conferences, new teacher, new year, Student-centered

How To Do Student-Led Conferences

Image from icanread

I seem to have written a lot about the why of student-led conferences but then have never given a step by step approach on how to do it.  Fresh in my mind from my webinar for SimpleK12 – here are the steps.  Use them as you wish.

First to the Why:

Let Them Speak – Why Student-Led Conferences Are the Right Choice

Now the How

Before you start:

  • Think about your reasoning; what are you trying to accomplish with them?
  • Determine if you want full or hybrid.  Full meaning all student-led with only a few minutes of teacher talk or hybrid meaning half and half between teacher ad student.  I do a mixture depending on the child and the time of year.
  • The age of the child, the make up of your district, and how crazy of an idea this is can all help you make your decision.

First Week of School:

  • Inform the students that they will be leading their own conferences  and why so that this does not come as a surprise to them later in the year.
  • This is an overall philosophy so make sure you have ways to gather their learning whether in journals, portfolios or some place for them to gather evidence.
  • Student-ownership of learning should be from day one.  A constant question in your classroom should be, “How are you doing and what do you need work on next?”
  • Plant the seeds for student goal setting and help them set goals starting now.  I start this on my beginning of the year student questionnaire.

Two Weeks Prior:

  • Have a classroom discussion to discuss the learning.  What have you explored since we started, what are major themes, where have we been heading?
  • Then discuss assessment.  How do you get assessed?  How do you assess yourself?  What are district assessment tools?  How do you know how you have been doing?
  • Discuss performance – how will the students assess themselves?  This can be daunting for some kids and so a class discussion or small group discussion is often a great way to get started.
  • Student self-reflection time – Students should have plenty of time to continue their reflection of themselves as learners.  This should be a continuation of what you have been doing since the first day.
  • Student preparation sheet – this sheet can be tweaked to fit your needs and I often have students bring this to the conference as a support.  I have a general one and a specific 5th grade spring preparation sheet.  I often project these and ask students for feedback and we tweak the form to fit their needs before I give them copies of this.  And this fall I actually updated my sheet – I like this one a lot better!
  • Start reminding parents that students are leading this and therefore must be present at their conference – I put it in newsletters and in general emails.

One Week Prior:

  • Check in with whole class – are there major questions or confusion that needs to be addressed?
  • Individual check-in with students.  “Walk me through your evidence and what you want to show your parents.”
  • Give them time to gather the evidence that they want to show their parents, make copies, find work etc.  I hand them a folder to keep it all in.
  • Think of ways you can showcase the classroom.  Last year we had QR codes parents could scan that would show off different videos from our classroom.
  • Continue to remind parents that students must be present.

Day Off:

  • Role-play a conference with a student in front of the whole class.  Often students are anxious about the experience, so doing a fishbowl demonstration really helps settle nerves and answer any last minute questions.
  • Have each child check their folders for everything they need.
  • At the end of the day, my students leave their folders and what they may need right on their table.  That way when they come in they can grab it and not waste any time.
  • Have students remind their parents that they must be present.  (It seems like overkill, but every year without fail a parent shows up without their child).


  • Welcome and introduce the concept of student-led conference.
  • Showcase the parent list of questions  (I laminate a copy and leave it on the table) and encourage parents to jump in.
  • Let the student do their thing.

Final minutes:

  • Take the last few minutes to wrap up and address any parent concerns.  Ask if another meeting needs to be scheduled.
  • Hand over student questionnaire and parent questionnaire and ask them to bring it back the next day.
  • Repeat the students goals and make a note of them (I use one of my teacher sheets and always tell parents I will give them a copy of the sheet).
  • Make sure students leave behind their preparation sheets, these are great to pull out for the next round of conferences as they prepare for them and reflect back on the year.

That’s really it for me.  I have all of the forms I use on this page, please feel free to use and adapt to fit your needs.  If you have any questions, just reach out, my email is p (at) globalreadaloud (dot) com

23 thoughts on “How To Do Student-Led Conferences”

  1. Hey Pal,

    I just wanted to let you know how grateful I am that you were willing to share all of this content. Not only do your step-by-steps make the process seem more approachable to me, sharing your handouts will save me a heaping cheeseload of time.

    I’ve thought about student-led conferences forever but never tried them simply because I was overwhelmed by the process. With your help, I might just give ’em a whirl this year.

    Thanks. I owe you one!

    1. I was just thinking the same thing! So add my thanks, Pernille! You remind teachers that, while some things take time and some effort, they are worth it!

    1. I’m also doing kinder and not really sure how to go about it. It’s also my first year teaching and we HAVE to do student led conferences. All of my students are ELs, and some of them don’t speak much at all! Help!

      1. I think I would do practice runs with them and then do a half and half approach (teacher and student), giving them things to show and practice and then work toward more independence later in the year.

  2. Hello there! I know this is kinda off topic nevertheless I’d figured I’d ask.
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