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So Much Information, So Little Time....
Preparing for conferences can be quite overwhelming, and having a simple parent teacher conference form is key. There are so many things you want to share with the parents - the successes their child has had, the struggles they are working to overcome, the cute or noteworthy things they say and do in the classroom. Organizing everything into a coherent, efficient and productive session is not easy. This is especially true when you are working around time constraints typically imposed by a pre-determined conference schedule.
To make matters even worse, teachers are often subjected to an ambush of questions in one conference, only to be followed by the straying of a chatty parent in the next! The result is all too often a frustrated teacher, and a parent who feels as if they have learned nothing of significance about their child.
I have found that the best way to make the most out of my parent/teacher conferences is to take charge of the meeting from beginning to end. Below I will describe several tips for teacher parent conferences that I have used of the years to ensure that my parent interactions are a success!
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Not preparing ahead of time is one of the worst mistakes a teacher can make! Your plan of action should begin with discovering what the parents are specifically looking to learn during your conference time together. This is easily accomplished by sending a brief note home - either separately, or as part of your weekly newsletter. Your note will ask two questions:
- Are you still planning on attending the conference at your scheduled time and on the scheduled date?
- Is there anything you would like me to specifically address during our conference time together?
These simple questions serve two very important purposes. (1) It reminds the parents of the day/time of the conference, and confirms that they will indeed be attending. This will drastically reduce the chance of "no-shows" come conference time. (2) It lessons the chance of surprise questions/concerns, and gives you a better opportunity to adequately prepare.
In order for this to be successful, however, parents must be required to fill out the form and return it to school at least a few days before the scheduled conference. A check off sheet will help you keep track of who has and who has not returned their response.
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A Plan of Action
Now that you have an idea of what to expect from the parent(s) during conference time, you can begin to prepare your presentation. With so little time allotted, it is once again important that you take charge of the meeting.
The parent's identified questions or concerns should naturally come first in the discussion. The letter home and response the parent provided will apprise you of what these might be, and will give you ample time to prepare for addressing them. From there, you may begin your presentation.
Over the years, I have developed a simple parent/teacher conference form which efficiently organizes the information I want to present and provides parents with everything they need to know about their child. The format looks like this:
- Student Strengths,
- Student Needs Observed by the Teacher,
- Goals for the Student.
Then I also include two sections outlining suggestions for action:
- What I am going to do in the classroom/at school to make sure the child meets those goals.
- What the parent(s) should do at home/outside of school to make sure the child meets those goals.
Under each section, I take the time to fill out individualized information about each child in my classroom.
Now that you have an idea what type of information should be conveyed on the parent teacher conference form, we will take a look at a more specific example.
Below, you will find a sample of an actual conference sheet used.
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Sample Conference Form
Name: Angela Vogel
Teacher: Mrs. Wistrom
- Participation - Angela is an active participant in classroom discussions and activities.
- Spelling - Angela is continuing to demonstrate movement toward the use of conventional spelling in her written assignments.
- Reading - Angela demonstrates an increase in sight-word vocabulary. She also demonstrates an increase in her use of fluency, expression and the reading strategies.
- Math - This quarter, Angel demonstrated a basic understanding of "trading" concepts.
Student Needs Observed by the Teacher:
- Math - Inconsistent use of "known facts" for addition. Relies heavily on number line for subtraction - should be moving away from this by now.
- Writing - Inconsistent development of topic.
- Public Speaking - Rarely shares during our Tuesday Newsday (sharing) time.
- Memorization is difficult for Angela - especially in the areas of Math and Spelling.
Goals for Student:
- Continue to increase use of fluency and expression with comprehension.
- Continue to develop written topics and demonstrate continued movement toward use of conventional spellings.
- Continue movement toward use of "known facts" when solving basic addition and subtraction problems.
- Increase participation in Tuesday Newsday.
SUGGESTIONS FOR ACTION
What I am going to do in the Classroom/At School:
- Continue to model appropriate use of fluency and expression.
- Continue to teach and encourage the use of additional reading strategies.
- Continue to provide opportunities for Angela to practice basic addition/subtraction facts, as well as provide opportunities for her to use them to solve double- and triple-digit problems.
- Encourage development of topic through webbing.
What Parent(s) should do at Home:
- Continue reading at home on a daily basis. Encourage Angela to begin choosing shorter chapter books.
- Continue to practice addition/subtraction facts to and from 20. Provide opportunities to practice double- and triple-digit addition/subtraction problems.
- Encourage participation in Tuesday Newsday. Have Angela think about what she will say, and practice ahead of time to increase level of confidence.
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Everyone Walks Away Happy
By the end of the conference time, you will have:
- Addressed any concerns or questions the parent(s) may have,
- Presented information about the student's academic and/or social behavior,
- Clearly identified areas for improvement,
- Demonstrated to the parent(s) what needs to be done to address those deficits, and presented a plan for how this will be achieved in the classroom or at school; and...
- Provided the parent(s) with the simple parent teacher conference form detailing specific actions they can take at home to help their child be successful.
Plan on having two copies of the sample parent teacher conference form shown above - one for you to keep at school as a record of what was discussed, and another to send home with the parent(s) to refer to as a plan of action.
I guarantee that by using these tips for teacher parent conferences, your classroom parents will understand that the education of their child truly is a partnership between home and school.