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The Impact of Child-led Conferences

When my son Abraham was in kindergarten, I had a wonderful experience that I want to share with you.

My son’s teacher organized child-led conferences. It got me thinking that, with end-of-year conferences just around the corner, some of you might be interested in trying out this approach! Here’s how it went….

The week before the conference, the class reviewed the studies that they’d investigated so far this year, and each child examined and organized their portfolio. Abraham was so excited about this process, he even created a calendar to track the days until the conference.

The teacher sent home specific instructions for the day of the conference.

She explained that this was a time for our children to show us around the classroom and explain the work they’d done this year. The children would decide which work samples they wanted to share with us, and they would explain their progress, not the teacher.

The teacher made us all promise to give our undivided attention to our children and to only start conversations that our child could actively participate in. (If we wanted to hear from the teacher about our child’s progress, we were welcome to set up additional conference time with her.)

When we arrived at the classroom on the day of the conference, there were two other children there with their families.

The teacher had set up stations around the room: a small-group math experience, a small-group literacy experience, an activity on the whiteboard, a table with portfolios, and an area on the rug where we could sit and review our children’s writing portfolios. The walls of the classroom were covered with documentation from the study topics the children had investigated so far that year. The teacher instructed each family to begin at a different station and rotate through them with our child as the leader.

Abraham eagerly brought me to the first station and began working, explaining what he was doing as he went through the experience. He was so proud to show me what he had been learning. We spent a particularly long time looking through his classroom portfolio and his writing portfolio. He made comments like “See how I used to write. My letters were so squiggly. Look at how I write now!”

The pictures above show a small group-sorting activity that his class did during a study on light and shadows. They were learning about the terms translucent, transparent, and opaque. As a large group, they sorted objects into those three categories. During small group, they sorted labeled pictures of objects and then went around the room observing and documenting the objects they found that fell into those three categories.

I was so impressed with my son’s teacher for organizing this child-led conference.

I know it took a lot more work on her part than the typical family conference would. But what a fantastic opportunity for the children to demonstrate accountability for their own learning and to reflect on their learning experiences.

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