As my husband is getting ready to jump into reporting period for the first time this school year, I am reminded of our Kindergarten conferences. In Saskatoon Public Schools, the first reporting period for Kindergarten takes place in the form of an “Activity Conference.” There are no report cards sent home, but families come in small groups to complete activities alongside their child that highlights and shows the learning that took place in the classroom up to November. I really love activity conferences. I think it’s such a great way for the children to show off their skills to their parents. I find that parents really enjoy them as well. They love being able to get a glimpse into what takes place during the day and are so proud of what their little one is accomplishing.
This past year, I tried to put a more “Reggio-like” spin on my conferences. I thought more about the environment that they were created in and tried to make them more “beautiful” in their presentation. One thing I don’t like about conferences, is that they feel a little un-natural. How can we create a space that really shows the play-based model of learning that we seek in early childhood education? Well, I tried to do that this past year and this is what I came up with. Of course, I checked on Pinterest, which is always my go to when I’m trying to think up something new for the classroom and stumbled upon this fantastic blog! I used this as my jumping off point for my own note home and conference package.
I then decided that I need 4 stations, as I would have 4 groups of families in the room at a time, and this would allow each family to be occupied at a station. I wanted to cover my main curriculum content so I divided the four stations into a morning message station, a beginning sounds station, a math station (focusing on patterning, as this was the main learning objective being covered at this point), and a portfolio station where parents and children could discuss a variety of projects or writing that was finished up until this point in the school year.
As parents came in, I had a basket for pens available as well as a handout that they could use to guide the conferences. I collected these papers before they left, as they offered me information about their child’s learning, any concerns that the parents had after attending the conference, and what they were proud of in terms of the progress of their child.
Then it came for the big day! The kids were so excited. We went through the activities that would be at the conferences that evening as a large group and I gave the children some time to do the activities on their own as well throughout the day. I did not want the conferences to come and the children to shy away from showing their parents their capabilities. When the evening came, they would be ready!
I set up the stations around the classroom and had a little handout at each station with pictures that would help the parents guide their child through the activities. During this time, I make my way around to each group, sometimes joining in, offering a hand, and/or chatting with families about the learning that I am seeing take place in this moment and in the classroom, while their child completes the activity. You can check out my complete package of my activity conference on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
Beginning Sounds Station…
This was so easy to set up and I thought it was really beautiful as well. I used things that we had around the classroom already. There was a mix of natural and play things in the baskets that the children could use to sort. They were all items that they were familiar with as part of play in the classroom.
I wrote on chart paper a morning message that followed the same outline that we read as a group each day and laminated it so that they could easily erase their writing so the next child could fill it out and fill in the blanks. The children were familiar with this format of a message and it allowed them to be successful showing off their reading skills!
For this station, I simply put out pipe cleaners and beads. Not only did this show the children’s ability to create a pattern with the beads, but also snuck in a little fine-motor work as well! (Us teachers are sneaky like that!!)
So for the portfolio station there was a lot of work that went into it prior to that evening. The children had, up until this point added in pieces of writing that they were proud of, documentation of projects, as well as photos and other trinkets. A few days before the conferences, I had the children reflect on some of their writing and pick the piece that they were most proud of. They then filled out the reflection form and glued it next yo their writing. This allowed for the parents to engage in a conversation about why their child had picked that piece of writing over others, etc. I also included at the station a handout of stages of writing in Kindergarten. This mimicked the writing continuum we had created as a class and the children were familiar with the images and language used.