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NYC Helpline: How To: Develop as a Professional

Conducting Effective Parent-Teacher Conferences
Theresa London Cooper

Parent-teacher conferences give us a wonderful opportunity to share important information with our students and their parents. When planned carefully and thoughtfully, they can support student learning. It is critical to think about each student, review his or her work and jot down a few notes that reflect the information that you believe is essential for parents to know regarding what their child is doing in school. There were a number of ways I prepared. Here are a few procedures for elementary school parent teacher conferences that I found very effective:

  1. Before parent-teacher conferences began, I identified those parents with whom I needed to have an extensive conversation. I spoke to them prior to the conferences, thereby avoiding a long waiting line on parent-teacher conference afternoon and evening.

  2. Next, I polled the parents to find out who would attend the afternoon conference and who would attend the evening conference. Consider sending a parent survey home a week or two before the conferences; these can serve as a reminder and yield the other information you want. Once I knew how many parents were attending each, I could estimate the amount of time I had to share with each parent and highlight the pertinent information for each student that was essential to share.

  3. On the actual afternoon and evening, I posted a welcome sign, placed a desk, pen, sign-in sheet and several chairs right outside my room to accommodate parents. I also placed parent literature on the desk that provided ideas on how to help children at home, great trips to take, and the best children’s books.  The Children’s Book Council website gives a list of 75 Authors/Illustrators Everyone Should Know for students in preK-8.  Refreshments add a welcoming touch.

    Here is an example of a sign you might post.


    1. Please sign in.
    2. You will be called in the order listed.
    3. Feel free to peruse your child’s work folder and parent literature while you wait.
    4. Thank you for coming.


                                              Ms. Cooper

  4. Additionally, I prepared a folder for each student and placed the folder on the student’s desk.  While the parents were waiting, they had an opportunity to peruse the folder and formulate comments and questions. Don’t forget to place name plates on each desk so that parents can independently identify their child’s desk.

  5. I used a timer to set boundaries for conducting each parent’s visit.  If there were no other parents waiting and the parent wanted to continue the visit, I did. If parents were waiting, the timer gave me a polite way to end the conversation.

  6. During the conference itself I stick to the following script:

    1. Give the parents time to voice their concerns and ask questions. 
    2. Give  my comments with several specific and positive statements regarding the student.
    3. Provide one or two challenges that I perceived as a priority requiring attention.
    4. Get support from the parent to address the challenges.
    5. Wrap up with a brief summary of our discussion and one or two next steps when applicable.

      TIP: Don’t sit behind your desk in a chair that puts you physically higher than the parent. Instead, sit across from parents in a chair of the same level Parents will feel more comfortable.

  7. The next day or between visits, whatever works best for you, it is important to remember to note the parents’ visit in the student’s cumulative record folder. In this way I avoided having to do it at the end of the year.

Parent-teacher conferences can be a great opportunity to build relations with parents and provide sound support for student learning.  However, it is vital to plan ahead and be prepared before the actual event takes place. How will you plan to have effective conferences with your parents?

Do you have a question or comment about this article? E-mail Theresa.

See also:

How to Handle Parent-Teacher Conferences by Allison Demas

Getting Parents to Show Up by Carl Sannito


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