Parent-Teacher Conference Resources
Teachers and families can find excellent resources at the Harvard Family Research
Project website. Their tip sheets for teachers and families can be downloaded below.
For parents and guardians, be sure to sign up in advance for your conference slot
with your child's teacher(s).
What should you talk to the teacher about?
• Progress. Find out how your child is doing by asking questions like: Is my
child performing at grade level? How is he or she doing compared to the rest
of the class? What do you see as his or her strengths? How could he or she improve?
• Assignments and assessments. Ask to see examples of your child’s work. Ask how
the teacher gives grades.
• Your thoughts about your child. Be sure to share your thoughts and feelings
about your child. Tell the teacher what you think your child is good at. Explain what
he or she needs more help with.
• Support learning at home. Ask what you can do at home to help your child learn.
Ask if the teacher knows of other programs or services in the community that could
also help your child.
• Support learning at school. Find out what services are available at the school to
help your child. Ask how the teacher will both challenge your child and support your
child when he or she needs it.
How should you follow up?
• Make a plan. Write down the things that you and the teacher will each do to support your
child. You can do this during the conference or after. Write down what you will do, when, and
how often. Make plans to check in with the teacher in the coming months.
• Schedule another time to talk. Communication should go both ways. Ask how you can contact
the teacher. And don’t forget to ask how the teacher will contact you too. There are many ways
to communicate—in person, by phone, notes, email. Make a plan that works for both of you. Be
sure to schedule at least one more time to talk in the next few months.
• Talk to your child. The parent–teacher conference is all about your child, so don’t forget to
include him or her. Share with your child what you learned.
Ideas for before the conferences
• Send invitations. Disseminate information about conferences to families through flyers, notes, phone calls, and community meetings. Include
information about the timing and goals of the conferences, as well as alternative scheduling options in your invitations.
• Review student work. Be prepared to go over student data, assignments, and assessments during the conferences. Think of what more you would like to learn about your students from their parents.
• Prepare thoughts and materials. Create an agenda or list of key issues you want to discuss about each student’s progress and growth. Also consider creating a portfolio of student work to walk through with families during the conferences.
• Send reminders. The week before the conferences, send home a reminder for when and where the conferences will be held. You may also want to include an outline of your agenda to prepare parents for the conferences.
• Create a welcoming environment. Make your classroom comfortable for families by displaying student work, arranging seating in circles (with adult chairs, if possible), and making a private space for the conferences.
Ideas for during the conferences
• Discuss progress and growth. Starting with the positive, let families know about their child’s ability level in different subjects and in relationship to his or her peers. Help families understand student data to demonstrate progress against learning goals and to identify areas that need to be addressed.
• Use examples. Walk parents through the assignments and assessments that are particularly demonstrative of the student’s progress and abilities.
• Ask questions and listen actively. Solicit family input into student strengths and needs, learning styles, and nonschool learning opportunities. Ask parents about their hopes and dreams for their child.
• Share ideas for supporting learning. Provide suggestions for activities and strategies families can use at home to help their child learn and grow.
• Seek solutions collaboratively. Avoid judgments about what “they” should do and instead emphasize how “we” can work together to resolve any problems.
• Make an action plan. Spend the last few minutes discussing how you and the family will support the student. Be specific about the kinds of things you will do, for how long you will do them, and how you will check in with one another about progress.
• Establish lines of communication. Describe how you will communicate with families (i.e., through notes home, phone calls, email etc.) and they can contact you. Schedule a way to follow up on your conference in the next few months.
Ideas for after the conferences
• Follow up with families. If practical, contact parents (either by phone or in a note) who attended the conference and thank them for doing so. Ask if they have further questions or concerns and send home materials that can help them support learning at home. Contact parents who did not attend, as well, and offer alternative ways to communicate about their child.
• Communicate regularly. Communicate on an ongoing basis with families, with positive news as well as updates on student progress and challenges. Also let families know about other opportunities for them to be involved.
• Connect in-class activities. Create responsive instructional practices based on what you learned about family cultures, home learning environments, and student strengths and needs.
On the Same Page:
A FALL SERIES OF WORKSHOPS TO STRENGTHEN FAMILY/SCHOOL PARTNERSHIPS
ALL TIPS FROM
Harvard Family Research Project
Harvard Graduate School of Education
3 Garden Street
Cambridge, MA 02138