Finally, at the very end, I aim to have about 10 minutes with the families for they and I to sit down and go over their child’s data folder. I opt to allow the kindergartner to play in the classroom during this time so that their parents and I can talk more in depth, especially if there are any academic concerns, behavior issues, etc. Please note: If there are very serious issues where the child should not be present, I schedule a separate time for just the family and I to meet.
Our data folders that we share consist of mostly literacy data (our math, science, and more are tracked as well but are not shared fully at conferences due to time) and are in simple folders with prongs.
The child gets to color their own graph as you can probably tell. 🙂
We share their letter knowledge of both upper and lowercase letters over time.
We also share with parents where we will be heading with sight words in kindergarten and where the goal is by the end of the year.
After we look at their data, the parent has an opportunity to ask questions or state any concerns they may have before the conference comes to a close.
Feedback I received: Student-led conferences were very well received by families. They enjoyed having time to be in the classroom with their children, and hearing about the classroom directly from their children. The enjoyed especially watching their children complete the tasks and being able to work with them. They felt that having their children with them made it a more complete experience.
My Reflection: I was at first nervous about these conferences to be honest. I was mostly nervous about the few students that I have concerns over -the students whose families I needed to have harder conversations with about their child’s progress through school. How would I be able to discuss my concerns in a way that I would feel comfortable about with the child right there?
After going through student-led conferences in this manner, I feel so much better and do not want to go back to our previous model where just the parents and I sit down together.
The tasks that the parents were completing with their children actually served as excellent lead-ins and evidence for any conversations we needed to have. For example, my students who were not picking up letter sounds or identifying letters at all, rather than just me telling their parents, they were able to see it first hand by completing the task with them.
They were able to work with them and help them, and were more open to hearing suggestions and ideas from me at the end of the conference. That ten minutes at the end of the conference was crucial as well. Maybe that defeats the idea of an entirely student-led conference by allowing the child to play at the end while we talked, but I felt like it gave the families and I that needed few minutes to go over any questions and concerns, and talk about their child’s goals.
Making it work for you: Remember that these stations and tasks were relevant for my kindergartners at this specific time in our year. To make this work in your classroom, your stations and tasks may look vastly different than mine. You likely have your own record keeping systems or data folders that you use, and this post isn’t meant to change any of that. Rather, I hope that you now have additional ideas of how student-led conferences can work in kindergarten, and perhaps it will inspire you to give them a try!
I know that I perhaps provided more support than a 100% student-led conference, but for my students at this time, it was what they needed. I also believe it prepares them for future student-led conferences (our whole school is student-led) by introducing them to that format.
Do you already do student-led conferences? Are they similar to this, or vastly different? If you don’t do student-led conferences, what are your thoughts on them? I would love to hear!