How to prepare for Parent-Teacher Conferences

Friday, March 16, 2018




Early in my career, parent-teacher conferences were my least favorite thing about teaching.  Let’s be honest; they terrified me.  Why?  I’m not sure.  Maybe it was a lack of confidence in myself or the fact that I had a really challenging parent my first year.  Likely, it was simply a fear of the unknown.  Parent conferences do not have to be stressful and frightening.  Remember, parents are often just as nervous as you are!  As long as you are organized, prepared and respectful- your conferences can be one of the best times of the whole school year.  For real!

For me, the hardest part of conferences was not knowing what to expect from parents.  One year I decided to send a questionnaire home before conferences to see what parents want to talk about.  Game changer!  Now I had the information and I could prepare to answer their questions.  I pulled activities and strategies for them to use to address their concerns.  I was prepared.  You can find my free pre-conference freebie form here.


My best conference advice is to allow the parents lead the conversation.  What are they worried about?  What are they seeing at home?  It is truly eye-opening.  When you let the parents do the talking and you do most of the listening.  That’s not to say you shouldn’t be prepared to share assessment results and other important information.  You need to have information to share and a general plan of how to convey what you see at school.  However, you should use that information to support your conversation.  Conferences will become a to a true conversation about how students are performing at school and how parents can continue to support their student’s education.  This helps parents to feel like part of the team.

The most helpful piece in my conference preparation is my color-coded folders of reports, forms, grades and work samples ready to share and pulled them out as I need them.  I color-code my folders by AM and PM class and then by IEP and ESL kids.  My AM class is always yellow and PM is blue (literally everything the AM kids use is yellow and PM is blue…name tags, folders, notebooks, bins, etc.).  My ESL kids get green folders and my extended day kids get red folders and my IEP kids get purple folders.  I color code this way to make organization easier.  When I get an IEP update from the special ed. teacher, I can quickly find the correct purple folder to drop it into.  I teach 35-45 kids between my 2 classes each year and I’ve found this to be the best way to keep myself organized. 

What goes in the folders?  Everything.  Notes from parents, nurses passes, tardy notes, writing samples from the beginning, middle and end of year, work samples, benchmark assessments, math unit tests, DRA scores, running records (as needed), behavior notes, IEPs, reports from other teachers.  If a parent may question it, I put it in the folder.  Literally, everything goes into that child’s folder.   It might be overkill, but I find it’s better to be prepared.  If you’ve ever had a challenging parent, you know how important it is to have a record of everything. 



What information should you send home?  I give parents a conference report with an overview of how their student is doing at school and a few resources to use at home.  I also give parents their student’s self-evaluation form (freebie!).  You have to find a balance of what is too much to send home and sending too little.  There are so many resources out there and you want to make sure parents actually read and use what you send home. Typically, I have a small packet (5 pages or less) about reading levels and how to help with reading at home and a list of apps/websites to try at home.   You can find my editable connect at home flyer here. 



Looking to revamp your conferences or to be better prepared for conferences?  You can find my everything you need in my Editable Parent-Teacher Conference Forms.   It has everything you need for successful conferences including sign up forms, reminders, progress reports, and thank you notes! 

What is your best conference advice? 


Planning a Valentine's Day Party - with FREEBIE!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Valentine’s Day marks our last classroom party of the school year!  Woohoo!  At my school, parents organize and run the parties.  Over the years, I’ve had some AMAZING ideas and some under-planned parties, but thankfully I’ve never had a terrible party!  (I hope I didn’t just jinx myself.)  I’ve learned from fellow teachers that not everyone is so lucky.  Who knew?  Some of you even have to plan your own parties?!  That’s crazy.  So I thought I’d share some of my favorite Valentine’s Day party activities and snacks from over the past few years.   



First off is coming up with a plan.  I ask parents to plan a few games, a craft (or 2), a snack and a book.  We always end the party with snack followed by a book.  Why?  Because it calms the kids down and gets some semblance of normalcy at the end of the day.  From there you can decide if your class will be better working in rotations for the games/crafts or if you’d prefer everyone does the same thing.  I’ve done both ways successfully so it really depends on your group and how much help you have.  By the way…always plan your party for the end of the day.  Always. 

Games
By far the best Valentine Party games I’ve had at a party were one minute challenge activities.  Most of the activities were perfect for kinders, but a few I wouldn’t do again. (Use a straw to move a candy heart from plate to plate = saliva filled disgustingness.  Gross.)  Below are the challenges that worked best with my students. 



Stacking Candy Hearts:  
You’ll need candy hearts, paper plates (I per child) and a timer.  Time students to see who has the highest stack of candy hearts in one minute.  Try it a few times to see if their strategy changes!  Finish Early?  See how many hearts the kids can “stand” up on their sides in one minute.
Spoon Heart Relay:  
You’ll need spoons, 2 cups per “team”, candy hearts, and a timer.  Students take turns using a spoon to transfer candy hearts from one cup to the other.  Time students for one minute to see how many hearts they can get into the empty cup.  Finish Early?  Pass out popsicle sticks and see how many hearts they can balance on a popsicle stick for one minute.
Stacking Cups:  
You’ll need paper or plastic cups and a timer.  (If you can’t find valentine themed cups, any style will do!) Time students for a minute and see who can build/stack the highest tower.  You may want to give them more time or choose not to time them at all.  Kids LOVE building with cups!  
Balloon Volley:  
For this one, all you need is a balloon.  The object is for kids to keep the balloon in the air as long as possible without letting it touch the ground or any furniture!  You can time them for a minute and increase the time based on how they do!


Crafts
Keep it simple!  Craft kits from Oriental Trading or a craft store work great!  Now that I am a mom, I totally understand the appeal of handprint and footprint crafts.  However, I will likely NEVER try a painted footprint craft in my classroom.  And to be honest, painting 5-year old hands is not my favorite.  No judgment from me if you put out Valentine’s Day themed coloring pages!   There are some absolutely adorable heart shaped animal crafts floating around out there.  Check out my Valentine’s Day Pinterest Board for ideas (Pinterest link to the right). 



Snacks
I’m certain you can scour Pinterest to find adorable heart themed snacks and spend a lot of time (and possibly money) making them.  That’s just not me.  I’m more of an Amazon Prime mom than a Pinterest mom and I’m here to tell you that’s perfectly fine!  I opt for store bought cookies (less worry about allergies) or the trusty Pillsbury break apart Valentine themed cookies.  Strawberries and raspberries are great valentine treats since they are pink and healthy!  Pretzels are almost heart-shaped, so that’s another great option.  Keep it simple!  My students don’t get snack at school very often so any snack is special.  I do not need to spend a ton of time preparing the perfect snacks to impress them.   When should they eat snack?  Either first thing or last (before a story).  Then they have motivation to finish eating to do the other activities or go home!

Need some cute Valentine's to send to your students or to have on hand for students to pass out?  These adorable animal-themed valentine cards are adorable!




Good luck with your parties!  Click the picture below for an exclusive FREE set of Valentines to use with your students! 

 Exclusive Freebie!

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