Reflections and Resources from Tarheelstate Teacher: Have you tried Student Led Report Card Conferences?
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Have you tried Student Led Report Card Conferences?

Student Led Report Card Conferences can be extremely successful and rewarding, not to mention,  huge learning experience for your students. Read all about how I have implemented these goal setting and reflection sessions with 4th and 5th graders! {Ideas, forms, tips, and reflection sheets that work like a script for students}
I know many of you are mid-quarter and getting ready for report card conferences. I wanted to share something I've done in the past. This post was shared years ago at Life, Love, Literacy, but I'm going back to many of those posts, freshening them up and getting them ready to share with you!

Have you ever implemented Student Led Conferences? I have often had conferences where I ask that students are present where we set 1-2 personal goals. When it comes to working with upper elementary students, I'm a big fan of making sure that all involved parties (student, parent, and teacher) are on the same page, having the same conversations when appropriate, but this year I had a totally crazy idea!
Student Led Report Card Conferences can be extremely successful and rewarding, not to mention,  huge learning experience for your students. Read all about how I have implemented these goal setting and reflection sessions with 4th and 5th graders! {Ideas, forms, tips, and reflection sheets that work like a script for students}
What if students and parents led their own conferences? I have to admit, part of this idea was PURE selfishness. Conferences take up a ridiculous amount of time {weeks!}, including many late evenings. This idea quickly started to evolve into a way that I could have multiple conferences happening at the same time and potentially finish them in less days and less long afternoons. I had other great reasons too, including the positive experiences I have had in the past when leading goal setting sessions with students and parents and when students have attended their report card conferences. My "let me get these conferences knocked out" plan quickly turned into "How can I facilitate a beneficial conversation between students and their families about their academic progress?" FYI, the first time I did this, I was teaching 5th graders, but I have also successfully held student led conferences in the same manner with 4th graders.

How did I go about informing parents of my plan and setting up the conferences?

1) I chose 4 evenings that I would block off (over the course of 3 weeks) from 3 pm-6 pm for parents/students to sign up. (I ended up doing this in only 3 evenings because I was sick one of the days and had to cancel all of those conferences.) I then sent an email to parents explaining how I wanted to do conferences this year.
Student Led Report Card Conferences can be extremely successful and rewarding, not to mention,  huge learning experience for your students. Read all about how I have implemented these goal setting and reflection sessions with 4th and 5th graders! {Ideas, forms, tips, and reflection sheets that work like a script for students}

2) Students completed a reflection on all subject areas during class prior to the start of conferences. I read over their work and encouraged them to elaborate when necessary. I tried not to put words into their mouths, but led them through analyzing their work samples to come up with ideas of things they were proud of and specific aspects that they wanted to make improvements in.

3) I prepared a list of guiding questions for parents that matched the same order as the student reflection.

4) I decided what materials students would need in order to successfully discuss their learning. These items included:
  • Reader's Workshop Notebook
  • Math Workshop/Stations Folder and Math Journal
  • Writing Draft Folder
  • Social Studies Assignments, including a nonfiction reading assignment
On the day of each round of conferences, I pulled the scheduled students together and asked them to sticky-note two places in their reading journal that showed their best thinking. (One had to be a "write about reading" entry, but the other could be from a minilesson or read aloud). Then students pulled all of the materials they would need and placed them in a basket.
Student Led Report Card Conferences can be extremely successful and rewarding, not to mention,  huge learning experience for your students. Read all about how I have implemented these goal setting and reflection sessions with 4th and 5th graders! {Ideas, forms, tips, and reflection sheets that work like a script for students}

Benefits:
  • Students were in charge of the conversation. Students were responsible for sharing what they've learned, including classroom routines and procedures.
  • College and Career Readiness {baby!}: Don't we all have to undergo annual reviews where we explain the work we have done so far this year, explain what we are working on, goals we have achieved, and things we would like to do better? This is such a great, real-world, career-related experience for students! These conversations also give us the opportunity to let our leaders know where we need more training or assistance. In the same way, students are able to let their parents know where they still need some support.
  • I felt that parents received MORE information about what goes on in our classroom. Rather than presenting a report card and explaining 2's, 3's, and 4's in each area, they really could get a sense of what their child was accomplishing during their time at school.
Wow! At first, I didn't realize how rewarding student led report card conferences would truly be. However, just taking a look at students' reflections and seeing (in their own words, without any influence from me) how much they were loving 5th grade, how they were capable of recognizing the improvements they have already made, and how they were able to come up with ways to improve themselves was huge. Can you imagine how awesome this was for setting us up on a path of improvement as we continued through our year together?

Second, it was AMAYahzing to hear students tell their parents what we were learning in class. I could not believe how everyone was able to spout off lessons I had taught...Helloooo?! They are listening!

What did I learn that I would tweak in the future?

1) No more than 3 sets of parents/students in the room at the same time is probably ideal. At one point, I had 4 in the room and I was concerned that parents might not have felt they were getting enough attention from me (although I don't think they felt this way, I was a little anxious for criticism of this new way of doing things).

2) Having a set of parents/student scheduled for a time slot ALONE was also not ideal. It changed the feel of the conference. Since they were the only ones in the room, I was all too available for them and probably did too much leading of their conversation. These conferences also tended to go on for an hour because there was no pressure to finish or understanding that other groups of parents/students were moving along faster.

3) Some students were able to "blow smoke" when talking to their parents. I allowed the child to explain things from his/her perspective, but I was hoping the parents would probe more. When they didn't, I may have asked a probing question or let it go. In the end, the report card demonstrates a more accurate picture. I also made sure parents understood that if they had questions after report cards were received, they could contact me for more information or to schedule a more personal meeting. (This rarely happened as my report card comments address low scores AND parents had reviewed their child's work.)
Student Led Report Card Conferences can be extremely successful and rewarding, not to mention,  huge learning experience for your students. Read all about how I have implemented these goal setting and reflection sessions with 4th and 5th graders! {Ideas, forms, tips, and reflection sheets that work like a script for students}

All in all, my experiences with student-led parent conferences lead me to encourage you to give them a try! I always felt they were a great success. After first quarter, you can plan to have students complete the same type of reflection and invite parents in to do a check-in on what their child has accomplished with his/her goals that they set during 1st quarter conferences. Since parents and students have experienced it once, they understand what they are supposed to do and can most likely move through more quickly without needing much guidance from you.
I think parents really enjoy and appreciate the opportunity to take a closer look at what their child has been working on and learning. As parents, we don't always sit down and have academic conversations with our children about their work. YOU AS THE TEACHER facilitate this opportunity that allows your students to reflect and set goals for the future. It's a WIN-WIN for you as the teacher, for the child, and for parental involvement.

If parents are unable to make time to meet with their child 2nd or 3rd quarter, you can still have students complete the reflection sheet, send it home with report cards, encourage students to go through the reflection with their parents, AND ask that parents sign and return the reflection. An email letting them know that the form is coming home also encourages parents to take a few minutes to have a discussion with their child.

I've uploaded an editable version of the student reflection and conference questions to TPT. Of course, you will want to modify the questions and directions to fit your needs. If you use these materials or ideas, I would love to hear how it goes!

Are you following my facebook page and Instagram? I posted two SNEAK peek pictures and details about my student-led conferences on Instagram this week. You never know what you are going to learn and see as you follow along! I'd love to have you join me on social media!


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