Thursday, October 7, 2021

7 Tips for Planning Parent Teacher Conferences

I remember my very first year of teaching, I was SO NERVOUS for Parent-Teacher Conferences that I thought I was going to throw up. Luckily, I had prepared well for conferences so I had all of my talking points, which was a good thing!

Over the years, I've perfected how I plan for conferences which have helped ease the nerves...but it is still a stressful time for sure. Today I'm here to share some tips on preparing for your parent-teacher conferences to help ease those jitterbugs.

1. Send Home a Parent Questionnaire

Sending home parent questionnaires can help you to plan for your conferences. Choosing a questionnaire that asks parents what they feel their child's strengths and areas of need are can help you to know beforehand if the parent sees the same things you see in school. It can also help you to get a gauge of how your conference will go as well.

In addition, plan to ask about any concerns that the parents have in your questionnaire. This will allow you the opportunity to address those concerns during your conference time. Knowing the parent concerns ahead of time will help you to plan out your talking points and gather any necessary evidence pieces or resources that may be needed.

2. Share Glows and Grows for Each Child

Many times, students are totally different at home than they are in school. We as teachers spend the majority of the day with these kids, we actually see them more than their own parents get to! Because of this, it's nice to share Glows (Strengths) and Grows (Area for Growth) for each child. 

Having a checklist similar to this one makes conference prep easy. Not to mention, this sheet will become a sort of "cheat sheet" for your talking points.

When planning for each child's conference, I check off the boxes or add notes for each individual child. I try to grab student work samples to show as examples for both grows and glows. I put them in order and paper clip them to each checklist. In addition, I add in any beginning of year assessment data to share with parents so they have an idea of how their child is performing academically.

As you go through the talking points on this sheet, you can pull out student work samples that address those Glows or Grows. Place the student work in the order of what you plan to discuss. 

3. Plan and Organize in the Order of Your Conferences

Know that you do NOT have to have ALL 28 of your conferences prepped and planned before any of your meetings begin!

A good rule of thumb is to be at least 2 days ahead of schedule in your planning. For example, if it's Monday, you have Monday and Tuesday's conferences all planned and prepped. At the end of the day on Monday, you can begin working on Wednesday's meeting prep. If something comes up for you on Monday afternoon, you don't need to worry about scrambling for Tuesday's conferences since it's already done.

Decide on what you would like to share with your parents. They truly appreciate seeing work their child 
has completed, so try to incorporate showing samples while you talk. It also helps parents to better understand what you mean when you're able to show examples. 

I use the above checklist to gather student work and figure out my talking points for each child's conference. In addition, I add the parent questionnaire to my paper-clipped stack. I go through the questionnaire to see if there are additional things I need to address and I'll write it at the bottom of my checklist (above). Any additional items I'll need will get paperclipped to that child's conference packet. 

I add all of my paperclipped conference packets into a basket in the order that the conferences will happen with the most recent conference being at the top. I'll add a schedule into my basket too so I can refer back to it to keep myself on track/time. 

If you have breaks in between your conferences, use that time to begin working on prepping more meetings! 

4. Send Reminders

Be sure to send out reminders to your families notifying them about conference week coming up and the modified school schedule. In addition, you'll also want to send home reminders to families about their specific conference day and time. 

You can print out simple reminders like this, fill them out for each child and staple them in the child's planner or communication notebook. 

I suggest sending home the reminder a few days in advance just in case a parent will need some time to rearrange their schedule.

Sending reminders home for each child does take a little extra time, but if you can save yourself from missed conference blocks (and making them up later), that time on the front end to send reminders will be worth it!

5. Set Up a Waiting Area Outside

Set a waiting area up outside for your families in case they arrive early for their conference block.Set out chairs for families to sit and wait and a table that has books or student work that parents can look through. This will help them to pass time comfortably.

In addition, be sure to include a sign on the door that reminds parents that you are currently in a conference. You'll be surprised how many parents will try to enter your room if you don't have a sign up!

 Next to that sign, it is also helpful to include a conference schedule so that families can see what time their conference begins and what time the conference before them ends. Sometimes parents with multiple kids get confused about which child is during what block. That schedule helps them to check and head off to the correct meeting!

6. Set a Timer

You'll be surprised at how quickly your 15 or 20-minute conference block will go by! Set a timer at the start of each conference so that you don't get off schedule. Let your parents know that you'll be setting a timer so that you can honor the time of all families.  

Set the timer to go off 3-5 minutes before the actual end of your conference so that you can address any final questions the parents may have. 

7. Have Parents Write Letters to Their Child

One of my absolute FAVORITE thing about conferences is having parents write a letter to their child. I ask parents to write an encouraging letter focusing on their child's strengths, what makes them proud, and to encourage their child to keep doing their best. 

I provide a simple half sheet of paper and an envelope.  Some parents will finish their letter during our meeting, work on it outside (and drop it in a basket I leave on the table), or some take it home and secretly send it back the next day. 

**If the child is in the conference, I kindly ask them to leave while I share a secret surprise with their parents. 

Once all conferences are done, I'll leave the letters on each child's desk. Their faces are SO surprised and they LOVE reading what their parents have to say. Many of the children keep the letters in their binder or pencil boxes. I've seen students take them out to read when they're having bad days. 

If you're interested in any of the conference sheets I shared in this post, you can snag them here

I hope this post was helpful for you in planning and preparing for your Parent-Teacher Conferences. One thing to keep in mind, most of the time, parents are probably just as nervous as you to hear how their child is doing. 

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Until Next Time...Aloha!

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