebook or taken from their working binder. Each piece is reflected upon with either a sentence or a short paragraph, depending on the ability level of the child. I like to put everything into clear plastic pockets and insert them all into our portfolio. I found a pack of 50 poly pockets for only $5.95 on Amazon. A couple boxes of these works for the entire year.

Reflection:

We spend a great deal of time reflecting within an IB PYP school. I have a previous blog post here that goes into this in more depth if you wish. Also, there is an easy to use Learner Profile check list found in my store for free. It’s great to use at any time for any subject. I make a bunch of copies and file them ready to use for any subject or for the end of our units of inquiry.

IB Learner Profile: With the Learner Profile as the centre of the PYP, I spend a bit of time in advance preparing the children to share their perspective of themselves as learners. This is a fun writing and craft activity and the kids LOVE it. ( and for me, the craft is the carrot at the end of the stick for those reluctant writers..hehe)

Meet Julie. 🙂

The children will write a detailed paragraph about themselves and their own learning style, using the Learner Profile vocabulary. With scaffold sheets within my complete kit, its easy to differentiate too. The edited final copy is written or typed in a speech bubble.

The children then create their own self portrait of head and shoulders, attach the speech bubble writing and, on the day of our Conferences, we tape the whole thing to our chairs, tuck the chairs in and voila, we have a class of cute learners just waiting patiently for their guests to visit.   Parents love it! They can see where their child sits AND where their friends sit.

Involving Parents:

Providing a few activities that involves families allows the children to show their visitors how they learn within our classroom, initiates a natural collaboration amongst the adults and children and gives the family an idea of what we have been learning. 

I love inquiry based learning activities. These are set out as stations around the classroom. I usually have two or three stations of each activity. This, I determine based upon the number I have visiting throughout the conferences. You will know this from your parent feedback returned after invitations have been sent home.  I like to include writing, STEM and research tasks.

Included in my complete kit:

  • Research- webquest activity
  • STEM- identifying math with engineering activity
  • STEM- working through the scientific method designing glasses
  • Language- writing a triptych using inferring skills.
Tips n’ tools for creating a fun and effective Student Led Conference. Everything you need in one convenient packet.

My complete kit for Student Led Conferences contains these inquiry based activities and all of the forms  the task cards to implement them.  Simply copy and laminate. Easy peasy!

Rehearsal:

It is a very good idea to rehearse the whole conference procedure with your kiddos. Once I’ve gone over the scheduled routine with the class, we get into pairs and role play the conference. With my older kids I like to keep the activities a secret. Unseen adds to the authenticity of the inquiry experience. I’ve learned that it’s a good idea to let my younger kids see what’s coming, so that they can lead the activity. Some parents like to take over. And I encourage the kids to be the leader for this time.

Each child takes turns at being the leader and the guest. We then do some peer reviews and practice again with the constructive feedback.

Scheduling:

With SLCs you will have several families visiting at one time. This can come as a surprise to some parents even though you’ve sent out the parent information letter. Keep it light-hearted and encourage them to allow their child to share. When you’re scheduling times, it’s a good idea NOT to have more than 4 families in your room at one time. It makes it more personal for the families, keeps the noise down so children’s voices can be heard and allows for better management of your inquiry stations. Try to keep visitors on schedule with a friendly ” five minutes to go” announcement. Otherwise it can become chaotic. ( been there, done that!) 

All Right on the Night: no matter how much preparation you do, you can’t control every little detail or the quirks of excited children and their parents. So, once the children have introduced you to their family, quietly sink into the background and let the students lead their parent conference. Take loads of pics and add them to your next classroom blog, newsletter or website. Parents LOVE to see it all.

Good luck, sit back and enjoy the experience.

~Susan

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