May 2021 Newsletter – Family-Teacher Conferences: Director’s Corner: Supporting the Process

Members of leadership are involved in family-teacher conferences differently, depending on the size and structure of the program. Teachers need to own the process as much as possible. Leaders should support teachers and empower them to step into this professional role. Here are a few ways that members of leadership can support the family-teacher conference process, whether it is in-person or virtual:

  • Scheduling – Setting up the program’s schedule for conferences will be necessary because room coverage will be required during conference time. This also means that the budget for payroll will be impacted by family-teacher conferences.
  • Creating clear goals – During a staff meeting, work with your team to create a list of goals for the conferences. Ask employees to brainstorm a list of goals, then come together and revise them to align with the overall goals of building relationships, improving communication, enhancing quality, and strengthening child development.
  • Promote participation – Be sure to encourage each family to sign up and participate in the conference process.
  • Identify and address barriers – It may be necessary to help families to participate, especially if you are using a virtual platform. Share detailed and easy-to-read instructions for preparing for a virtual meeting. If you discover that families cannot participate due to the timeslots offered, add additional timeslots at different times of the day.
  • Introduce the virtual meeting tool to staff – Teachers who are conducting virtual conferences should be able to “walk into the room” with confidence. Make sure each teacher is familiar with and comfortable using the virtual meeting space.
  • Practice scenarios – Conference conversations can be challenging. Help build confidence by role-playing different scenarios with your staff. This can be done individually, with teaching teams, or as a whole group during a staff meeting. Pick topics that are relevant to whole groups if you choose to work with the whole group – or allow teachers to pick their own challenging situations to role-play.
  • Help identify resources – Most programs have a list of outside resources that they share with families. Some resources may be more familiar to your staff than others. Be sure your resources list is up-to-date, accurate, and available to all. In some instances, additional research into resource options may be required. Help staff by doing some of that legwork.
  • Refreshments – If you are holding in-person conferences, it might be nice to provide light refreshments for the families who are participating.
  • Translation services – It may be necessary to employ the use of a translator during conferences. Leaders can take the lead on arranging translators once the conference schedule is set.
  • Documentation – Design or identify documentation tools that teachers can use to take notes and keep track of goals that are set during the meeting. You can work with your team to create a conference summary page that is partially filled out during teacher prep time. The rest of the tool can be completed during the conference and a copy can be given to families at the end of the conference.

For the main article Family-Teacher Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Things to Do Before Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Things to Do During Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Things to Do After Conferences, CLICK HERE

May 2021 Newsletter – Family-Teacher Conferences: Things to Do After Conferences

Following up after conferences is essential to supporting children’s development and maintaining relationships. Here are some things you can do after conferences are over:

  • Send a follow-up email or note thanking the family and reminding them of any agreed-upon plans for supporting their child’s development.
  • Ask family members if they have noticed any changes in their child since trying new activities or strategies.
  • Follow-up on whether families need help accessing any recommended outside resources.
  • Schedule another meeting or call to answer any questions that have come up or to set new goals for the child.
  • Encourage families to reach out with any questions on concerns they have about their child.
  • Include any observations about conference topics on the child’s daily report.
  • Reflect on what worked and any improvements you might need to make for the next round of conferences. For example, if several families were surprised about the topics covered during the conference, you may need to enhance your daily communication efforts. If you ran over the allotted time on several occasions, you could either lengthen the meeting time or try to better focus your conversations in the future.
  • Address any technical issues that arise on virtual platforms. Seek support from members of leadership or coworkers who have experience using the tool. Share anything you have learned with your team so others can avoid the technical issues you encountered.
  • Most importantly, create learning experiences designed to address the goals identified during the meeting. Create a list of the different goals and skills discusses across all conferences. Look for commonalities and create learning experiences that will enhance those skills. Work one-on-one or in small groups to target specific skills.

For the main article Family-Teacher Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Things to Do Before Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Things to Do During Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner: Supporting the Process, CLICK HERE

May 2021 Newsletter – Family-Teacher Conferences: Things to Do During Conferences

Here are a few things you might want to do during your conference conversations:

  • Welcome and thank families for their participation.
  • Remind parents of the goals of the meeting and the scheduled time frame of the meeting.
  • Set a timer and be mindful of the clock. Let family members know you have set a timer out of respect for everyone’s time.
  • Start by asking how they feel about their child’s development and progress at home and school. See if families have any goals for their child that the program can help support. Ask them to share any observations or concerns they may have about how their child is developing or behaving.
  • Share copies of assessment materials, but focus your attention on the highlighted areas that you identified during your conference preparation. Remember to include both strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Provide samples from the child’s portfolio to illustrate skills the child has achieved and those the child is working toward.
  • Use growth-mindset language when communicating about children’s development. Phrases that communicate that a child is still working on certain skills are better than pointing out things the child can’t do.
  • Identify goals for the child and talk about realistic timelines for reaching goals. For example, if a family wants their 3-year-old daughter to write her name, you can agree that writing is a program goal (even if it might not be a goal for this year). You can then share all of the fine motor activities that you use to strengthen skills and promote drawing, letter recognition, and kid-writing. Show samples of the child’s work from her portfolio and discuss strategies to move the child toward writing her name.
  • Discuss the strategies that you use in the classroom to promote different skills and behaviors. Encourage family members to think of how they might adapt these strategies for use at home.
  • If the conversation runs over the allotted time, offer a second meeting to dig into the issues at hand. Do so especially if the conference is running over a conference with another family.
  • Take notes so that you don’t forget any of the details of your discussion. It may be difficult to take notes during your conversation, but be sure to capture the goals you set during the meeting. Immediately after the meeting, go back to your notes and fill in any missing pieces while your memory is still fresh.

For the main article Family-Teacher Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Things to Do Before Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Things to Do After Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner: Supporting the Process, CLICK HERE

May 2021 Newsletter – Family-Teacher Conferences: Things to Do Before Conferences

Whether conferences are in person or virtual, here are some things you should consider prior to conference time.

  • Determine the length of time you will need to conduct the conferences, between 15 and 20 is the average, but you may need a few more minutes. Create a manageable schedule that allows enough time to give full attention to each family. Conference time slots can be scheduled over multiple weeks.
  • Provide plenty of notice and time to sign up for a preferred time slot.
  • Schedule time slots at different times of day to accommodate families with different work schedules.
  • Create a schedule that allows for time between each meeting in case a conversation runs over the allotted time. This prevents you from having to cut one meeting short or making the next family wait.
  • Clarify the goals of conferences with other members of your team.
  • Send a letter/email containing the goals to families so they are familiar with the intended outcomes of the meeting. This should include a reiteration that the meeting is designed to be a conversation. Invite families to share their observations and questions about their child’s development, which can be done prior to or during the meeting.
  • Review assessment and portfolio materials and create a list of things you want to highlight for each child. Be sure to pick both strengths and areas for improvement to highlight.
  • Organize assessment materials based on what you want to show families, in order of how you would like the conversation to flow. This will convey an organized and professional message to families.
  • Practice potential challenging conversations with a coworker or supervisor. Create sample answers to anticipated questions. Talk with others who have conducted conferences with the families to see what kinds of questions they have asked in the past.
  • Identify any outside resources that you want to share with the family. Get them ready so families can walk away with the information they need.
  • Remind families of the date and time of the meetings during drop-off, pick-up, or via email a few days before the scheduled event.
  • Whenever possible, set up a conference space with adult-sized furniture. Plan to sit beside families rather than across a desk from them to promote a feeling of collaboration.
  • Prior to a conference starting, take a few deep breaths, smile, and welcome the family warmly.

For virtual conferences:

  • Practice setting up and starting virtual meetings using the tool you will be using. They are not all the same so you will want to be confident as you start your meetings without difficulties.
  • Decide where you will be set up for the virtual meetings. Consider the background that appears on the screen. Is it neat and organized? Does it portray a professional look and feel? Will people be walking in and out of the space? There are options on some tools to use a background template that could help address any concerns you have about your background.
  • Practice using the other tools that are available on the platform you are using. Many virtual meeting hosts provide video tutorials about their features that you might find helpful.
  • Prepare any outside resources to share with families electronically.
  • Recognize that some families may not have access to a device or the internet. Other families may not be familiar with how to download a meeting application to a device. You may need to coach families into this different realm of meeting space.
  • Provide alternatives, such as phone calls, for families who may have technology barriers.

For the main article Family-Teacher Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Things to Do During Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Things to Do After Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner: Supporting the Process, CLICK HERE

May 2021 Student Spotlight – Meghan Croft

I began my career in early childhood as an assistant teacher in a mixed age preschool and pre-kindergarten classroom.  After having received my degree in elementary education and completing all my student teaching in elementary-age classrooms, this was my first experience in an early childhood setting – and I knew it was right where I was meant to be!  I went on to teach for four years before attending graduate school full time.  After graduation, I jumped right back into the classroom at a cooperative preschool, which is where I have been teaching ever since.

I love being a teacher and working with preschool-age children because it provides an opportunity to teach the whole child and support all aspects of a child’s social-emotional, cognitive, and language development.  Also, I really value the relationships that I create with my students and their families.  Oftentimes, I get to be a child’s first teacher and their first school experience, so it is important to me that I create a learning environment and classroom community that is welcoming, nurturing, and most importantly, is a place that my students enjoy being a part of!

My favorite time of day to spend with my students is during our morning free play time.  During this time of day, I am able to circulate around the classroom and spend quality time with my students – whether it be doing a “building challenge” in the block area together, reading with a child in the classroom library, or getting messy with paint and other materials at the art table.  I love creating curriculum and thematic activities/projects for my students and watching them be excited and eager to participate.  Having the opportunity to be part of a child’s growth and development, as well as observing them learn and try something new, is very rewarding!

I completed the Director’s Certificate Program through CCEI at the end of last year.  I thoroughly enjoyed the program and working with my Education Coach.  I highly recommend the Director’s Certificate Program to anyone looking to learn about administrative opportunities in early childhood.  I hope to use my Director’s certificate one day in the future to take on a combined administrative and classroom teacher role.

May 2021 Newsletter – Family-Teacher Conferences

Let’s face it, things look a lot different in 2021 than they have in the past. There is an eagerness to return to the way things were, without social distancing, masks, and restrictions on gatherings. Despite all of the changes, the importance of family communication and engagement is as important as ever.

End-of-year family-teacher conferences are a great way for programs to boost family engagement. They are also essential for supporting children’s growth and development. These conversations can strengthen relationships between families and teachers, families and children, and teachers and children. During conferences, plans can be made to discuss progress, address concerns, and plan for transitions. It is also a good time to share resources and strategies to create consistency between school and home.

This year, conferences may look and feel a bit different, especially if conferences are being held virtually. This month’s newsletter will explore steps that can be taken before, during, and after conferences to ensure that they are valuable and productive for everyone involved.

For the article Things to Do Before Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Things to Do During Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Things to Do After Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner: Supporting the Process, CLICK HERE

April 2021 Student Spotlight – Holly Sena

My name is Holly Sena and I’m from Oceanside, New York.  I began my career with children about 20 years ago; however, my love for children started when I was a young child and my mom would babysit children in the house.  I loved helping her with bottles and diapers and playing with the children.  I loved going to the park with them.  I work with infants right now and I have worked with all ages; however, working with infants is my specialty.  I really enjoy all the stages they go through from tummy time to being able to walk and talk and go on to the next class.  My favorite time of day is free play which is tummy time or children playing on the floor with toys or sitting and playing and interacting with each other.  We are busy all day long.  I just love being with them and it is so rewarding when the baby sees me and gives me the biggest smile.  I don’t think any other career measures up to that.  To me, it is not just a job, it is something I love and feel is very rewarding in my life.

I would love to finish my college degree in Early Childhood Education and continue to work with children.  I would definitely recommend ChildCare Education Institute for professional development training to others.  It was a great experience for me and the student support staff, including my Education Coach, were very helpful and encouraging throughout my training.  They made the learning experience a fun and positive one.  The classes I took at CCEI were for the Infant-Toddler Certificate.  I learned so much in this certification program from child abuse to positive guidelines.  The courses were very informative and provided great content for me to use and implement in my classroom right away.  It helped me solidify furthering my career in ECE and pursuing college courses to ultimately teach PreK one day if the opportunity presents itself.  I definitely highly recommend my experience with CCEI to others!

April 2021 Newsletter – Strengthening Scientific Thinking: Experimenting & Sharing Results

There is a wide range of science experiments that you can explore in the learning environment. You can find ideas on our Pinterest page. With young children, experiments are likely to be informal and look a lot like play.  For example, a food color mixing activity is an opportunity for children to use observation and prediction skills with minimal guidance from teachers. Other experiments have a series of steps that must be followed in order to achieve the intended outcome of the activity.  Here are a few general categories of experiments that are appropriate for young children:

  • Opportunities to explore cause and effect
  • Sensory bottles with oil and water or other liquids
  • Open exploration of sensory materials
  • Explore sounds using different materials and containers
  • Sink or float activities using different materials each time
  • Experiment with growing plants
  • Experiment to find out what plants need to survive
  • Life cycles with butterflies or frogs
  • Weather-related explorations
  • Observing changes in nature
  • Magnet play
  • Chemical reactions (most common is vinegar and baking soda)
  • Experiments with force, speed, and pressure

Regardless of the experiment type, children should be encouraged to document what they learned. You can transcribe children’s words as part of the documentation. Children might also prefer to draw what they learned or observed.

During experiments, document what you notice the children learning. Take pictures as they explore. Capture moments of discovery. Record the results on video.  All of these items can be shared with families and on social media (with photo release consent) as a way to promote the excellent learning opportunities your program offers. You can add this documentation to children’s portfolios as part of your ongoing assessment process.

What are your favorite experiments to do with children and how do you encourage children to share what they have learned?

For the main article Strengthening Scientific Thinking, CLICK HERE

For the  article Making Observations, CLICK HERE

For the article Asking Questions and Gathering Information, CLICK HERE

For the article Making Predictions, CLICK HERE

April 2021 Newsletter – Strengthening Scientific Thinking: Making Predictions

Predictions are guesses about what might happen in the future. Usually, they are based on prior knowledge or experiences.  During the Scientific Method, scientists make predictions and then design experiments to determine whether their predictions are correct or incorrect.

Remember, in early childhood sometimes children will follow all of the steps of the Scientific Method and at other times, they can just focus on one or two skills.  To encourage more predictions, you must simply ask for them.  Here are just a few, general examples that can be modified to fit different situations:

  • What do you think will happen next?
  • What do you think will happen if we add…?
  • What might happen if we remove X?
  • What changes do you think we will see?
  • What do you think will happen if we move this piece?
  • How many items will fit in this container?
  • How many days will it take to see a change?
  • Why do you think it works that way?
  • What do think we will learn?

These types of questions should be planned as part of group readings and lessons that occur during the day. Teachers should also be on the lookout for teachable moments that could be enhanced through the use of prompts for predictions. Spontaneous predictions often lead to opportunities to design simple experiments to find out if predictions are correct. Be sure to remain flexible enough in your curriculum planning to allow for and encourage these unplanned experiments.

Whenever possible, document the children’s responses so they can refer back to their predictions. You can gather multiple children’s answers on one datasheet, or gather predictions from individual children.

For the main article Strengthening Scientific Thinking, CLICK HERE

For the article Making Observations, CLICK HERE

For the article Asking Questions & Gathering Information, CLICK HERE

For the article Experimenting & Sharing Results, CLICK HERE

April 2021 Newsletter – Strengthening Scientific Thinking: Asking Questions & Gathering Information

Anyone familiar with young children knows they are full of questions.  They are on a quest to understand their world and ask thousands of questions along the way. Encourage children to ask questions by providing novel and interesting experiences to children as described in the section on observation.

Act as a model for how to ask all kinds of questions (who, what, where, when, and why). Remember to ask lots of open-ended questions on top of the normal, closed questions. Open-ended questions (What do you think is happening?) promote critical thinking while closed questions promote general recall and identification (Where do we hang our coats?). Ask questions that are spontaneous as teachable moments arise and planned as you might do when reading a new book to children.

Another way to encourage children to ask questions is to enthusiastically answer the questions they ask.  This might take some amazing acting skills on your part as you answer the same questions over and over. Do your best to answer the question with the same energy as you did the first time you were asked the question.

Sometimes, children ask questions to which we do not know the answers. This is quite common and should not be a reason for alarm. Teachers can reply by saying:

  1. I am not sure, but I am going to do some research and find out an answer for you.
  2. I don’t know the answer to that, how do you think we could find out?

Both responses model how to look for additional information from other sources. If you choose option one, be sure to get back to the student with the answer AND with how you found the answer. If you choose option two, work alongside the child to search for books, articles, videos, or other resources that explain the answer.

Here’s an idea – even if you know the answer, choose option 2. There is no better way to get children in the habit of seeking new information than making it necessary for them to find answers on their own. For example, if a child asks you how trees grow so tall, you could ask them for ideas on where to find the answer.  The child might respond by saying, “I bet my grandpa knows.”  You can then help the child record the question on paper as a reminder to contact Grandpa over the weekend to ask the question.

You could also create a Questions Board, where you can post different questions that are asked throughout the day. During class meetings, pull a few of the questions off the board and pose them to the large group.  Ask if anyone knows the answer, or has any ideas about how to find the answers.  Make plans to come back the next day with more information.

Have you found effective ways to promote questioning and researching with young children?

For the main article Strengthening Scientific Thinking, CLICK HERE

For the article Making Observations, CLICK HERE

For the article Making Predictions, CLICK HERE

For the article Experimenting & Sharing Results, CLICK HERE