One of the things that I have done to focus more on student work than on grades is the implementation of a portfolio system. This is a not a new idea I came up with, but something that has been done in many places and I wanted to share how I do it and why it is wonderfully helpful when it comes to conferences.
One of the things that I do is leverage Adobe Express for most of my student projects. When a student creates something physical or digital, I have them create something in Express to showcase the work. Sometimes it is an advertisement for the item they have created or a feature image that highlights parts of their work. I do this because I want student to have experience creating with digital tools on a regular basis. Here are some examples of student work after they designed and made their own clocks.
Once students have created their digital artifact, they share them to Seesaw. Seesaw is a wonderful tool that allows students to showcase their work in an organized fashion under the specific assignment. I just have to click on the clock assignment and I can see all the clock ads the students have submitted. I can also click on the student and see all of their submissions for all of the assignments. This is why it is so helpful for conferences.
Family conference time can be stressful for teachers. Trying to remember all of the work the student has done since the start of the year can be tough. A portfolio allows the teacher and the family to see artifacts of student learning and can help refresh the teacher's memory. A digital portfolio, that families can access all year round, are helpful when sitting down for conferences. I love being able to pull up a specific project and share it with the parents if they have not seen it. Showcasing the physical and digital work gives the family a better understanding of what has been happening in class. If there are some blanks in the portfolio, those will be noticeable and that can help the conversations as well.
Saving other things in Seesaw for the portfolio is possible as well! Math teachers will often have students record themselves solving problems as they explain the steps to get the correct answer. ELA teachers have student post their writing and, over time, families can see their growth from the start of the year. Portfolios are ultimately about showcasing growth over time. Family Conferences are about checking in with families to share how students are doing. Having a portfolio that has all of the work completed up to that point in one spot saves the teacher time and energy.
Whether you use a folder or a digital tool like Seesaw, I highly recommend using a portfolio system for organizing student work to make conference seasons much easier and more informative for everyone.
Let me know if you have other tips for conferences.