Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Power of Student Conferences



I am a huge fan of student ownership of their learning. When I changed to Standards Based Grading a few years ago, it transformed how I view student learning. From ownership and accountability to confidence and motivation, students were transformed as well. I wanted to build on this and hear what students had to say about their learning in order to guide them in self-reflection, help provide needed feedback, and check on their mastery of standards. That is when student conferences started!


MY FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT CONFERENCING
I get to know students on a deeper level which gives me leverage for high interest instruction.

Students feel known on a deeper level which increases the trust they have in me. This trust leads to a higher level of student self-efficacy. Before conferencing, I was accidentally ignoring some of the quiet kids who were doing just fine. Conferences help guarantee I meet with every student.  

Students are empowered to ask questions about their work and to reflect on the product and the process. My students know how they are doing and what they need to work on because of the conferences.

THE DIFFERENT TYPES THAT HAVE EVOLVED
ONE-ON-ONE  These are great at the end of a unit. This conference gives me a chance to learn so much about my students and give them my attention. We seem to stay at high speeds and this is a great time to slow down and listen. I get to hear them share their goals, their favorite things about math, their best work, and areas they want to get better in. 


Students judge their own mastery in these conferences using the tracking sheets from standards based grading. They prepare for the conference using a Pre-Conference sheet that is in their interactive notebook. Completing the pre-conference sheet gives them the opportunity to reflect on their own and think about what they want to talk about with me. 


The pre-conference above is a great example of the deeper conversation we are able to have. This student wrote honestly and then erased it and said he was good and understood. The erased words are "When we do it together I understand but when I do it by myself I always get" and then it stops. Without these conferences his learning would have stopped there too. 

REFLECTION  My goal with this type of conferences is to draw out their reflections with leading questions. These are short check-ins used after benchmark testing or big projects. As students get used to the questions, they can reflect more on their own without them. 


To keep track of these short conferences, I use a sticker and notecard system. I keep the stickers on my clipboard and write notes on what we talk about. The sticker is then placed on that student's notecard. When my stickers are gone, I know I have met with every student and I print another sheet! The notecards are a great resource to remember all the things we talk about throughout the school year. 


WEEKLY CONFERENCES  This type of conference was me realizing that there were quiet students sitting in my classroom that I was missing opportunities with because they were doing fine. I would go a couple of days and realize I had not had a conversation with these students and knew I had to do better. I created a weekly calendar and put 4-5 names for each day in each class. It seemed manageable to focus on those students. I  look at my calendar before each class and have their names in my head so I can be intentional with my time. This is just 2-3 minutes with each student on the calendar for that day but it guarantees that I meet with each student. 


WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE
Here are some logistical and practical things I have figured out along the way. This generally allows me to meet with each student individually once every two weeks. 


Find times where kids can be talking to each other while working independently. This creates a work flow that is a low buzz that allows me to conference with kids. I find that projects and rich math tasks and problems seem to work great for this. 

Find the right location in your classroom. I have flexible seating so I usually just find an empty seat beside the student and talk. If it is end of the unit conferences, students know I like the booth the best and they let me take over it for a couple of days! This spot allows me to see the whole class while I conference. 

Kids thrive when you give them ownership and they really shine when given the opportunity to talk one-on-one about their learning! That is the power of student conferencing! 

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Sunday, January 5, 2020

Hello 2020!



Hello, 2020! Not only do we get a new year, we get a new decade! That calls for real pants, alarm clocks, and answering no to Netflix's question, "Are you still watching?" at 2:00am! I want to share some ideas for the first day back from winter break. I have found over the years, it is better to ease the kids back in to the swing of things with new year activities. It has been great for me too! You could use this time to do community building, refresh procedures, and set goals for the new year. 


My favorite activity to kick off the new year is having students create VISION BOARDS for their new year. I keep it simple with a page in their interactive notebooks. Having it in their notebooks allows them to see it often, basically flipping past it every day. 


Visualization is one of the most powerful mind exercises you can do. For my students, we focus on how they want to feel, not just things they want and goals. Material stuff is fine but the more the board focuses on how you want to feel, the more it will come to life. For example, I have OPI nail polish on mine, not because I want to own every color of every collection, but because painting my nails is my self-care and makes me feel good!   




Students always ask what they should put on their vision board. I answer with anything that inspires and motivates you! The goal of our vision boards is to bring everything on it to life. I encourage them to consider goals in school and outside of school. 



I put on the music and bring out all the old magazines, scissors, and glue and they pour over them finding just the right piece for their vision board collage. They take snippets of letters, words, and photographs from the magazines and glue them in. It is relaxing, we are able to reconnect after winter break, and ease our way back in, while setting goals and talking about our vision! Some have more flair than others!




Vision Boards could also be done digitally using Google Draw or Adobe Spark. Either way, they are a great way to welcome the New Year! Happy 2020!

Vision Board Instructable
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