Are you a teacher getting ready for parent-teacher conferences in middle school?
If so, you’re in luck! We’ve put together a list of tips to help make the process run smoothly.
By following these parent-teacher conference tips, you’ll be able to make the most of your time with parents (or grandparents or guardians…..whoever might be attending) and create a positive experience for everyone involved.
Teacher Tips for Middle School Parent-Teacher Conferences
1. Schedule conferences early in the year, if possible
You may not be in control of when the standard parent-teacher conference time is in your district.
If you’re not, this time is hopefully scheduled at the end of the 1st marking period (or before).
- If it isn’t this early, consider meeting sooner with the parents/guardians of students who most need assistance.
2. Meet as a teaching team, if possible
In our middle school, conferences were scheduled by team, so parents could get input from all of their child’s teachers at the same time. This included Reading/ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies.
While the number of teachers in the meeting could be a little surprising/overwhelming for some parents, we quickly put them at ease by sharing a few of the benefits of meeting with all of us at once.
Meeting as a team was nice for several reasons:
- Parents/caretakers didn’t have to attend multiple meetings with different teachers.
- Parents got to talk to all the teachers of the core subjects rather than just the one or two they may have wanted to discuss concerns with.
- As teachers, we were able to confirm positive attributes and behaviors across the classes. OR, we were able to confirm that negative behaviors were happening in more than just one class, for one teacher.
- We were able to identify differences in achievement or behavior from class to class, with the parent present to understand and provide insights from their end.
- We had the ability to come up with a plan with both the parent and all the teachers as part of the team, if we needed to have a plan of action. With all of us present, everyone was on the same page.
3. Prepare an agenda
Before the meeting, take some time to think about what you’d like to discuss. This will help you stay on track during the conference and make sure all the important topics are covered.
Our team liked to begin parent-teacher conferences with a few positive comments about the students and how they were adjusting to middle school, as 6th grade was students’ first year in middle school.
Then, instead of jumping into concerns or recommendations from us, we asked parents what questions or concerns they had.
After parents had the chance to ask questions, we addressed specific concerns (if any). And then each of us touched on the student’s performance in our individual classes.
4. Be positive
Parent-teacher conferences are a chance to build relationships and communicate progress. Keep your comments as positive as possible.
As stated in Tip 3, we started out with positive comments.
- While it’s not always easy to do this, we can find something positive to share about our students. And then share concerns and offer constructive comments.
In addition to talking about the student’s progress, take the time to listen to what parents have to say. They may have valuable insights you weren’t aware of. Listening is so important!
- Again, as mentioned in Tip 3, after we shared positive comments, we gave parents time to share their concerns. Sometimes parents share the same concerns you have, and they bring up those concerns before you do.
6. Include the student if you can
You can choose to do student-led conferences if that’s a possibility in your district.
Often, our students accompanied their parents to the conference, even though they weren’t student-led. Unless parents requested that students join in the conference, students typically waited in the hall.
- This made it easy to invite the student into the room at the end of the conference, to share positive feedback or to share concerns and any action plan that had been discussed.
Review what was discussed during your time together.
- This is particularly important if you’re implementing an action plan. Summarizing (and providing the plan in writing) helps everyone remember each person’s role in the plan.
Tips for Math Teacher Conferences
I have a few tips specifically for math teachers, especially if the student is struggling.
Oftentimes, in 6th grade math conferences, parents/guardians said they had trouble helping their children and often said they ‘weren’t math people.’ I’m sure you’ve heard that before.
If parents ARE comfortable helping their students, we can suggest that they help students by:
- Observing how the student works through homework/problems they’re having trouble with and then offering suggestions if the student is off track
- Having the student explain the concepts to the adult….and the adult can clarify any misunderstanding
- Having the student create problems for the adult to solve and then checking the adult’s answers
- Practicing basic math facts and fraction concepts with the student
Even if parents/guardians are NOT comfortable with math, they can work on both their own comfort level and their student’s math skills by playing different math games (these are also great for adults who ARE comfortable). Personally, I prefer board games, rather than computer games, so that’s what I’ve listed below.
Many of the games listed focus on practicing with basic facts, which many middle school teachers find to be lacking.
Math Games for Middle School Math Students
- Yahtzee: this is a great game for working on multiplication facts, adding, and strategy
- Decimal Dice: excellent for practicing with fraction/decimal conversions, adding, and strategy
- Absolute Zero card game: great for working with positive and negative numbers
- Prime Climb: excellent for practicing multiplication, division, factorization, and prime number concepts by combining colors
- Proof math game: helps students practice multiplication, division, addition, subtraction, and square roots
And of course, we need some fraction games in here…many middle schoolers need some extra fraction practice!
- Fraction Dominoes: this game is a great visual learning resource to help students recognize fraction parts, match equivalent fractions and build sums of one
- I also have a free ‘Make One’ game (read about this in the blog post) in the free resource center that could be printed and sent home with parents
- Equivalent fraction Go Fish is also a fun one!
Good luck with your conferences! I hope you can use a few of these tips to make parent-teacher conferences positive and productive experiences for everyone involved.