Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Student Portfolio Conferences

I've been waiting on pins and needles for my turn to post because I'm just so excited to share my student portfolio conferences with you!

At my school, we have two conferences each year.  The first is where we'd like all parents to attend and is your typical parent-teacher conference.  The second conference is held in February and is on an as-need basis.  We are contracted to stay from 3:30-9:30.  Last year, out of the 7 conferences I scheduled, only 3 actually came.  This left me sitting around in my room trying to kill time for what seemed like forever.

Over the summer, I had the idea of having student portfolio conferences, where the students were to present some work that they'd share with their parents.  These portfolio conferences would allow the students to talk about their schoolwork and goals they have set and accomplished.

I got busy creating items that we could use to help take these portfolios that I had envisioned to the next level.  I made some general pages that allowed to students to reflect on their work.  For each item that the child included in his/her portfolio would have a tag stapled to it.  Each tag has a different sentence starter and attempted to have the student make a meaningful reflection on the item.  Now, when I mean meaningful, I don't mean "Next time I do this I would....color better."  It took a lot of modeling to get my third graders to dig deeper into their reflection.  Perhaps the older students would be able to pick up on this the first time...not the third, fourth, or fifth time.  :-)

On the first week of school, I requested the parents send in a 1" binder with a clear plastic sleeve on the outside.  We created Wordles with adjectives and words that described each student and used this as the cover.  I made sure that each kiddo typed their name at least 3 time more than any other word to make it  stand out.

Then, the tricky part.  Collecting artifacts.  I did save a few items for all students that I wanted in their portfolio such as first math tests, first reading tests, and some writing assignments.  The students were also able to select what they wanted to include.  I tried to emphasize that not everything in the portfolio should be 'A' work because I wanted them to see how they could improve on some items and reflect on what they could do to grow.  I placed each type of reflection tag in a manilla envelope with an example tag glued to the outside.  I tried to set aside a few times a month where the students would spend tagging and reflecting.  It's probably a lot easier to do this as you go instead of a mad rush right before conferences!

The days leading up to the conferences, I had the students practice presenting their portfolios to friends in class.  They really loved pretending their partner was "Mom" or "Dad".   We worked on good presenting techniques and pacing.


In order to make this work, there was no way I could schedule the typical 10-15 minute conferences.  There was just too much to share in that time.  So....I decided to make this a casual event where I scheduled 3 families to come during the same time slot.  Each slot was 30 minutes.  This would allow for all my students to spend enough time with their families.  The children were responsible for walking in, grabbing their portfolio, and starting their conference.  I circled the classroom and checked in for a few minutes with each family.

Overall, I think the night went off flawlessly!  The students and parents all really enjoyed this and now they have this great portfolio to keep for memories.  Here are some pictures I took of the night.  Unfortunately, I wasn't thinking and didn't take pictures of the actual contents of the portfolios, but this is how my room was set up.  Let's take a tour!

This is the welcome sign I created with my Silhouette Cameo.  The scalloped bunting was downloaded from their website.  The letters are actually of a font I created and had the machine cut out for me.  My students loved it so much that they requested I keep it up for the rest of the year.

When the families walked in, the students picked up their portfolio from the tables I placed near the door.  You can see the Wordles that they made as a cover.

Here is another view of the entrance of the room with the inviting goodies I have laid out.  The students helped me set up and were eyeing those cookies behind my desk all day.

I wanted to make this as inviting as possible.  The punch was just Hawaiian Punch mixed with Sprite.  Most of my students hadn't had this before.  When I explain it to them, they weren't too sure about it, but they absolutely loved it!  I also had students whose parents NEVER came to anything this year.  I didn't meet them until Portfolio Conferences because their child wanted to come so badly for the treats!

Here is a view of how I set up my room.  I told the students how to arrange the desks.  Then I gave each group a tablecloth to lay over the desks.  As families came in and grabbed something to eat, they would sit at a group and start.  I scheduled 3 students per conference, but made sure to have extra groups available incase some ran over...which they did...and I needed all 5 groups at one point.  So glad I did that!

Also, if you'd like a copy of the tags, reflection pages, and letters to the parents, I have it listed in my TpT store as Student Portfolio Conference Binder Materials.  

This set contains:
- Parent Letter
- Behavior Checklist
- Goal Setting Sheets
- Top 10 Things About Me page
- Instructions for Tagging
- 14 Tags to reflect on artifacts
- Binder Section Dividers

Please let me know if you have any questions about this process and I'd be so happy to help you!

Stay Connected!


  1. I love this idea! It sounds like everyone had such a great time!

    I teach in a 6-8 building, and my kids usually don't even want to be seen with their parents let alone conference with them. :( I guess it is partly due to the age. Today I overheard a sixth grader telling her friend, "My mom thinks she is cool, but she is sooooooo not cool."

    I love your idea, and I bet it is something your students will always remember! It is making me think about new ways that we might be able to convince parents to become more involved. What a great post! Thanks for sharing!

    PS Your classroom looks huge!

  2. Thanks! Just provide food and they will come!

    1. Hahahaha! I am definitely going to keep that in mind! :)

  3. We only do conferences in the fall, and we've been doing student-led conferences like this for the past three years. The parents love it, the kids are so proud to share their work. I just move in and out of the conversations making sure kids touch on all topics.

    Every year, one or two parents asks for a "traditional" conference, but for the most part, parents really like hearing from their kids. And despite the "my parents are not cool" attitudes that you get from some kids - wait till they get to show their parents what they've accomplished! It's really fun to watch the kids have long, thoughtful conversations with their parents!

    1. Sadly, we used to try a curriculum night where students would share their projects, work, etc. with their parents and it ended due to lack of interest...from both parents and students. I realize not all are interested, but that reality still makes me sad. I agree with Melissa, though, and think the food approach may be a good way in for our intermediate kiddos! Haha! We have tried so many approaches over the past 25 years, and it seems less and less parents show up every year. We keep trying, though!

  4. What an amazing post. Like The Peanut Gallery, I teach upper grade students and getting them to attend conferences is a challenge. You have given me some great food for thought here. I appreciate it so much.
    By the way, your room looks amazing. Love the rug on the floor AND, yes, yes the cookies DO look tasty!
    Thanks again,
    Mr. Hughes
    An Educator's Life

  5. What an inviting environment! I can't wait to share your post with some of the teachers at my school for ideas on our conference days! :) Thanks for sharing!

  6. sydneyswimmers.com.au/triathlon are the providing the best coaches in Sydney and if you are looking for free classes then call us now at 0431 571 161


Thank you for your comment! We appreciate your input!

-All Things Upper Elementary

Blogging tips