One of the biggest changes our students and families experience with the transition to middle school is how conferences are conducted. At the middle school level, we conduct student-led conferences. The students work hard all year to compile a portfolio of their work, goals, and reflections to share with their parents. They work within each of their content classes to prepare their portfolio and work samples for the conference and in the ELA classrooms we help prepare the students for how conferences run, what to say, and how to conduct themselves during this time.
To get the students thinking about what a student-led conference is, I will ask them to explain how conferences in the elementary schools are run. I will list their thoughts on the board and then ask them what they liked or didn't like about the conferences. Usually this will elicit conversation about how they were not able to be there or be involved.
I will then go in to explain what a student-led conference is and how it is run. I will use the Student-Led Conference Sheet and read it aloud, stopping to explain the set-up specific to my classroom.
Next, I will show students two examples of good student-led conferences. The first example is an acted student-led conference. This will demonstrate to students how the student is leading the conference and how they are interacting with their portfolio and their parents. I will stop during the video to point out how the student is going through her work, explaining what she learned from it, how she could have done better, and her overall thoughts on the lesson. This is good for students to see how the conference should look.
The next video the students will watch is of real student-led conferences in action. I will use the following link-and fast forward to 9:00 minutes into the video and watch until I have pointed out the workings of the conference. How the students introduced their parents to the teacher, how the students are sitting and going through the portfolio with the parents, not just saying "I got an A on this, I got a B on this.." This demonstrates how we want the students to take ownership in their work and what they learned.
Finally, I will ask students to view a third video. This video demonstrates a very weak conference. I want the students to view the video then reflect on why it was a weak conference. I will allow the students a few minutes to write their reflections on loose-leaf paper.
Then, I will ask the students to share their reflections by doing a Hands-Up, Stand-Up, Pair-Up (HUSUPU). (Slide 13 in Kagan Structures power point. This will allow them to move around after sitting for 20 minutes. It will also allow them to share their thoughts with their peers. In a HUSUPU, the students stand up, put their hands up, and then pair up with the first person they see. Then, they find a seat and begin to share. Once they are done, they will thank their partner and then return to their seats.
Finally, I will ask a few students to share and discuss their thoughts. I will then review the importance and procedures of a student-led conference.
To help the students to better explain each artifact within their portfolio, I will demonstrate how to use post-it notes to create what I call "Talking Points".
First, I use a fake portfolio I have created to demonstrate the arrangement of all the reflections, artifacts, and papers. This helps the students visually see how to arrange their own portfolio.
Next, I model how I am going to sit down and talk with my parents about my first artifact. I pull out a fake assignment and demonstrate how I have prepared talking points. Talking points are points the students want to say about the artifact. I ask the students to include two artifacts per content class and then two-three talking points per artifact.
I place the following example talking points on the board for the students to chose from:
1. What did I learn from this assignment?
2. Why did I get the grade I received?
3. How could I have done better on this assignment?
4. How did I prepare for this test?
5. Why is knowing this concept important in life?
I allow the students to chose from this list or create their own talking points. They are to record their responses to these questions onto the post-it note and stick the post-it note directly onto the artifact. This will allow them to be prepared to discuss the artifact during conferences. It also prevents the students from just saying "I got an A, I got a B..." ect.
I will allow the students time to work on writing out all of their talking points for each class. As they are working, I will monitor the students and provide guidance as needed.
The students may need reminders in elaboration with sentences and sentence fluency. I will remind them that this is a discussion we are having and it is important to write to help us discuss.
Once they are done, I will check their talking points to make sure they are well written and thorough. I will have the students place their portfolios back into the crate.
To help assess student learning today, I will have the students write a quick reflection. I will ask the students to reflect on the Student-Led conference process. What are they excited about? What are they nervous about?
This will help me better prepare them for their big day! I will collect their reflections to read.