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    student led conferences
    By Karen

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    I have been doing student led conferences with my students for about 10 years. I do NOT do it the first time we have conferences, because I don't know enough about the child to be confident in what they tell their parents. Plus, I think parents want to talk to me the first time (I teach 5th grade). We keep data folders, which have all of their papers from the last 4-5 weeks in it (we purge it at interim and grade card time), plus charts of all of their test scores for the year.

    About two weeks before conferences, I have them fill out a cloze sentence/paragraph about every subject. For instance: I have read ________ books this year and _____________________ was my favorite. It amounts to about 5 pages double spaced. I do two sections a day for the week and get it entirely filled in. Sections include math, spelling, handwriting, writing, reading, social studies, science, behavior, homework and tests. I read the paragraph and explain what I mean by each blank, I also roam around the room, stressing honesty (at the conference their parent and I will know they are lying and it's embarassing). Every once in a while I stop at a student's desk and say, "Is that really true?" if I see someone not being honest.

    The week before conferences we practice at least 3 times with a partner - stressing looking up at the parent, speaking clearly, etc. I let parents know ahead of time the student will be leading the conference and if they want to schedule one with me they can do so after their child is done (I answer small questions, but direct most questions to the child.) Students are usually very nervous, but afterwards say it wasn't so bad and parents really like it. They like to hear their child tell them they have had 14 late papers, and then try to explain why. I sit in on the conference, but say little. I only have child present gradecard, not go over every little detail on it, because time doesn't permit it. My students have permission to start their conference without me in a nearby empty room if the one before theirs is running over. It's a great way to make kids truely think about and honestly discuss their grades and behaviors with their parents.

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