Parent-Teacher Conferences – What’s a Parent to Ask?

It’s parent-teacher conference time! For many parents, the pressure is on. Your child has been in school for a few months now. How are they stacking up? You’ve seen the insta-videos of proud moms sharing shots of kids reading fluently at age 5, winning the advanced spelling bee, or reading every sight word known to man. It’s tough not to feel a touch of anxiety as we take our seats in those tiny chairs and prepare to hear how our kids are progressing as readers (and friends, and citizens, etc. etc. etc.)

As teachers – and moms ourselves – here’s our advice to parents on the eve of parent-teacher conferences:

Take a deep breath. Relax. Arrive prepared, not anxious. Trust your child’s teacher.

The real story of learning to read and what’s normal is NOT what you’re hearing on your playdates. Every child is unique, and your child will learn to read at her own pace. That’s OK. Don’t leave the classroom and immediately compare notes with your mom pals. The journey to fluency and reading comprehension is different for every child.

To get you in the right frame of mind (can you say zen?), here are a few questions our literacy experts have put together so you – and your family – get the most out of your first meeting with your child’s teacher.

  1. What are my child’s strengths as a reader and writer, and what is the best way for us to foster those strengths at home?
  2. Where do you see places for us to help our child grow as a reader and writer at home?
  3. What specific skills are hardest for my child: reading fluently, comprehension, willingness to read, stamina for reading, writing fluidly, writing legibly, willingness to write, matching sounds to letters and letters to sounds, knowing how to approach unknown words when reading and writing, maintaining concentration? (Choose ones that relate to your child’s particular stage.)
  4. Is there a gap between my child’s reading and writing skills? Do you have suggestions on activities to do at home to bridge the gap?
  5. Does my child read stories effortlessly but not fully comprehend what he’s reading. What activities or lessons could we use at home to help?
  6. Does my child enjoy learning? Do you have ideas to encourage a love of learning at home?
  7. Does my child work differently in small groups than she does during lessons for the whole class?
  8. What kinds of books does my child most enjoy reading or talking about at school?
  9. What goals and expectations do you have for my child’s next steps as a reader and writer?
  10. How can we foster those goals at home?

After getting feedback from Homer Ambassadors, we thought these questions might be good to add to the list. Here are a few:

  1. What differentiation is happening within the classroom?
  2.  How best can we expand at home on what my child is learning in school?
  3. For English Language Learners: How well is my child communicating using English and how can I help encourage progress at home?
  4. Is my child enjoying small groups and who does she engage with most?
  5. Does my child enjoy learning?
  6. Parent: As a parent what can I do to further my child’s education at home or even while on the road? Teachers answer: While on the road, give her books and a white board to write all the words she sees.