Written by Casey Jeffers, Owner of Fair Winds Teaching & MSEA Second Grade Teacher
Ever wonder why, as elementary and middle school teachers, we meet with our student’s parents and never meet with our students one on one for a conference. Years ago, I held my very first Kid Conference with each one of my students. It was a precursor meeting before I held my October parent teacher conferences. I also always held another one after the long Winter break in January. This was a game changer for me and my students.
A Kid Conference is exactly what it sounds like, a conference with a kid. Some teachers host kid-led conferences, which is a different concept (a great one, but different). A kid-led conference is where you prep a student to lead the meeting you host with the child’s parent or guardian. The student is able to talk to their caregiver about their academics, behavior and more in the classroom. I love having my students lead during conferences and it is much easier for them to do once you host a private conference with them first. You do not have to have kid-led conferences to be able to host your own Kid Conference at school. Both are great and I suggest starting with hosting your very own Kid Conference.
A Kid Conference is a one on one meeting involving the classroom teacher and their student. It should be about 5 minutes long; depending on how many students you have in your classroom, you can make the meeting longer if you choose. With my second and third graders, 5 minutes is plenty to answer the questions that are important. During the conference, I welcome a student to my back table and ask a series of questions to better understand them, their learning style, and more about them as a person. My goal is to get to know them inside and outside the classroom.
Each of my Kid Conferences happen during the school day. I make sure my class has the directions they need to complete some independent work or centers while I am meeting with each student. Last year, I had my students rotate through my different Starting with STEAM bins to explore with creating.
I provide a sign up sheet for my students to come pick a 5 minute time block; this allows them to pick if they want to meet with me first or later in the day/week. I select times throughout the day that work best for my class’ schedule. They are not all back to back time slots because in order to complete a class of 25, it would take 2 hours. We all know that it would be very hard for elementary school students to focus on independent work for 2 hours straight. I suggest providing time slots for the morning and some in the afternoon over a couple days.
During this time, the students first work on a couple things to get ready for their Kid Conference. I give them a small slip of paper that says, “I wish my teacher knew…” This paper is for them to use if they want to tell me something (about home or school) that they don’t feel comfortable telling me out loud. This allows them to feel as if they have a safe space to let me know about a situation that might affect their schooling. The Kid Conference process in general allows students to open up to you more and share something (since they have one on one time), however, some students might still need that slip of paper to feel comfortable to say it. I have a little box with a sign that I allow all the students to put their “I wish my teacher knew…” slip in. That way, they don’t have to talk with me about it right then.
Each student will also be given a list of questions to read over beforehand to know the questions that will be talked about in the meeting. I also have a QR code available that the students can scan to listen to the questions read to them. I provided this in the resource because I knew I wanted them to be as independent as possible during this time so I can have uninterrupted time with each student.
I then have a list of the questions with a recording sheet for the teacher to use during each Kid Conference to take notes and keep them for their records. This is helpful for me to remember something or circle back to an item I learned about a student in the future. I can also use these notes for my parent teacher conference or my Kid Conference follow up meeting in January.
I can’t stress this enough… The things I learn in these meetings are so VALUABLE! Spending time to get to know your students on a one to one basis is so very important. If you don’t have a relationship with your student, they won’t feel comfortable learning as much from you as possible. We also all know that if something is worrying or bothering a child, it will distract them from their everyday school life.
Use this Kid Conferences sheet of questions, form and sign up sheet to host your next 5 minute student interview. Checking in with your students, creating goals and building relationships is a vital part of the classroom. Print these resources now to use for your own Kid Conference day.
What teachers are saying…
“I loved being able to sit down and conference with my students using this resource! It helped me get to know them better right from the start!” – Sarah C.
“I’ve been using this resource for a while! It is such an awesome idea. I love to give my kiddos some much needed 1-on-1 time…” – Heritage A.
“Great conversation starters with my students and I loved getting more in touch with them!” – Colleen
“This was a great way to start back to school after Winter Break! It allowed me to check in with each student and set goals for the new year 🙂 Thanks!” – Kaytlin G.
Casey Jeffers is a second-grade teacher at Butterfly Ridge Elementary in Frederick County, Maryland. She was recently recognized as the national winner of the NEA Foundation’s 2021 Teaching in Excellence Award. Casey is the proud owner of the Education Resource Blog, Fair Winds Teaching, and loves to connect with her education community through her TeacherPayTeacher’s business.
Like this article? Then you may also enjoy Casey’s post about Classroom Transformations!