Tips & Tricks for Surviving Parent Teacher Conferences
For my first few years of teaching, parent teacher conferences were my most dreaded four days of the year! I was anxious that I would say the wrong thing, worried about how parents might not like something I was doing, and nervous about telling parents that their students were performing lower than an expected 7-8 year old. However, now parent teacher conferences have become one of my favorite times of the year because this is when you get to connect with a student’s family and make sure you are all on the same page working toward the same goals to help that student meet their maximum potential. How cool is that?! Below are some tips that help me guide my conferences, hopefully they will help you out as well.
Break It Down!
Parents don’t look at test scores every day like you do, and they do not know what a typical student should be doing, so you need to slow down and show them! Explain to parents what the current grade level expectation is for a student, and what their student is doing. Tell them exactly what their student needs to do to get to grade level, and if they are above grade level, give them a goal to keep working toward.
Have resources available to hand out.
If you have a lot of students struggling with fluency, have some fluency practice resources available for parents so that if they ask what they can do at home, you are ready to hand it to them. Same goes for math, have some extra games prepped that are easy to learn and play at home so students can get some extra practice in a fun way with mom and dad. I also love to have a book list at hand of books students can buy outside of school to be reading that would be appropriate for their level. I also encourage parents to let students buy books of interest, no matter what the level is, so that students can continue to grow their love of reading. This is also a great time to send home reminders on how to get a library card and how to log onto your schools’ websites for learning at home, such as Lexia or RAZ Kids.
Have student samples ready.
Parents love to see their child’s actual work. Writing portfolios are my favorite thing to show off, because it is so obvious and fun to look at BOY, MOY and EOY writing samples to see how much students have grown. A lot of time I will have my students write letters to their parents about persuasive topics such as what pet they want, or where they want to go on vacation, so that parents and I can bond over a laugh. If students come, I allow them to read their letter to their mom or dad. I also like to keep examples (from previous years) of proficient and high proficient work, so if parents are wondering why their students are not being marked at grade level, I can quickly show them what is expected for that grade.
Show parents what you currently expect, and where you are going.
Parents always really appreciate being shown what current grade level work SHOULD look like, and what the expectation will be by the end of the year. That way, parents can also monitor their students’ work and have a better understanding of what you are looking for, and what their student should be able to do at home and at school. I like to keep one writing sample from BOY, MOY and EOY that is exactly on grade level, I show one book that is currently on grade level, and the end of year on grade level book, and finally, I show the end of year math test (for us it is the same as the beginning of the year) so that parents can see all of the math skills that are going to be tested.
Create a cheat sheet for parents.
Creating this sheet is great for parents so that when they go home, they still understand the scores and what their child needs to do. I always just type up one that I use for the entire year and staple to every report card. I include what our monthly assessments look like, what our state assessments look like, what scores are proficient, and how all of this things are taken into consideration for grades. This way, all year I have clear and consistent expectations for my students and parents. Snag this free resource from my store to start creating your cheat sheet here.
Conferences should NOT be a surprise!
The best way to keep your time slots moving quickly and efficiently is to be sure that you have been transparent with parents all year about student progress. If students are high achieving, on level or below grade level, parents should have a good idea of this coming into conferences. This helps alleviate the need for a lot of tough conversations that parents might be blindsided by. If I have something tough I need to bring up, I try to call home ahead of time to give parents a fair warning that we are going to be talking about something difficult, and this gives them processing time and time to prepare, as well as calming down the shock factor that might occur.
Good luck with your upcoming conferences! I hope that you found this blog post helpful for your classroom! Please feel free to leave feedback below, and follow my blog for more tips and tricks. There will be one new post every Monday throughout 2018! Enjoy 🙂