January 30, 2014

Conducting Student Led Conferences

A few weeks ago we had our second round of conferences for the school year.  I've blogged before about how I prepare for and conduct my parent conferences, but at my school our spring conferences are a little different.  They are student-led and conducted in more of an open house style.  Here's how they work:

For my traditional conferences, I schedule each family for a 15 minute time slot.  For student-led conferences I schedule two families to a 30 minute time slot.  I let families know that these times are more flexible, and don't kick them out right at 30 minutes, although most families stay for about 20.  At any given moment, there are as many as four families in the classroom at a time.  It actually makes scheduling WAY easier than traditional conferences.  (In past years, if I had a student who I know had a particularly tricky conversation ahead of him or her--behavior issues, etc, I'd be sure to schedule him or her for a time without other families and shut the door for that conference.)

Preparing the Kids
In order for student led conferences to be successful, it is so important that the kids are prepared.  I'm talking seriously well-rehearsed.  I start by having them fill out the same Conference Report I do for all conferences, as well as updating their MAP goal setting sheets.  (Both are explained in more detail in this post.)
In addition, I have the kids organize several items to put in a construction paper portfolio.  Here's what we included this year:
I give the kids a copy of this checklist, and we put them in the front of each folder.  Then comes the fun part--rehearsal!  I choose a student to help me model a conference for the class.  The two of us sit together with the rest of the class gathered around.  Then, I pretend I'm the student and the student is my parent.  :)  The kids love this, obv.  I model using the checklist to help me explain each piece in my folder.  Then, I have the student model with me pretending to be the parent.  Once we have explicitly demonstrated what to do, I have the kids find a partner or two partners to practice a conference with.  I have the kids practice twice at MINIMUM, meanwhile circulating and make sure the kids know everything from what to say to how to page through their folders without getting papers EVERYWHERE.  (You know the disorganized darlings I'm talking about!  God love em!)

Before leaving school on Conferences Day, I have the kids clean extensively.  Then, they put their folders out on their desks, including their writing notebooks and a book they are currently reading.  Last, we set up a "science station" with materials from recent science labs.  This is a favorite part for kids--getting to demonstrate our experiments and show off their science knowledge for their families!
Conference Day
Conference day is actually relaxing and wonderful in comparison to the nonstop go go go of traditional conferences.  I greet families when they come in, let them know that their child is in charge of leading the conference, and invite them to sit down and get started.  I typically let the kids facilitate the beginning of the conference on their own before popping over to add my 2 cents and answer any questions.  For some students and families, a quick check in is all that is needed, where with other families I will sit with them for longer periods of time to discuss their child's progress.  It's great to have this flexibility. 
After the kids finish the checklists in their folders, I invite them to take time to show parents anything around the room they wish to share, and to take their time before heading out.  The kids love this chance to play tour guide and show off.  :)

Thoughts on Student Led Conferences
I had a lot of anxiety about running conferences like this my first year teaching, but after getting the hang of them, I love them.  We only do conferences like this in winter--fall conferences are a traditional format where I meet with each family one at a time for 15 minutes.  By winter, I think the students are ready for this.  Even the little ones!  Our 1/2 teachers successfully run student led conferences too.  Even though this is a long day, I always find it rewarding and fun.  It's great to check in with families and share student growth and goals, but it's also amazing to see the kids take OWNERSHIP over their progress and share it with their parents!  So exciting to see my little babies feel proud and confident in front of their families.

Do you do Student Led Conferences?  Any tips?


  1. You are very organized. Being a teacher's assistant right now I have the perk of no report cards or conferences. I go in to teach reading, a small math group and help the teacher with things she needs. Good luck with conferences. I hope everything is smooth for you. Do you have to make up any snow/cold days yet?

  2. LOL.... I just realized I posted on your blog using my gmail account & not my blog name. You know me as NY Literacy Teacher - "Reading Really Rocks" I need to streamline my stuff.... someday!


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