Student-led Conferences in 3 Simple Steps
Student-led Conferences are one of my FAVORITE ways for my students to take ownership over their learning and progress in the classroom. I have successfully held Student-led Conferences in second and third grade (spring semester) in lieu of traditional Parent Teacher Conferences by using individualized “portfolio style” presentations. There are three essential steps that make Student-led Conferences low prep, stress-free, and as meaningful as possible for kids. Now, before your blood pressure rises with fear of the unknown, please know that Student-led Conferences can be MUCH simpler and rewarding that you might think! In fact, they require much more work on the students’ part than the teacher’s part, and are FAR more authentic and memorable than a traditional conference for both students and their families.
All the materials shown below are found in my freshly updated Student-led Conferences pack in my TpT store!
To start, here is the cover for my students’ portfolios. They can fill it out, color/decorate it to match their style, glue it on the cover of either a pocket folder or a file folder and store all their materials inside:
This is the checklist that they place at the very front of their portfolio to help keep them on track as they present to parents. Prior to the night of Student-led Conferences, students use the checklist to “practice” their presentations 2-3 times, either with a classmate or an upper grade buddy.
Now, inside their portfolios is where the magic really happens! Here are the THREE essential keys to a successful and meaningful Student-led Conference:
Students’ opinions and assessments of their own progress and learning are extremely powerful and telling, especially as they reach an age where they can show honesty, reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, and put their “self smarts” to the test. My students use a scale to show that they “Often” demonstrate a skill, “Sometimes,” “Hardly Ever,” or “Not Yet” on three separate self-evaluations for reading and writing, math, and work habits and behavior. This provides a concrete basis for students (and parents) to immediately target areas in which they are excelling and areas in which they’re struggling. I usually go over each item on the evaluations as a class as students determine their place on the scale with a check mark or an X. After their self-evaluations are complete, I have them go back and highlight three specific goals on each one.
Work samples are often the students’ favorite part of conferences. I have them select 4 pieces from their interactive notebooks, writing journals, science journals, math notebooks, art portfolios, data notebooks, etc. that demonstrate pride, improvement, creativity, and perseverance. They attach tags or Post-it notes to each sample explaining why they chose that piece and how it demonstrates that particular quality. I encourage them to choose a variety of work samples, with many students choosing to share data graphs that show growth from their data binders. All work samples go inside their portfolio or next to it in a stack.
Goal-setting, especially shared goal-setting, is critical for student growth. Kids need to know exactly where they’re at in their learning process and have a finish line in mind. When the teacher and parents are involved in that process, it is far more powerful. Each child’s learning journey is unique, and their strengths, weaknesses, and goals are no different.
Below are the tags that students use to attach to their work samples and the goal chart that they place at the end of their portfolio. I love how their goals are formed into a balanced pie chart with child, teacher, and parent each supporting a “piece” of the child’s growth.
Parent feedback after Student-led Conferences is also important. The following forms allow parents to write a note of praise to their child about their progress, as well as a feedback form for you. I’ve also included a note to send home to parents before Student-led Conferences, allowing you explain the format and schedule conferences as you see fit.
Ready to dive in head-first to Student-Led Conferences?! Check out my package on TpT below that has EVERYTHING you need to get them together!
And just in case you are planning traditional Parent-Teacher Conferences, here is a quick, FREE Student Summary Card to help keep you on track!