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!
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