In my class, we just finished our second set of conferences. Crazy, I know! We started in early August, and because I have a self-contained Read 180 class, I held Goal Conferences with parents during the first 3 weeks of school. During those conferences, I just chatted with the parents, shared a few of the diagnostic results, and answered any "middle-school" questions. The students participated by sharing a few goals, but did little else during the course of the conference.
At our site, teachers were only required to conference with "C-" or below students. I can hear the elementary teachers gasp in horror, but that is middle school for you:). Since I had already done "conferences" with my whole class, I was not "required" to hold conferences for the whole class. But this year, I am determined to have a good year, and that does not happen without building community and communication!
So we put our beloved Iceman Projects on hold - they are doing a phenomenal job, and I did not want to rush perfection - and got ready for their first real Student Led Conferences! I kept it really simple!
Since all but three students demonstrated amazing growth on their 1st quarter SRI, we agreed to start with Language Arts. During this portion, we shared their Interactive Notebooks.
Then we moved into Math and their Math Notebooks. Again, I kept it simple because the stress of leading their own conferences was enough.
During the last part of the sit down portion, they shared their Behavior and Study Habits Self-Reflection. They gave themselves a grade, then they read over it with a partner. This part is my favorite part, because even if their partner is their best friend, my work is done! Their partners call them out on unreasonable grades, without hesitation. The deal is that if they give themselves a grade that is less than honest or one that I disagree with, then I will put my score next to their score with a marker. By the time it gets to me, I have to make very few notes.
I kept it really simple! Just three reflections and a tour of Read 180. We worked on their reflections in small groups for two days. Then we practiced using a bulletin board style script and role-played for approximately 2 hours.
Some of the conferences were just magical! One of my students who routinely struggles with the truth and self control, gave himself brutally honest scores. It was amazing to sit and hear him be so honest. He stood straight and tall, and told his mother where his weaknesses were, and more importantly, what his goals were for the next quarter. I was never prouder of any student than I was with him yesterday afternoon.
Another student finally admitted that he was not doing his best work, and that he needed to try harder. His Reading Notebook was a thing of beauty on Friday!
My favorite thing to whisper to a student off task is, "This will be difficult for you explain at your conference." Just knowing that they will have to explain their behavior and show evidence of their learning really helps keep them on track.
Student Led Conferences really motivate students; they give them the power and the responsibility for their education. It forces them to communicate with their parents about their progress - on student terms. As they were leaving, my students and parents were asking me when we were having our next set of conferences. If you haven't tried doing Student Led, or haven't done them in a while because of curriculum demands, think about it! There are so many more important things than keeping pace with the curriculum guide. If you have questions about Student Led, please ask! They are so worth the time!
If you are interested in the Behavior and Study Habits Self-Reflection rubric, it is now in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.