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Parent-Teacher Conferences: Showing Student Work
Judi Fenton

When parent-teacher conferences roll around, it is essential to have student work to back up what you say about a student. As a parent, I've realized that seeing evidence of what my child is producing helps me to understand where I and her teacher can intervene to assist my daughter. It also helps me see where she has grown and improved, as well as what new interests she has developed in her class. (They usually don't tell us, especially when they get to the upper elementary and middle school grades!) Showing student work at conferences requires you to reflect on what you plan on talking about to the child's family member and how you wish to illustrate what you say through the work you show. Here are some examples of what to present:

Show work that indicates growth:
Take a piece of student work from the start of the year and a recent piece. Ask the parent where they notice growth. You should be prepared to demonstrate to the parents where the student has improved. You can also show the work alongside grade level standards and assessment rubrics.

Show work that hasn't been completed:
When a student hasn't finished work (often homework) parents don't always know. You should have a detailed list of assignments that have not been completed by students along with the dates the work was due. This will be more powerful if you have been sending home progress reports all along, or if parents can access the list of what is due that week, either on a class web site, through an email list, or through a weekly newsletter to parents.

Show work that indicates the need for at-risk support services or evaluations:
It is particularly difficult for parents to accept that their child may need to be referred for support services. One of the best ways to convince a parent to request an evaluation is to show several pieces of their child's work along with work that is "typical" or "expected" of the age you are teaching (all names removed from the other work). I would probably not do this in an early childhood classroom (Pre-K-1), since "typical" encompasses such a vast developmental range. In older grades, you could show the student's work along with the rubrics you used to assess the work and the grade level standards. Having benchmark pieces to compare student work with can be very helpful.

Show work that has taught you something:
Sometimes we learn more from our students than they learn from us. When that happens and a student's work illustrates something you haven't noticed or haven't thought about in regard to the teaching point, it is nice to share that with a parent. There is also a great advantage in presenting yourself as a learner, instead of "the expert" to parents. Parents will view you as an accessible teacher, and you can always learn so much about kids from their parents.

Parents and family members love to see examples of actual work when hearing about how their children are doing in school. Please contact me with any successes or questions you have!

Do you have a comment or question about this How To? E-mail Judi.


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