This week is conference week in Anchorage. At the middle school level, we do Student Led Conferences, in which students prepare a portfolio that includes work samples and self-reflections and present it to their parents. Teachers check in during the conference to see if parents have any questions, but the student is responsible for explaining his or her experience in the class to his or her parents.
I have struggled to create self-reflections that elicit honest, accurate responses from students, and I think that I have finally found the magical combination (until next year, I'm sure)!! First, students complete this self-reflection about their experience in the class. I have used this in the past, and it has proven a successful conversation starter for students and parents. Kids get to talk about what they like and don't like, and consequently the areas in which they experience successes and struggles. Download a free, editable version of this document here.
The second piece is one that I added this year, and I am VERY pleased with its success. It is a self-reflection on behavior, work habits, etc. (their Citizenship grade, essentially). I found that by a simple re-phrasing of the questions (asking students what they think that I would say to their parents vs. simply what they think about their own performance), students produced more honest, well-thought out and defended responses. Knowing that I would later circle whether I agree or disagree with their thoughts held them accountable, and I added comments to support my agreement or dissent. Download a free, editable version here (but beware--the font that I used in the original is most likely not on your computer, so you will probably need to do some re-formatting).
Students included this self-reflection in their portfolio with work samples and explanations of why they chose to include those samples. The final piece that I used was this "instruction sheet" for parents, so that they could speak with their students about the missing and incomplete components of their portfolio. It is helping parents to feel equipped to address concerns about work habits with their child and develop strategies and goals to address those concerns.
There are some benefits to Student Led Conference and some challenges, but I am thankful for the opportunity with which it provides students to have meaningful conversations with their parents about their class performance! It is also great for the MANY families in our school that do not speak English! What do you do for conferences??