Monday, April 13, 2015

Student-Led Conferences: Um, Yes Please! Part Two

So...time to finish up our post about our AMAZING student-led conferences!

Now that the kiddos have completed all of the legwork, it's time for them to practice and get ready for the main event!  Now the level of your kiddos will dictate how much practicing they will need.  When I first started these, I felt they needed practice. be honest...we wing it!  I sit in on the conferences and I can gently guide them to the next section or give them a little nudge to get them going, but they really are pretty amazing at sharing their own work!  When the parents come in, I have them sit on either side of their kiddo.  I sit on the opposite side of the table.  This allows the parents to see their kiddo's conference form, view their math and writing samples, and see the actual book their little one is reading.  I sit opposite them so that I am present, but NOT the central focus.  This is after all, a STUDENT-LED conference!  Can I get an AMEN!
Basically the kiddo runs the conference by reading each section of their form and then sharing the work from that content area.  I only interject to keep them on track or ask them questions to help them share what they are thinking.  When they read the book, we do only have them read 2 or 3 pages to save on time.

This is BY FAR the best part of the whole process.  The kiddos are beaming from ear to ear with pride as they truly see just how far they have come.  I'm talking not being able to write jack at the beginning of the year, to writing spin-offs of their favorite class read alouds!
This was from about 3 weeks in.  She was using sight words we had been working on to write simple sentences.
 She was already using some good phonetic spelling even at this early stage!
This is actually a piece from early February, and we didn't have conferences until late she was doing some fantastic writing already.  She didn't use punctuation here, but she wrote over a 4 page story based on My Lucky Day.  She kept the characters, but changed the story line as the story progressed.  She has phenomenal skills happening here!
This is always a favorite part for the parents too because when they see their little one flip the first page over to the current writing, there is literally an audible gasp escaping from them!  They too can not believe just how much growth has happened, but's right there in front of them as living proof!  

Here are some examples of the math journal entries they share.
We try to encourage them to choose newer entries so it reflects their current level of thinking.
A little more about the reading portion... we have the kids choose a book from their Daily 5 book box.  That means they already have a "good fit" collection to choose from.  We encourage them to choose the highest level book that they can read with fluency and understanding.  We don't even check them on this before the conference as most of them have had a ton of practice deciding if something is the right fit for them.  If they do choose a book that's a bit too easy (maybe one that has been in their box longer and was used to build fluency, but really is a bit too easy), then we just grab another out of their box and get them to have a go.  They are usually pleasantly surprised to find out it wasn't too hard after all.  After they have read a couple of pages, we stop them and show them and their family what level that came in reading at (for 90% of our kids it's a RIGBY level ZERO!) and what level they are currently reading (this ranges from a level FIVE to TWENTY THREE this particular year!)  Level 5 is considered "ready for 1st" so everything after that is gravy!!!  **Disclaimer....We do have 2 cuties who are not reading at all at this point.  They joined us mid year and were far behind at the time.  They are making slow gains, and we will keep on keeping on!  They'll bloom soon enough!  :)
To keep track of the book they wish to share, they again stick a sticky note to the front to mark it.
I don't know if you can tell, but the sweet Mama in the pink shirt up top has a tissue in her hand!  She literally broke down in tears as her baby read.  You see, reading wasn't really his thing right away.  As a matter of fact, he wasn't really loving the whole writing or math thing either.  He lacked confidence and was always worried he wouldn't get things right.  It has been just amazing watching this kiddo bloom right before our eyes.  He read his book with such confidence and didn't even pause to look at either of us to get help when he hit an unknown word.  He just picked a reading strategy, chunked the word, and kept on reading like he was a professional 1st grader!  She is our school's counselor which made it even sweeter!  She was glowing with pride and adoration for her baby's accomplishment.  Now if that's not worth giving these student-led conferences a go...then I don't know what is!

The last piece of the puzzle is our surveys that we send out to our families.  We ask them to be brutally honest, and to be frank, they do!!!  I had 2 families tell me that they loved them, but that I needed to allow longer than 15 minutes per conference.  (Did I mention that my students and I share an affinity for chatting...ANNNND we tend to go over our allotted 15 minutes and then MAYBE the whole schedule gets a bit behind!!!!)  But this feedback helps us evolve and make these conferences even more meaningful!

SO...go wild, have fun, and give STUDENT-LED CONFERENCES a shot!

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