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Conferences Made Easy

November is here!  I love the fall and the things that come with it – even parent-teacher conferences. Yes, I love parent conferences because I finally have a system that works for me.  It has taken a lot of time and energy to figure out the best way to organize, plan, and run effective parent conferences. Read on if you’d like to hear my tips!
Conference Sign Ups
Organizing the conference sign-ups was my least favorite part of the process UNTIL a teacher friend introduced to Sign Up Genius a few years ago. 
The website takes all the stress out of conference sign-ups.  Simply choose a template and add your dates and times.  Send the link to your parents and allow them to sign up.  They choose a date that works for them and voila! I’ve saved the best part for last.  Parents can change times without you having to figure out what is available.  Could it be any easier?
I use the free option with ads. There are paid options available, too. Google Forms can work for this, too. I stick with Sign-Up Genius because I can just reuse my sign-up each year. I love saving time!
Pre Conference Questionnaire
Have you ever had a parent ask a question or share or a concern that you weren’t prepared for?  It happened to me early on in my teaching career.  
I decided that I wanted to try and gather information before conferences so that I would have a handle on any parental concerns.  This does not guarantee that you won’t ever be thrown a curveball, but it is helpful. These are the Conference Forms I use.
After reviewing the questionnaires I gather my student data and get to work planning the conferences. I use a form that highlights work habits and student strengths and weaknesses. Then I have students fill out a self-assessment to share.
Student Participation
The purpose of a conference is to discuss student learning, right?  So, invite the student to be a participant. He/she should be a part of the conversation.  Several years ago I changed the way I conducted conferences. My students attend the conference, share and reflect on a few pieces of work, and set goals with parent and teacher input.  It is AMAZING!
A week or so before the conference each student picks two pieces of work to share and complete reflection sheets. The reflection sheets require students to think critically about the piece of work.  I encourage my students to choose work they are proud of and work that they wish they could do again.
During the conference, I begin by addressing parental questions and/or concerns from the pre-conference questionnaire. Then the student shares his/her work. I will give an overview of how the student is doing in class using the notes from the conference form.
The next part of the conference is a goal-setting discussion. The parents, student, and I review the beginning of the year goals and then either keep them in place or set new goals for the rest of the term.
The last step in the parent conference is where I explain that the spring conference will be student-led conferences. How do you plan for conferences?

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