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Leading Up To Student Led Conferences

October 2, 2010

During our PA Day on Friday, my principal was talking about Student Led Conferences. I’ve heard of these conferences before, and they’ve always intrigued me, but I’ve never thought about settting them up with my students and parents. After my principal’s talk though, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about these conferences. Then I saw this blog post by @smartinez all on Student Led Conferences. Reflecting on my principal’s talk and then reading this blog post led to these questions of mine:

1) How can I prepare my Grade 1 and 2 students to lead these conferences with their parents?

2) What would they discuss?

It was as I was brainstorming these questions that I started to think about the rationale for having these conferences in the first place: they give students independence and control over their learning. I have started to do this a lot in the classroom already. I have the children take turns reviewing math and literacy centres with the class. I ask them questions to get them thinking and talking about their learning.

I use the scaffolding approach a lot in my teaching, and I’m starting to think that what I’m doing now will help my students as we try to prepare for student-led conferences in November. The next step is to get the children to self-assess their work: what do they like about it, and what do they need to improve on? I can’t wait to hear what they have to say!

For those of you that have tried out student-led conferences before, I would love to know your thoughts on them. What are your words of advice? It’s great when we can learn together!



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  1. Aviva, I have been doing Triad conferencing with my kids for the past five years. I absolutely love it, and so do both the parents and the students. I have my students share their e-Pearl Electronic Portfolio's on the Smart board. I really just sit back and facilitate the session. Give me a tweet if i can help out!

  2. I love this idea, Rob! Thank you! I will definitely be tweeting you to find out more about how you set this up. I think that this could really work for my students.

    Many thanks!

  3. I've been doing student led conferences for a few years as well, and for the past couple of years, I've had the students share the work that is on their blog. My Smartboard is more accessible this year, so I hope to use it instead of the laptop. Most of the parents have already seen what the students choose to showcase, but it gives the students a chance to explain what they think they did especially well and what they want to get better at.
    Sometimes, there are things that the parents want to ask in private, so I honour that, but usually they are just thrilled to have their children being the “leader”.

  4. Kathy, I'm so glad that you mentioned having students showcase the work on their blogs for Student Led Conferences, as I was thinking about doing the same thing. This really is a great compilation of their work! I love hearing that these conferences have worked so well with your Grade 1 students. I think that I may still want to talk to parents about some things, but I love the idea of having students lead the majority of the discussion!

    Thanks for your comment!

  5. Part 2 (oops!)
    I always have the students choose three things that they would like to share with their parents. The criteria is that they must think it is some of their “best work”. At the interview, they talk about these three things that they have chosen. I ask questions for those who are tongue tied at having their parents and teacher both looking at them.
    Before we have the actual interviews, we role play and model what will happen at the interview so that the students feel comfortable with what will happen.
    Good luck!

  6. You're awesome Kathy! Thanks for all of the details. I've had students pick three pieces of work to discuss with their parents for Open House before, but never for interviews. I like the idea of limiting the number of pieces and role playing the conferences too.

    Thanks again!

  7. Aviva,

    I have been doing student-led conferences with my first graders for a few years and I really like the format. In order to explain what we do at our school, here is an excerpt from the email that my teammate and I just sent home to parents explaining student-led conferences:
    Our philosophy of education focuses on teaching that is highly interactive, engaging students in making sense of ideas and applying what they learn to help them think critically, problem solve, and become self-directed learners. One way in which we hope to accomplish this is through student-led conferencing.

    No doubt this format will be new to some. If you were going to peek into a classroom during student-led conferences, it would look something like this:

    • A teacher would be visiting with a student and their parents at one location in the room about the strengths of the student and areas for growth.
    •In another area of the room a student would be engaged in a conversation with their parents while they look at selected pieces of student work.
    •Another student would be moving about the room with their parents showing and explaining work stations and displayed work that represent the learning of the student.
    •Every 10 minutes, the groups would shift.
    •Conferences are scheduled every 30 minutes with three students showcasing their work during that conference time frame.
    • Because this is a very special time for your child and other students and families that will be in the room at this time, parents will need to make arrangements for brothers and sisters to stay at home or with friends.

    This rotating schedule works well for us and the parents really like it, too. We do teach the kids the process and what they will be doing the night of the conference. We have learned not to have them rehearse what they will actually be saying because sometimes they end up not saying as much at the actual conference – they feel like they have already said it all (just not to their parents). We use a fishbowl technique to give students the idea of what a student-led conference should look like and sound like. You are right, we do talk often throughout the year about what they are learning and what they are doing well so that they have the background knowledge to use that language with their parents. I think you will love student-led conferences.

  8. Thanks so much, Jill! Your e-mail helps a lot. I was skeptical about having more than one parent in the classroom at a time, but the way that you explain it helps me see the benefit of this set-up. I really appreciate all of your help!


  9. We have two informal reporting periods each year. In the fall we do parent/teacher conferences and in the spring we do student-led.

    I have been doing a lot of thinking about our upcoming conferences. I much prefer student-leds. It is such a positive and powerful experience for the students to take the lead in showing off their learning and in sharing their areas of strength and growth. The students are always beaming and I have had wonderful feedback from parents.

    So, I have been asking myself, why not do both informal reports as student-leds? My student-leds normally have me just observing and I have been wondering if parents would be ok with not having meeting time with me. Then I read Jill's comment and love the rotation idea!

    I am going to talk to the others on staff this week.

  10. Thanks for your comment! I really like how Jill does it too, and I especially like how her system allows for student-led conferences but also opportunities to speak with parents. I hope that you'll share what you end up doing. It sounds like you have some great ideas!


  11. This is something I would really like to try but one family at a time. My only concern is how you have dealt with student concerns ie. behaviour, learning etc with more than one family in the room. Do you meet with them individually and rotate the others or meet at a different time? Just wondering. Sharon

  12. Thanks for your comment, Sharon! My initial concern was also on keeping things private when talking to parents. I don't know if it's possible to create a section of the room where you can talk privately to parents, or if it's better to just stick with one parent at a time. In primary, I think it would be possible to do a combination of student-led conferences and regular interviews, and still keep to 15 minutes. In that case, maybe we can avoid having more than one parent at a time. It's a good thing to think about!


  13. Thanks for the shoutout! These ideas for doing student-led conferences are great!

  14. Thanks Sylvia for sharing your information on Student Led Conferences. Between your blog post and my principal's talk, I've been thinking about these conferences all weekend. I love all of the ideas that are shared here!


  15. Sharon,
    Since our whole school does conferences this way the parents learn that we will not be talking about private issues during this time. If there is an issue that needs to be discussed privately, we schedule that conference for another time or have a phone conference about the issue. I was worried at first that this would mean double the number of conferences but it turns out that there isn't a need for a separate conference very often because in general those issues are dealt with at the time they occur.

  16. Love the parent information letter. Look forward to trying Student Led's out. Thanks for getting ideas flowing, Aviva.

  17. Thanks Paula! I'm excited to continue to talk about Student Led Conferences too.


  18. Jill, thanks for leaving that response to Sharon too! This makes a lot of sense. I'm glad that you clarified this privacy issue.


  19. davewla permalink

    Our school is entering this road for the first time. As we collaborate we keep coming back to our school's vision “what do we want kids to know and demonstrate an understanding”, as well as audience and purpose for the SLC. Exciting dialogue and the kids are loving it

  20. Thanks for the comment, Dave! I'm so glad that you included, “coming back to our vision.” I think this is really important! So happy to hear that the students are loving it. I'm excited to give it a try!


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