While student centered learning is a central part of education during class time at Whitby, it's also a focal point during conferences.
As a Lower Elementary teacher, I get to see the reflection and preparation of my students come to fruition in the form of a well led conference. Students are so excited as they collect, plan and organize the work they want to share with their parents.
Once we return to school after spring break, students begin to prepare by meeting with one of their teachers to discuss a plan for this special conference. The students reflect on their strengths and weaknesses by looking through their past reading, writing, and math work, as well as anything they’ve enjoyed during their most recent Unit of Inquiry.
Using a teacher-created reflection form, students write down their ideas and note the items they want to share. Once the form is complete, they begin practicing what they want to say and how to say it. With a teacher, a second grader will usually model for the class what it will look like come conference time.
Seeing students reflect, take ownership of their learning and present it confidently blows me away year after year.
Students are encouraged to be proud of their work while speaking with a loud and clear voice. However—no matter how much they prepare and practice—they sometimes get nervous. This is especially true for first and second graders.
When conference time comes and parents are present, some students get embarrassed or freeze. This is a completely normal occurrence at this age, and teachers simply prompt the student and refer to the reflection form. Students often get more comfortable as they go on. If not, the discomfort serves as a learning experience that they can grow from and improve for next year.
Throughout the conference, the teacher simply acts as a guide, allowing the student’s independence to shine. Students begin by welcoming their family members to the conference. They then explain that after spending the year learning about all the IB learner profile traits, they have chosen one that best describes them (principled, risk taker, knowledgeable, thinker, etc.) and explain why.
Then, with the help of the Seesaw portfolio application, work that was chosen by the student is displayed on the board while the child explains their learning. In addition, the student may also show work from their writer’s notebook or math folder. Once the student has gone through each subject, they ask their parents if they have any questions, which opens a dialogue about pride and learning. It's truly a pleasure to see how happy parents are to be a part of this exchange.
A student-centered conference like this is a time for children to utilize the skills they’ve been working on all year, including organizational and communication skills. For second graders it’s especially poignant because they’ve been in their classroom for two years and this is the culmination of their Lower Elementary years. It always makes me proud to see the growth over two whole years. Seeing students reflect, take ownership of their learning and present it confidently blows me away year after year. Parents get to see their child’s true engagement with his or her learning. This experience is so valuable for both students and parents alike.
It's also a joy to receive feedback from parents—whether in a quick email or by being stopped in the hallway—saying how impressed they were and/or how much they enjoyed the conference. Being proud of and sharing our learning here at Whitby is so important to students and teachers. Student-led conferences are the perfect way to let our students shine!