No Prep Student Conferences

Have you ever struggled to get your students to take ownership of their learning progress?  Have you ever assumed that students were going over their graded work with their parents each week and carefully reviewing things they did well on and things they still needed to work on?  Well, I have experienced both of these issues and I found that in reality, only 2 or 3 households in my entire classroom were actually using their graded work sent home as a launch pad for helpful discussion and progress monitoring.  I knew something had to change. I couldn’t just expect the intentionality to happen automatically between students and their families, I had to create a precedent, a routine in my own classroom with my students that they would be more likely to recreate at home. 

This year my partner teacher and I developed new routines in our classroom to help facilitate our students’ growth in reflecting on their learning and progress as students.  To do this, we implemented a routine on Fridays after lunch where we pass out students’ “Friday work” and they have a chance to look through it all and reflect on their scores.  During this time, they begin to set SMART goals for themselves to improve in specific areas. (For more info about how I use SMART goals in my classroom follow here:Attach link here to SMART goals post) We both noticed, however, that our students were getting very discouraged by low scores and were having a hard time seeing growth opportunities there instead of bad grades. This contributed to students being less likely to pursue conversation with their parents about their work when they got home, and sometimes led to even hiding it from their parents out of embarrassment.

So, after brainstorming with my partner teacher, we decided to start a new weekly tradition in our classroom called “Let’s Chat." Let's Chat is a private student conference time set aside for us to affirm students' great work or to discuss areas of improvement. Now, every Friday afternoon, in conjunction with my students’ SMART goal time,  students eagerly look for my “Let’s Chat” stamp! Students look forward to these one-on-one conversations and they are going home, more able to confidently articulate their strengths as well as areas of growth needed without spontaneously combusting when presenting the low percentage to their parents. Initially, I was writing “Let’s Chat” over and over again on their work, but now that I have created this charming little stamp, so I can save myself the time AND it will be easier (and much cuter) for the kids to see it on their papers!  I call that a WIN WIN! 

By using the stamp, it creates opportunities for the students to be excited about their work enough to share with their parents...

By using the stamp, it creates opportunities for the students to be excited about their work enough to share with their parents and then they discuss what we talked about in our chat together.  It even works on the low scoring papers because it gives students the opportunity to bring a low score to their parent and be able to verbalize why they received the score AND what they can do to improve.  

Can’t wait to implement this in your classroom, but don’t quite know how to use it in practice?  Here are some practical examples of things I would stamp with “Let’s Chat.” If I notice a student is making the same mistake on multiple papers in a row, or that they have been struggling with a concept over time and they can’t quite get it, I would stamp “Let’s Chat.”  Then I would have a quick dialogue with them to point out what I have been noticing over time and what I have already been doing to support them and ask what more they think would better help them understand. I would give them some quick clarification then, but also set up specific supports for them in the future to help.  Perhaps they still don’t have their 9’s multiplication facts memorized and it is halting their progress in long division, then I might tell them to create a goal and schedule with someone at home to practice those 9s facts every night and I will assess them the following Friday.  

In addition, there may be different things you notice that a particular student does consistently well that you want to recognize.  Perhaps a student writes complex sentences with rich detail and advanced vocabulary, or even uses one of your assigned vocabulary words in a writing assignment without being asked.  You can stamp “Let’s Chat” and praise them for their excellent writing, telling them specifically what they did well and encouraging them to continue to develop those skills.  

Overall, this routine has helped shape my students in incredible ways.  They are more self aware and motivated to have those conversations with their parents about their work, even if they are the more tough conversations.  Parents are also more informed from their own child and they don’t need to email you asking all of the questions about why their child got #2 and #7 wrong on pg. 251 of the Math assignment because the student already knows the reason!  My hope is that you too can find the time saved in using this stamp as well as the increase in student ownership of their learning progress.

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I want to hear from you, teachers!

What do you find most challenging about helping students process their graded work? How do you strike the balance between them taking their low scores seriously but not being crushed by it? 


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