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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles:
Teach Early Childhood Literacy
Conduct Parent-Teacher Conferences 
Miriam Bissu

Conferences with parents can be very fruitful and informative for you and the parents of your students. You can view them as an opportunity to reach beyond the classroom to enlist parental support in your efforts with your students. Parents will often ask, "What are you doing to help my child?" and "What can I do at home to help my child?" I would like to offer some ideas to answer these questions. Please see the articles on this web site on "How to Work With Student's Families" and "How to Develop as a Professional"  for more ideas and important tips to having successful parent/teacher conferences.

"What are you doing to help my child?"

Before parent conferences I would teach my students how to conduct a conference with their parents. Then they would look through their work and choose some samples they wanted to show their parents. With the consent of cluster teachers and the approval of the administration, I scheduled parent/child conferences, a few at a time, during my prep periods. During this time the children would show their parents the different areas of the classroom, their work samples, notebooks, etc. This afforded parents an opportunity to have a better view of what their child was doing in class and to discuss the work with their child. It also helped prepare them to discuss their child's progress later on during their scheduled afternoon or evening conference with me.

To prepare for my conference with parents, I chose samples of assessment pieces from my files that I used to inform my teaching. For example, I showed them running records, writing samples, and rubrics. In addition, I would show them the charts, word wall, literacy series, reference materials, and word lists that we used in class to help students achieve the standards. I use the rubrics to explain the standards to them in a way they would understand. In essence, I said, "This is where we are going. This is where your child is right now. This is how we are going to get him/her where (s)he needs to be."

I always allotted extra time for children who were at risk or who had special needs. I would work out a schedule with service providers to conduct a joint conference so parents could see how we met their child's needs in the classroom as well as with the service provider. If necessary, I would suggest that a parent sees the guidance counselor to follow up on problems we discussed or to arrange for more services for their child. It is important for parents to know that you are willing to take the steps necessary for their child to succeed.

What can I do at home to help my child?

Give parents some specific areas to work on with their child. Suggest that when they read aloud to their child, they respond to the characters, setting and author's style. They could serve as models by using accountable talk about books, giving reasons for their thoughts. They should also ask their child to re-tell the story and help with determining what details are important to the story and with sequencing. Most importantly, they should use reading aloud to bond with their child and share a joy of reading. Movies and television could be used in a similar manner.

Parents can help with spelling in much the same way we do in class. Children should have a list of high frequency words available and spelling try sheets to help to approximate conventional spelling. They can be placed in homework folders or notebooks for use at home. Parents who listen to their children share and read their writing will probably find their children value writing and the attention they are receiving from their parents.

Finally, you might want to look at the article on Struggling Readers on my page for more ideas you can pass along to parents.

I hope these suggestions are useful to you now and in the future. As a final suggestion, be sure to be positive in what you tell parents and offer them hope that their child can and will be successful. Try to forge a partnership with parents to achieve a common goal.

I would appreciate your questions and comments. E-mail Miriam.


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