Students practice student-led conferences in the classroom in South Caronlina’s Richland School District Two.
The First Push
“Ms. Williams, my mom said she is coming tonight to meet with you. Am I in trouble?” uttered Amy.
“Why would you be in trouble, Amy?” Amy just like many other students often time fear the worst when it comes to parent teacher-conferences.
Starting off in a new grade, I wanted to do things a little differently. Each student in my class created a DATA Binder where they would house data collected throughout the year. I met with each parent the traditional way. I told my students they could come to the conference with their parents, but many of them didn’t come. Most of the parents were just getting off of work and didn’t have time to swing by the after-school program to get the student before missing their conference time slot. I also had several Hispanic parents that came but needed a translator or they didn’t come at all.
I thought how can I get my students more involved in a conference that was about them?
I attended a virtual professional development on VoiceThread and got the idea to do student-led conferences not only using technology but speaking and listening skills standards as well. I knew that I wanted to meet with parents before spring break again, and I needed my students to be present to talk about their own learning and career goals. While working with Si Se Puede, an innovations team in Richland Two, we also felt like student-led conferences would be a great start to increasing parent involvement with our Hispanic families. This way, students could conduct conferences in Spanish and their parents would see the excitement in their child to talk about school and their career.
Students lead their own parent-teacher conferneces at LW Conder Arts Integrated Magnet Elementary School.
I began researching a format for student-led conferences in elementary school. I needed to know what it may look like in an elementary school versus a middle or high school. I found a great example from the Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School. I loved how they formulated their conferences, and how they had a purpose in each part.
I began to create a template of my own using some of their ideas such as explaining the role of the teacher and the student during the conference along with creating a student achievement plan with the parent, teacher, and student. Once the outline was complete, I introduced it to my students. Mrs. Regina Strickland, Conder Elementary School TLC came in and co-taught with me. We played a video showing what student-led conferences were.
After watching and discussing we begin to fill in our scripts that we would need later. One script was for the actual conference conversation and the other script was for the VoiceThread presentation. Students created a Google presentation of their most rewarding and challenging work. Then they uploaded it into VoiceThread and used their VoiceThread script to talk over their presentation and discuss their work. Once everything was completed on the students’ end, we did mock conferences with members of our administration team and a members or Si Se Puede (Yes You Can)–a program to support academic achievement for Latino students by helping staff members develop key skills and by empowering families–came in to act as parents. The students who did not do a mock conference watched and gave feedback to their classmate on ways to make the conference better.
The conference outline includes a few things:
- Student Introduction: Student introduces him/herself
- Students Strengths and Areas of Improvement: Student explains their strengths and needs in MAP for Math and Reading.
- Voice Thread Presentation: Student presents their VoiceThread presentation which shows their most rewarding and challenging pieces of work.
- Goals: Students present their goals for the remainder of the year.
- Questions: Parent(s) may ask questions about anything that was presented.
- Teacher Input/Student Achievement Plan: Parents discuss and sign the student achievement plan to determine how they can help at home.
I had to make sure that I communicated with my co-teacher during this process to discuss time slots and the amount of conferences that would take place at once. We decided to have four conferences at one time. We each went in at the end of a conference to discuss the achievement plan. If another family came in while we were closing out a conference, the student started the conference without the teacher and we went to them once they were done! Students had total ownership of their conference.
Students were very excited to talk about their own learning instead of just the teacher talking.
Parents were very pleased and excited to see their 4th Grade student conducting his or her own conference. One parent stated, “This is like a college experience when you present a portfolio.” Other parents loved the fact that the students talked a lot and conducted the conference.
Our elementary school Spanish interpreter was very pleased with the Hispanic students who did their conference and VoiceThread in Spanish. The Hispanic families loved that they could conduct the conference with way less interpretation than just a regular parent-teacher conference. Students were very excited to talk about their own learning instead of just the teacher talking. The smiles on both the parents and the students’ faces spoke volumes as to how happy each side was no matter what was said during the conference!
I will definitely continue student-led conferences in the future!
LaChe Williams teaches 4th grade at Conder Arts Integrated Magnet School. Richland School District Two is a Kajeet customer.