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Student-led conferences have become a big thing in the education world. But how can they be effective for even our youngest learners? What can they look like in Kindergarten? How can necessary information about a child’s progress be relayed to parents effectively? How can I, the teacher, still have time to talk with parents individually about any concerns?
Do you have the same questions that I had? Read on for my experience with student-led conferences in Kindergarten, why I love them, and how they work!
*Grab our Pre-K and Kindergarten Centers by Skill BUNDLE for engaging, hands-on math and literacy centers for the entire year!
Student-Led Conferences in Kindergarten
Many questions were definitely on my mind as Kindergarten conferences at my school moved toward a student-led model. My partner teacher and I met often and discussed how we thought this could look in Kindergarten. How it could be student-led while still having teacher involvement and one-on-one time with families? We were adamant that we didn’t want to have more than one family at a time in the classroom. We wanted to maintain the personal touch. It was also important that we had a few moments with the parents alone. This would allow them to ask questions or voice concerns.
Check out how we made it work, along with feedback and my personal reflection!
Each family was scheduled for a half-hour time slot. We are given 5 half days of school with conferences scheduled in the afternoons/evenings of those days. Our conferences take place in November, and then again in the spring.
Tri-fold poster board – as many as you need for which stations you want. I recommend at least literacy and math. We found our poster boards at the office supply store. We have also found them on Amazon. Sometimes you may even get lucky and find them at the dollar store!
You also need standards or essential questions that you are focusing on, task cards focusing on an important concept, and any supplies needed to go with them (you will read more about this below).
I was able to set up my posters and supplies after school in about 1-2 afternoons. It came together quickly once I knew the layout. Plus, the good news is I have them done now for use again in the future! If you attach the standards and questions with velcro they can easily be changed out for spring conferences!
I set up the stations after the students left so that they were ready when the families arrived. I did show the Kindergartners ahead of time what was at each station. This helped them understand what they would be showing their families. We had a table for math and a table for literacy and writing that they rotated through.
Parents and students are greeted by me, and I explain to the parent that their child (and I for support) will be guiding them through a few stations that explain about our classroom. I explain that their child will also get a chance to show them some classroom items (journal, book box, etc.) and complete some tasks with them. I encourage parents to ask questions of their children and use the posters as conversation starters. Remember, the goal is to have the Kindergartner lead most of the conference, not you!
I am with the family and student throughout the entire conference as a support. Some students are comfortable showing their parents what they are learning and sharing about their classroom. Other students are not so sure. When you are 5, sometimes even being in your classroom when it isn’t school time just feels weird! So some students need more support and prompting from me.
I guide the families through the stations and get them started. Then I hang back a bit until they have questions or are ready to move on. The last 10 minutes I do set aside for the family and me to talk more in-depth while I allow the Kindergartner to play in our classroom centers if they wish (this is explained more at the end of this post).
Below is a picture of our literacy board. Parents can read the essential questions and also ask their children to tell them more about the Daily 5 by using the posters as a guide. The Kindergartners share their book boxes and journals at this time as well.
The Daily 5 posters are a free Teachers Pay Teachers download from Natasha McKenna.
The Spanish headings are a free Teachers Pay Teachers download from Mrs. Castro.
The Essential Questions are a fabulous purchase from Deanna Jump.
Here is an up-close picture of the literacy tasks that my partner teacher and I decided to focus on for this round of conferences. The parents and Kindergartners complete the tasks together. We put out the letter cards for the letters and sounds we have learned up to this point.
Here is the writing task card on the poster. Students tell them what components they need in their stories (labels, pictures, letters, and/or words) and then share their journals to show growth over time. I have them share their assessment journal, where I take just one sample of writing a month so that their parents can quickly see samples over three months.
RELATED RESOURCE: Writing Centers for the YEAR
The math station contains posters of the Math Daily 3 along with standards/essential questions and the task cards. I also place the math tubs that we use or any math games we have been playing on the table for the students to share as well.
The Math Center labels are a free Teachers Pay Teachers download from Stuck on Teaching.
Here are the math tasks for the parents and Kindergartners to complete together. I place number cards (1-20 at this time) and counting cubes on the table for them to use.
Finally, at the very end, I aim to have about 10 minutes with the families for us 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 me to meet.
The data folders that we share consist of mostly literacy data and are in simple folders with prongs. Our math, science, and more are tracked as well but are not shared fully at conferences due to time. The child gets to color their own graph as you can probably tell.
We share their letter knowledge of both uppercase and lowercase letters over time. Then we share their letter sound knowledge. This particular student had a huge jump!
We also share with parents where we will be heading with sight words in Kindergarten and what 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. They enjoyed especially watching their children complete the tasks and being able to work with them. Parents felt that having their children with them made it a more complete experience.
I was at first nervous about these conferences, to be honest. I was most 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. How would I be able to discuss my concerns in a way that I would feel comfortable 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 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, 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 me that needed it, a 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 about how student-led conferences can work in Kindergarten. And perhaps it will inspire you to give them a try!
I know that I 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.
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