Today we’re talking about parent teacher conference tips to help you make it though your students’ conferences! If you are a new teacher, you may be intimidated by the thought of having these first conferences. What should you cover? How long should you meet?
Parent Teacher Conference Tip 1: Know How Long to Meet
Parent-Teacher conferences vary in length of time. Some conferences can be as brief as 15 minutes, other conferences can be as long as an hour. If it is conference season, and I am meeting with ALL of my students’ parents or guardians, I try to keep conferences between fifteen and twenty minutes. Because I use a variety of parent communication methods, this is not the first time I am communicating with my students’ parents. They have heard from me many times already, and what we discuss during the conference is mostly a formality. There will be no shocks or surprises delivered during these conferences.
When I send home a parent-teacher conference sign up sheet, I include a schedule. The schedule has various days of the week, and different times. I have parents mark their top three choices of availability, and I also have an “other” line if none of the times work for them. As students bring back their parent’s requests on the schedule, I create a master schedule with everyone’s times.
Occasionally there will be issues where I have to reach back out to a parents because none of the times they requested are available, but more often than that, I am able to fit everyone in! All I do is send home a thank you sheet, and a note letting parents know which time I scheduled their conference for.
One of the reasons why this is so helpful is because parents can see that the conference times are brief. They know we are not having a super long formal (and stressful) meeting. If you have parents who are more reluctant to come to school, this may ease some of their concern! It also prevents extremely long conferences which are not always productive. Get an (editable) copy here!
Parent Teacher Conference Tip 2: Be Prepared
When I have parent-teacher conferences, I am always prepared for what we will review. I have their child’s test scores, reading levels, math scores, writing samples, and any other artifacts I want to show them. We review each of these as I talk about grade level expectations. Being prepared can help the meeting run smoothly, gives you plenty to talk about, and helps avoid awkward gaps in conversation!
Parent Teacher Conference Tip 3: Be Positive and Constructive
While we are reviewing a child’s artifacts, I am always careful to be positive as well as constructive. Sometimes we fill out a conference sheet that includes “Areas of Strength” and “Areas to Improve.” For younger students, you can have a “Glows” and “Grows” sheet to show areas of the student’s strengths and weaknesses.
Parent Teacher Conference Tip 4: Ask Questions
Ask the parent questions about the child and give the parent the opportunity to tell you things about them. A great question I like to ask is, “Is there anything you think I should know about ____?” If you have a child who is new to your school, it is important to ask about their experiences before they came to your classroom. Did the previous teacher have any concerns? What concerns does the parent have? You can also ask parents if there is anything else YOU could do to help them with their child.
Parent Teacher Conference Tip 5: Have a Takeaway
Give parents something to work on with their child when they leave the meeting. No, I don’t mean give them a stack of worksheets to practice. But, give them some valuable information that they can take home to help their child improve in any area! If a child is struggling with a certain standard, you may consider sending home a Parent Helper. (These are standards-aligned parent resources that I carry in my TpT store.) You can also ask a parent to help their child with a specific skill. (Math facts, reading aloud to improve speed and accuracy.) Finally, you can also have parents work on behavior with their child at home. Whenever behavior is an issue, be sure to have specific skill you want the parent to address. (Keeping hands to self, sharing, speaking kindly, following directions the first time, etc…)
I hope these tips help you out! For more parent resources, head on over to my TpT store! I’ve got a free editable montly newsletter, the schedule letter, and Parent Helpers that I mentioned in this post!