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From contributors at Choice Literacy, here are the ways some teachers onduct their parent conferences.
Andrea Smith sends families a reminder email one week before conferences. Besides date and time information, she suggests several questions for them to be considering with their child.
She includes three or four photos of their child at workshops reading, writing, doing math, or engaged in content studies.
She says the photos establish a student-centered classroom. They are also a great icebreaker, and the happy elements of the photo supports the strengths a child brings to the classroom. With a positive foundation in place, it’s possible to discuss the student’s challenges in a productive fashion.
Katie Doherty feels her 6th-grade conferences are most meaningful if the child is the “star.” She wants her students to feel they are in control whether they are sailing through or feeling swamped. “This is middle school; no one can make them do what they need to do. No one, that is, except themselves.”
So Doherty encourages her students to take the lead at the conference. She developed a brief reflection sheet that allows them to think about their successes and struggles, as well as to develop a proactive plan. If students are given the reins, she observes, they are more willing to head down a successful path. And for successful students, this is a moment for them to be recognized.
The questions on the reflection sheet asks students to describe the best part of middle school (and why); what accomplishments they are most proud of; which areas they would like to improve; what other strategies they might employ to improve; and what is one goal (or two) they have for the next quarter.
Aimee Buckner (author of Notebook Know-How and Notebook Connections) says it’s important NOT to wait untill there are difficulties (of any sort) to contact a parent: conferences should not be a “surprise party of bad news.” Her most difficult conversations have already taken place over the phone, so conferences are for following up things already in place, what’s working and what isn’t.
Karen Terlecky (co-author of Literate Lives blog) adapts the language arts assessment form in Szymusiak and Sibberson’s book “Day-to-Day Assessments” to fit her needs. This becomes the conference form she shares with parents. She focuses on areas of information from the Developmental Reading Assessment, the Developmental Spelling Inventory, the assessment of high frequency words, and notes gathered from reading and writing observations, as well as the “reading/writing stamina” exhibited by her students.
In addition, she uses an online app called Evernote to create an ongoing “notebook” about and for each student, from which she can cut and paste to use at conference time.
These tips are solely from Choice Literacy. Visit http://www.choiceliteracy.com/public/1703.cfm for all this and more. You too can subscribe!
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