Having points to discuss in a parent-teacher meeting already prepared is crucial to ensure that both the teacher’s and parent’s time is used efficiently.
A parent-teacher conference allows the parents to get a good idea of how to best communicate with the teacher, how their child is doing academically and how to best help their child continue to be successful in the classroom.
It allows the teacher to communicate how the student is performing in the classroom and discuss ways for the student to continue to be successful or ways to improve.
When a parent is well prepared for the parent-teacher conference then both the teacher and the parent can get the most out of the meeting which will best help the student in the long run.
Here are some tips and questions to help parents prepare for their child’s parent-teacher conference.
1. Child’s Personality
Give the teacher information that will make teaching your child easier and more efficient.
Tell the teacher if there is anything going on at home that might affect there learning or behavior at school.
Ask the teacher:
What are my child’s strengths and weaknesses?
Knowing your child’s strengths in the classroom can give you an idea of where to congratulate your child and where you can encourage them to make the greatest gains. Knowing your child’s weaknesses will give you the opportunity to give them further help at home and practice strategies to ensure that the weaknesses are getting proper attention. When you are aware of what areas you can celebrate your child in as well as the areas they need the most improvement in helping them gets much easier.
Is there anything that you would like to know about my child that would make teaching them easier?
All children learn differently. Some are more visual learners, others might only need to listen to the directions to complete the task and many need to be a part of the lesson or be hands on. Regardless of the learning style, giving the teachers insights on how to best help your child is one of the most important conversations you can have during your meeting. Let the teacher know what learning style or patterns have best suited your child in the past and inquire with the teacher if they are still relevant. Once you have communicated this information to the teacher they can use it to help your child in the classroom.
Is there a subject or activity that my child is naturally drawn to or good at?
Getting the insight of what your child excels in during school is very helpful for parents. This information will allow you to include and encourage activities that your child is good at and enjoys when working on study skills at home. Focusing on what your child is good as is just as important as working on what they are struggling with at school.
How does my child handle stress or challenges?
This information will help you analyze if you need to work on problem-solving or stress management skills at home. If your child is having a hard time managing the challenges that can occur during the school day working on strategies to help alleviate some of the stress can be helpful.
Is my child comfortable in a leadership role or do they prefer to work on their own?
Knowing what role your child prefers in the classroom will help you understand the classroom dynamics and how they choose to be a part of it. If your child is a natural leader then it might be helpful for you to encourage a leadership role in the classroom or in other areas such as extracurricular activities. If they prefer to just handle their work on their own and not deal with a leadership role at least you have that knowledge. You can adjust your help based on that information.
2. Child’s Academic Ability
Make sure your child’s teacher is aware of any IEP’s or accommodations that should be present in the classroom.
Discuss with the teacher about your child’s academic progress and if it is considered below level, on level or above level.
Ask the teacher:
Are there any areas of concern academically?
One of the main reasons for a parent-teacher conference is to identify areas that your child is having difficulty with and how to best help them improve. Once you have identified areas for improvement you can work on ways to help increase their success in that subject. This can be done by extra practice at home, tutoring or increased study time.
Is my child doing their best?
When your child is performing at their best they can really improve their cognitive abilities and set a great foundation for learning. Although, many times students just do the minimum work and miss out on opportunities for higher learning. Finding out whether your child is doing their best or not in the classroom will help you get a better picture of their effort.
What is the homework schedule and how is it graded?
Homework can be the nemesis of both students and parents. Many times a student will do the work but just won’t turn it in resulting in a lower grade. Sometimes homework is not a priority after school and it just doesn’t get done. There are many reasons why homework can cause a problem for both students and parents but understanding the homework schedule and how much weight it carries is a great start.
What is the procedure if my child is finished early or needs extra help?
Getting an understanding of what your child can do after they are finished with their work is a great way to prevent the old problem of “I’m bored”. Many higher-level students will finish early and require an extension or add-on activity if they are finished early. If your child fits into this category then pre-planning with the teacher on ways to keep your child engaged is an important topic during your conference. Another important topic is how your child will get extra help if they are struggling with a subject or lesson. All students will need help but discussing what the procedures are for when your child is in need of extra instruction will help minimize frustration and allow the student to understand how to ask for help if necessary.
How do I get information about my child’s grades before report cards are distributed?
The worst statement for both teachers and parents is “Why was I not informed that my child was doing poorly before receiving their report card.” Setting up a clear form of communication with the teacher about your child progress is crucial to helping your child be successful in class. Parents should know if their child is struggling in a subject before it is too late to help correct the difficulty. There are many ways teachers communicate this information with parents. Some schools use a computer-based system where the parent logs in and can see their child’s grades and work. Others will send home written progress alerts if a child is in need of extra help. Regardless of the procedure, it is a good idea for the parent to familiarize themselves to their child’s school’s form of communication and be on the lookout just in case.
When are progress alerts given, if necessary?
Along with familiarizing yourself with the way information is communicated with you by the school it is wise for you to know what warrants your child receiving a progress alert. Does a progress alert mean that your child is working below level? Are they not working up to their potential but their grades are still adequate? Finding out what constitutes receiving a progress alert will alleviate some of the surprises if your child does receive one during the school year.
Is my child performing to grade-level standards?
During the conference, it is important to inquire about how your child progress aligns with your county’s academic standards. You will want to know whether they are working on level (working at a progress level that fits within the timeline set by the county) or are they at this time working below level (working at a level that is below the progress level where they need to be academically established by the county’s timeline). Understanding where your child fits into the county’s progress timeline will help you better guide or encourage your child throughout the school year.
Does my child hand homework in on time?
Homework can be tricky. Children of all ages are still learning responsibility and how to fulfill a commitment. Successfully managing homework has a lot to do with establishing a successful study routine which should include completing the routine by turning in their homework. As a school teacher and parent, I see it happen all the time where a child spent all night completing a forgotten homework assignment only not to turn it in the following day. The hard part of the task was completed but because the end part of the routine was not encouraged or practiced the child does not follow through. Make sure you have a healthy homework habit established at home and discuss with the teacher if they are turning in the homework so they can receive credit for their hard work. This allows you to change the routine if necessary.
3. Classroom Expectation
Get a general outline of what your child will be doing each day.
Discuss with the teacher what is expected of your child to be successful.
Ask the teacher:
What is your teaching philosophy and how will it help my child learn?
Each teacher has their own unique style of teaching. Some teachers are more fluid and give children more room to be creative and others are more scheduled and give children the reliability of routines. Of course, there are many more types of teacher styles but understanding the philosophy that will be dominant in the classroom and how it will mesh with your child is very important. Talk to the teacher about how your child responds to the different types of teaching. This communication will help the teacher create a plan that will make your child more successful. Also, talk to your child about how each teacher runs their classrooms differently so that you can also help your child adjust and be more successful regardless of the teaching philosophy present.
What needs to be done in order for my child to be successful in this class?
As mentioned before, different teachers manage their classrooms differently. Some teachers make homework a large priority in your child’s grade and other teachers do not weigh it as heavily. Some teachers do a lot of projects, others will require reports. Finding out what type of assignments will be most prominent in your child’s classroom will help you plan and know what to look for in the future.
How will my child be evaluated?
It is important when discussing your child’s progress in class to talk about how your child will be assessed and how their grade will be calculated. Will there be one or two large unit tests? Is classwork graded? Is their grade determined by a progress test such as the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA)? Finding out how your child will be graded and what type of tests will be given will make it much easier when developing a study routine at home. It will also help you prioritize what to work on first if you know what will be weighted more heavily on their grade.
Is my child keeping up with homework assignments and participating in class?
When researching points to discuss in a parent-teacher meeting homework is a very important topic. You can set up the best homework or study routine in the world at home but if it is not being continued at school then it will be unsuccessful. Making sure that your child is following through with turning in assignments and completing classwork will ensure that all your hard work at home is for not. It is also helpful to get an idea of how well your child is participating in class. Students that are engaged in the instruction do far better than the ones in “La La Land”. When you reinforce the importance of paying attention it shows them that it will make their work easier in the long run.
What standardized exams will my child take this year, and how will you help them prepare?
The trend now in education is the use of High Stakes Testing in order to assess your child’s progress throughout the year. Many school districts use a final exam or progress test to determine if there is enough evidence for your child to pass to the next grade level. Others may use a portfolio system to prove their decision to either pass the student to the next grade or retain them in the same grade for another year. It is very important, as a parent, to understand what unit of measurement will be used to pass or retain your child during the school year. Discuss with the teacher what test is used and how they are ensuring that your child is well prepared for such an assessment. Also, inquire about how you can help your child continue to make on level progress so that when the test is given it will not be an uphill battle to prepare for.
How are grades determined in your classroom?
Understanding how your child will be graded makes understanding their progress much easier. Will your child be given an A, B, C, D, F grading scheme? Does an “A” consist of a 90%-100% or is there a different percentage system? Does your child’s grade level use E, S, and U? Do they use another system to identify classroom progress? Talk to the teacher about how to read the report card and what the other indications on the report card mean. Also, discuss how homework, reports, classwork, and test are used to determine a grade in your child’s class. The more you know about how your child will be graded the easier it will be to help them at home and prepare each day.
4. Social Interaction
Discuss with the teacher how your child interacts in school and their opinion of how your child appears socially.
Ask the teacher:
Is my child getting along with others in the class?
Being an A+ student is great but if they are having trouble getting along with others or making friends then it can make your child’s school experience not as enjoyable. Getting the teachers opinion on how well your child does with their social skills will determine if they need some extra help in that department. Many times as parents, we believe our children will just learn how to make friends or make positive relationships on their own. This can happen, as it a natural learning process for a child but many children would benefit greatly from basic friend-making skills such as how to start a conversation or how to ask to play. Whether your child is the most popular student on campus or not is irrelevant. What is important is that they are learning the appropriate social skills in order to better help them become more comfortable creating positive relationships with others. Focusing on helping your child be social will help ensure a better understanding of cooperation and community.
Does my child participate in class discussions?
We all have seen the social butterfly who is interested in everything but what the teacher is talking about. We want our children to make friends and to have fun but there is a balance of socialization with friends and socialization in the classroom. When a child is participating in the lesson they are far more likely to understand what was taught and be able to convey that information back to the teacher or on a test. Getting an idea of how much your child participates in the class will give you an idea of their effort in the classroom and how well they understand the lessons being taught. There are exceptions to the rule, as we all know of someone who preferred not to participate in the lessons but did just fine in class. Although, in general helping your child learn the importance of participating in the lesson will help them in the long run and start the process of feeling comfortable in group discussions.
Where should my child sit to maximize participation in class?
Proximity to the teacher can play a big role in whether or not your child participates or behaves in class. Some students will do well in any seat while others might benefit from a strategic seating plan. Talk to the teacher about how where your child is sitting in the class is helping or hurting their performance. It is also wise to let the teacher know how your child might interact with other students. Such as, it might be a good idea to keep your child away from another as they are neighborhood friends and they can be a bit chatty if given the opportunity. This might be a non-issue for most students but it can’t hurt to bring it up with the teacher and get the teacher opinion on the subject.
5. Classroom Behavior
Have the teacher explain their behavior management system and how behaviors are recorded and communicated.
To get more information on behavior, click the link to find out about how to teach a child respect.
Ask the Teacher:
How are discipline issues handled in the classroom?
No one likes to hear that their child got in trouble in class. Many times parents and students can get defensive if they are not aware of how poor behavior is handled. Talking to the teacher ahead of time and understanding the procedures for how misbehavior is handled allows you to see the steps that are taken before the consequences are given. Getting a good grasp on what to expect if your child does have a bad day will help you prepare so you can use the opportunity for your child to learn from their mistakes.
How is discipline communicated to me and my child?
Some classes have a behavior contract, some have a color system to identify behavior for the day and others use progress alerts or behavior slips to communicate behavior that is not appreciated throughout the school day. Take the opportunity while you are talking to the teacher to have them explain what system they use to communicate misbehavior. Many teachers will have the parents sign their child’s behavior sheet so that there is a record of the communication each day. Knowing this information will help you prepare for what to look for after school in their book bags or classroom folder.
Is positive reinforcement used as an incentive?
Positive reinforcement is a great way to help establish positive repeatable patterns in students. Discussing the use of positive reinforcement during your parent-teacher conference will help connect this powerful technique with your child and encourage the teacher to use it as much as possible with your child in mind. Also, discuss other methods that work well when engaging your child. Some children react better when the teacher’s tone is more direct and other students respond better when the teacher is gentler. Whichever style your child best responds to, it is important that your child’s teacher is aware so that they can better encourage your child.
What other incentives are used to help increase positive behavior?
Understanding the other incentives in the class can help you encourage your child from home. If you are aware of the other incentives you might be able to talk to them about how amazing “Fun Friday” will be if they get their homework done? You could also talk about how it would be a shame to miss “Popcorn Tuesdays” if they aren’t ready in time! Knowing the incentives the teacher has prepared for the class is a great way to show your child that you are in tune with the classroom schedule and use it to your advantage at home.
6. Ways To Support Your Child
Discuss with the teacher how to help your child be successful in the classroom.
Discuss study routines at home and how they can help your child perform better in the classroom.
For more great info check out the parent-teacher meeting tips from the NEA.
Ask the teacher:
What are the most important strategies to help my child improve at home?
There is an old saying “Education starts at home”. This is very true and the more your child practices their study skills at home the better prepared they will be for school each day. Talk to your child’s teacher about what type of activities your child can do at home that will best help them improve in the classroom. A good example of this is multiplication tables. Most school curriculum timelines give the teachers two to three weeks to cover multiplication. This is obviously not enough time to master such an important mathematical assignment. In order to be successful in the future, they must be proficient with their understanding multiplication and this is only accomplished with practice at home. Knowing what to set as a priority when deciding what to work on at home with your child will make that study time more efficient and give your child the best chance at success.
What is the best way to stay in contact with the teacher?
Communication with the teacher is crucial in order for you to help your child stay on top of everything that is expected of them. There are many forms of communication that can be used when communicating with parents and each teacher has their own unique way to accomplish this. During the conference get an understanding of the best way to communicate with the teacher and discuss the best time for you to get a hold of them. Some teachers will use parent communication folders and others will prefer you just text them or call the school for an appointment. When you are aware of the teacher’s preferred method of communication it will be much easier to communicate on a regular basis. This allows you to have a better understanding of your child’s progress and how they are doing as a whole.
What do you suggest is the best way for my child to study for your class?
Setting up study habits is extremely important to the success of your child. During your parent-teacher meeting discuss with the teacher about how your child can maximize their study time at home in order to be successful during classroom instruction. Some teachers have a very rigorous assessment schedule. Understanding this will help you and your child stay on top of the testing schedule so that your child is not constantly playing catch up in class. If possible, get the assessment schedule and study a little each night which will help your child stay current with their assignments as well as builds a positive study routine. Setting up a study routine is not easy at first but it will be worth its weight in gold as your child gets older. You won’t have to constantly remind your child to start their homework because you have already established a homework or study routine from the beginning.
How can I know on a daily basis what homework or assessments have been assigned?
As mentioned earlier, knowing what your child has been assigned for homework or when they should be studying for a test can be a huge problem for parents trying to keep their children on track. We can all remember hearing about the classic problem where the parent finds out about a child’s big test or project that was due the next day and they haven’t even started yet. Children will need guidance from parents on how to start studying for a big test or when it is best to start a long-term project so that they will have enough time to prepare and be successful. This is best accomplished by understanding how to find out each day what was assigned and when it is due. Sometimes a child is responsible enough to manage this on their own but many times it is wise for the parent to communicate with the teacher so they are aware of the best way to double-check what needs to be done on a daily basis. During the younger grades, this is mostly done by folders sent home but as the child gets older and the assignments get more difficult or lengthy knowing what to expect each night is a great idea.