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Conducting Effective Parent/Teacher Conferences

If you are like most teachers, you are preparing for your first round of parent/teacher conferences. Now that I teach on the college level, this is one activity I currently don't have to do, but when I did, I really did enjoy them. Why? Because I was prepared with more than just the student's grades. Here are some of the ways I got ready.

First, in preparing for parent/teacher conferences, what can you do on a daily basis? Is the conference based on simply talking about grades or are there additional items that need discussing? How can an observation be specific without offending the parent or guardian? How is it possible to remember everything?

I kept a clipboard in my classroom on which were taped five 6” x 8” file cards so they overlapped - something like you see in the two pictures above. Each week, I tired to evaluate five students, writing at least two observations for each child on the cards. At the end of the week, the file cards were removed and placed into the children's folders. The next week, four different students were chosen to be evaluated. In this way, I did not feel overwhelmed, and had time to really concentrate on a small group of children. By the end of 4-5 weeks, each child in the class had been observed at least twice. By the end of the year, every child had been observed at least eight different times.

Below are sample observations which might appear on the cards.


Mary Kay

 Likes to work alone; shy and withdrawn;  wears a great deal of make-up.

 She has a good self concept and is  friendly. Her preferred learning style is  visual based on the modality survey.



 Leader, at times domineering, likes to  play games where money is involved.

 His preferred learning style is auditory  (from the modality survey). He can be a  “bully,” especially in competitive games.  He tends to use aggressive language with  those who are not considered athletic.

Checklist for P/T Conferences
By the time the first parent/teacher conferences rolled around, I had at least two observations for each child. This allowed me to share specific things (besides grades) with the parents/guardians. As the year progressed, more observations were added; so, that a parent/guardian as well as myself could readily see progress in not only grades, but in a student's behavior and social skills. The cards were also an easy reference for filling out the paperwork for a 504 plan or an IEP (Individual Education Plan). As a result of utilizing the cards, I learned pertinent and important facts related to the whole child which in turn created an effective and relevant parent/teacher conference.

To keep the conference on the right track, I also created a checklist to use during parent/teacher conferences.  It featured nine characteristics listed in a brief, succinct checklist form. During conferences, this guide allowed me to have specific items to talk about besides grades. Some of the characteristics included were study skills and organization, response to assignments, class attitude, inquiry skills, etc. Since other teachers at my school were always asking to use it, I rewrote it and placed it in my TPT store. It is available for only $1.95, and I guarantee it will keep your conferences flowing and your parents focused! When you have time, check it out!

Using the Periodic Table to Create Bulletin Boards

As many of you know, my husband teachers middle school science.  Together, this is our 80th year of teaching; so, you can tell that we both still love what we do. In fact, we can't imagine doing anything else.

Free Resource
My husband isn't one to do bulletin boards, never has been and never will be. My daughter (also a teacher) and I usually construct them for him. For many months now, I have been looking for individual tiles of the periodic table.  I saw a bulletin board on Pinterest (one of my favorite places to gather ideas) that I wanted to recreate for my husband's science lab.  I finally turned to Teachers Pay Teachers (where I should have gone in the first place) and asked in the Forum if anyone had such an item. I found that The Triple Point had just what I was looking for. It was a set containing 118 images (png) of Periodic Table tiles, one for each of the 118 elements. Since the resource was free, I downloaded it immediately.

After copy the individual tiles onto card stock and laminating them for durability, I laid out the bulletin board (see below). To be honest, my husband did staple everything onto the board as well as arrange the other items. Didn't he do a great job?

In case you can't read the meme in the middle, it says, "That will be $5.00 for the Electrons; the Neutrons are Free of Charge." After all, every classroom needs a bit of humor!

Give Reading A Helping Hand!

I believe the Conceptual Development Model should be constantly used when creating lessons for students, no matter what their age or grade level. (I even use it on the college level.) This particular model helps to bring structure and order to concepts found in almost any discipline. Here is an example of how I used the model in reading.

When I taught third grade, I noticed that my students often had difficulty identifying the different components of a story. I knew I needed a concrete/pictorial example that would help them to remember. Since we always had our hands with us, I decided to make something that would be worn on the hands. By associating the abstract story concepts with this concrete object, I hoped my third graders would make connections to help them visually organize a story's elements. I also suspected it would increase their ability to retell, summarize, and comprehend the story.

I purchased a pair of garden gloves and used fabric paint to write the five elements of a story on the fingers...**characters, setting, problem, events, and solution. In the middle of the glove I drew a heart and around it wrote, "The heart of the story." (theme) Towards the wrist was written "Author's Message." (What was the author saying?)

After we read a story, I would place the glove on my hand, and we would go through the parts of the story starting with the thumb or characters. (a person, animal, or imaginary creature in the story). We then proceeded to setting (where the story took place.) We did not progress through all the story elements every day, but would often focus on the specific part that was causing the most difficulty. The fun came when one of the children wore the glove (Yes, it was a little big, but they didn’t seem to mind) and became the "teacher” as the group discussed the story. As the student/teacher talked about each of the fingers, we would all use our bare hands without the glove.

I also made and copied smaller hands as story reminders. This hand would appear on worksheets, homework, bookmarks, desks, etc. Sometimes the hand contained all the elements; sometimes it was completely blank, and at other times only a few things would be missing. The hand became known as our famous and notorious Helping Hand.

Why would I allocate so much time to this part of the curriculum? Because…

1) If a student learned the elements of a story, then they understood and knew what was happening throughout the story.

2) If a child is aware of who the character(s) were, then they cab identify the character’s traits during the story.

3) If the child knows the setting of the story, then they recognize where an event was taking place.

4) If they know the problems that are taking place, then they can be a part of the story and feel like they are helping to solve it.

Such visual tools allow a teacher the flexibility to focus on one single story element or present a more complex or intricate view of all parts of a story. By knowing the components of a story, students are more engaged and connected to their reading. It’s as if they assimilate the story and become a part it. So, are you ready to Give Reading a Helping Hand in your classroom?

**The five parts of a story may be identified as introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution or other similar categories.

A Go Figure Debut for an Ohioan Who's New!

Today I feature another teacher from the great state of Ohio. Nancy has been teaching third grade for 22 years at the same rural school district. She is married and has one son. She enjoys traveling and photography. Since math is her favorite subject to teach, she was moved right to the top of my debut list. Her product ideas come from helping struggling students and creating hands-on activities so they can practice these skills.

She currently has 106 resources in her Teachers Pay Teachers store. Although she creates products for many subject areas, her emphasis is on math, most of which are suitable for grades 1-4.

Free Resource
Presently, Nancy has ten free products in her store. One of my favorites is entitled: Back to School: Stack and Solve Addition and Subtraction with Ballpark Estimates. It is a nine page resource booklet appropriate for grades 3-4. Students can practice adding and subtracting with regrouping while using ballpark estimates to check their work. Included are 24 cards, a recording sheet and an answer key.

Nancy's products are reasonably priced, but she also offers several bundles so that teachers can save even more money. One of those bundles is 64 pages and includes Line Plots: Build Them, and Line Plot Scavenger Hunt. Even though both items are sold separately, you save 20% by purchasing them in a bundle!

Just $6.00
The first part of this bundle is called Line Plots: Build Them. It contains four sets of line plot graphs. Each set has four task cards that are color coded for easy sorting. Also contained in the bundle is a blank line plot graph on which students can write the numbers with dry erase markers. Four task cards accompany this graph. Moreover, she has included a full page of task cards for projecting onto a board for a whole group activity.

The second portion of this bundle is called Line Plot Scavenger Hunt. Students move around the room solving 30 line plot cards. Students may work independently or with partners. Students should be familiar with finding the range and mode, and a calculator may be useful for some cards depending on the level of your students.

Additionally, Nancy has her own blog that is titled the same as her TPT store, Create, Learn, Explore. Her articles are well thought out as well as practical which means you can learn a great deal from her.

So take some time to check out Nancy's store and blog, and while you are there, be sure to download her free resource.