Monday, October 24, 2011

Time for Student Led Conferences

It’s finally time! The children have worked so hard and it’s time for them to shine! The performance centers are in place, the children have talked and walked through their jobs and visualized their Student Led Conference. They know the material and they know how their conference will go. There will be no surprises. The parents have been well-informed up to this point so all that is left is for them to ‘witness’ what I have been telling them. Seeing is believing.

Even though there will be no surprises, I can be certain there will be an eye opener. Sometimes the children go through the entire conference seamlessly, while other times you see lights come on for a parent, a child, and sometimes the light comes on for the teacher. There is the occasional parent who struggles to grasp the concept their child might find a task a challenge.  When the parent actually sees the child working through a center, it’s hard not to acknowledge a beautiful answer or an answer that lacks substance. There is an occasional child who has continued to chug through a task while you have been teaching the concept (chug…chug…c-h-u-g) and finally, during conference time, the light comes on and ‘poof’! They get it! Right there in front of the parent and teacher. To see the light come on and the grin spread across that face… it’s just the best. As the child and parents (siblings are provided childcare) move through the ‘centers,’ the parents are invited to record what they notice about the child in each center. (The parent typically writes about their child’s use of reading strategies, their awareness of writing skills and traits, math skills, science and social studies concepts while navigating the smart board. ) The parents are usually shocked at all the things their child has been up to.  The parent might state, “Bobby needs to notice capitals and periods.” Or “Emma is great at her math facts.” Sometimes there is a different concern voiced, “I noticed Carson has a hard time focusing.” This opens the door for a future conversation.

As the families move through the centers, I typically stay out of the way and watch the pride shine all over the child’s face.  I love the time I get to share with the family during this conference. My involvement goes like this… I share a chair with the student behind my desk directly across from the parent. I always ask the child first, “What have you noticed about your learning?” Then I ask the parent, “What have you noticed about your child this year?” This is always a fun conversation. Usually we are all on a similar page. I often learn of something new I can use in my teaching to engage the child. Possibly an independent study… who knows what it could be this year. Then I share what I have noticed about the student’s learning.  (Strengths, areas that need attention and what can be done at home to help.) This is where it gets fun. I let the parents know they can contact me at any time with questions or concerns and excuse myself from the conference. The child, still seated in the teacher’s chair, takes over the conference by going through their portfolio and grade card with the parent. The child delights in being the expert. I usually leave school that late evening so inspired by what I have witnessed that I can hardly wait to get to school the next day.  So, as I write this, I am hoping the children are asleep rather than watching the World Series! I suppose I should hit the hay, because tomorrow will be a late night of grins and eye openers at our Student Led Conferences.


  1. I find that student-led conferences give power to the students. We have student-led-conferences in spring. Usually they are super positive experiences. Only few times we have had parents who have misunderstood the idea and have started testing their child. In the fall we have student-teacher-parent conferences. For both times the students have their portfolios with them.

  2. My students are too young for such conferences so I loved reading about yours. It sounds like you have supported your students well in preparing for such success.