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    Student-Led Conferences
    By Anna

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    I have used student-led conferences for the last 2 years in 5th grade. Our first conference is in late Oct. so I start planning from the very start of the year. I have mailboxes that I pass back graded work, and every Friday before they collect the papers to put in their Friday folders, they look through and pick one "good" paper (something they're proud of) and one "not so good" paper (something they could've done better at). For each paper they fill out a notecard and explain whey they picked that particular piece of work, and why they are/are not especially proud of it. Then they file it in their portfolio folder (hanging files in a crate) and save for future reference.

    About 2 weeks before conferences, we start practicing how to do the conference. I have an outline that they must follow through the conference and at specific points they show the work that they selected from the past 6-7 weeks. Before conference day we sort through the work they have chosen and narrow it down to 3 or 4 "proud" pieces and 3 or 4 "not so proud" pieces.

    Below is a list of the things that I have them include in their portfolio for conferences.

    1. An introduction. Welcome to the conference etc.
    2. A list of 2 short term goals (things to accomplish before the end of the next 9 weeks) and 3 long term goals (things to accomplish throughout the year). They go over these goals with their parents and tell HOW they plan on achieving these goals.
    3. A short list of their strenghts and weaknesses. Areas that they are strong in, and areas that need some work.
    4. Samples of work. They may show all the "bad" work first and then all the "good" work second, or mix them up. The "bad" work is simply the work that they chose that they could've done better on. I don't call it "bad" in front of the students, I'm just using that term here.
    5. Question and answer session to discuss what was talked about.
    6. Thank yous- for coming etc.

    Now the student does ALL the talking and running of the conference. I only interject to give my two cents when I agree with what the child is saying, or to add to something that they've talked about. Before actual conferences I've done a run through with each student (mini-version) so I know what they will be saying.

    We only have 15 min. with the parent, so time is quick. If there is something that needs further discussion, or we need more time, I will schedule a conference with the parent for a later date. These student led conferences are really a time for the child to shine and be proud of their accomplishments or to focus on areas for improvement.

    I'm totally sold on student-led conferences. They put the emphasis on the child, not the teacher, and they make the child take responsibility and ownership of their learning. Plus, it's nice to know that mom and dad aren't talking behind your back with teacher. They are there for every word. Only three times in the last 2 years have I had to schedule extra conference times at later dates.

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