Sign-Up Genius, an online service that has made my life SO much easier!! It allows you to create various kinds of sign ups (supplies needed or field trip drivers or volunteer time slots or parent conferences!). Not only do parents sign up online & you don't have to try and sort slips of paper with requested times, but the best part is that Sign-Up Genius sends out reminders a couple days prior to their conference! No more forgetting when to come! If you have not used it yet, click on the picture below and check it out!
Along with completing their Three Pluses and a Goal form (you can read about that here), students complete a Self-Report Card. I’ve taken my district’s pacing plan for our core subjects: reading, writing, and math, as well as social studies, science, and work habits/social skills and divided them into fall, winter, and spring semesters. These are the benchmarks and standards for each semester. Then together with my grade-level partner, we determined what a 4 (advanced), 3 (proficient/grade-level), 2 (partially proficient), and 1 (not proficient) look like for each subject: what should our students know and be able to demonstrate. (As you can tell, my district uses a 4-point rubric for elementary, rather than letter grades.) Although this initially took us a while, it was invaluable for us teachers to KNOW what a 4, 3, 2, or 1 looked like and to clarify what WE were expecting. We have students highlight what they CAN DO on the self-report card, then they write their own grades with rationale (using the criteria from the self-report card).
At the end of fall and winter semesters, students re-examine the goals we all set together at the last conference. (They’ve also been posted on the corner of their desk and reminded to reference it throughout the semester.)
Parents are always very impressed with their child taking the lead in his/her learning, EVEN if he or she is struggling. Students understand what they need to do to become proficient because the criteria is so clear on their Self-Report Cards. I usually have 100% family participation at conferences. Several times parents have taken this so seriously that the parent who comes will “facetime” the parent who could not physically attend! THAT never used to happen when doing traditional parent conferences! If occasionally a parent does not sign up for a conference, I still hold the conference with the child and we set our goals together.
One of my former dads, who was a very successful business CEO, commented on how wonderful he thought Student-Led Conferences were. He said that his 8-year old daughter just did what he asked his own (adult) employees to do: self-evaluations. He had his workers identify their own strengths and then set a goal for performance! How awesome that we are instilling these valuable life skills in our little ones! And they CAN do it!
Having also participated as a PARENT while my own daughters have led their conferences, I cannot emphasize the value enough!! It brought tears to my eyes (every time! Literally!) to realize how independent and articulate they had become and how accurate their self-assessments. (Although I had to laugh because each time their teachers would ask me to fill out my parent section on the Three Pluses and a Goal, I kept accidentally beginning to write in the teacher section!)
At the end of the year, we celebrate all our growth by having a portfolio party. We invite parents and families (and administrators). A few students welcome our families and explain about portfolio selection and reflection, goal setting, self-report cards, and self-evaluations. They share their feelings about taking the lead in their learning, then students scatter around the room and outside our classroom to share their Fall-Spring progress. If some kids do not have a family member present, other parents “adopt” them during the party and they also share their portfolios with them.