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Student-led conferences in the Early Years

Kate Bowen, the Early Years Coordinator at KIS International School, Bangkok

Kate Bowen, the Early Years Coordinator at KIS International School, Bangkok

An Early Years teacher explains the process of student-led conferences she uses in her classroom.

“Making the PYP happen (2009) describes on page 52 the role of the student in student-led conferences as being ‘responsible for leading the conference and also taking responsibility for their learning by sharing the process with their parents’. In our class we spend a lot of time reflecting on learning, sharing learning amongst students and teachers, as well as encouraging children to share their portfolios regularly with their families. Despite all of this, the prospect of student-led conferences with four- and five-year-olds can be a daunting one! Here I will briefly explain the process we use we with our students and how we do our best to make this day a success.

At our school, student-led conferences take place close to the end of the academic year. School closes for the day and each family signs up for a time slot. We set out five stations, all of which reflect some of the learning which has taken place this year in our class. We ensure that there is a link to one of our units of inquiry (UoI), but equally we make sure that the stations reflect learning in the widest possible context and reflects the interests of the children as well as the UoIs. For this reason, we encourage families to explore the classroom with children showing their parents their favourite centres, art work and documentation on the walls.

Before the day we familiarize children with the stations and remind them of the learning they experienced in class. Where available, we share photos and videos of children engaged in the learning engagements the first time round. Each station has an explanation for parents of the context in which the children have previously experienced this learning in class and directions of what to do at the station. We also add some suggested open-ended questions to stimulate discussion.

This year we chose the following stations:


Floating and sinking (from the unit of inquiry How the world works: exploring materials)


Testing waterproof materials (from the unit of inquiry How the world works: exploring materials)











Filtering water dirty water (from the unit of inquiry Sharing the planet: water)


Exploring mark making (the children show their writing journals and create a piece together such as a mini book, card or storyboard). We set out the children’s journals which they have worked on independently throughout the year.












Sharing portfolios

Image5Our portfolios show each child’s learning journey across the year. They are a collection of learning stories, photographs, self-chosen pieces and transcripts of class discussions. We set out smiley faces and speech bubbles for the parents to glue directly in to the portfolio if they wish, this gives them the opportunity to reflect on the portfolio but does not require a written reflection if parents do not feel comfortable doing so.

At the end of the session each parent fills in a reflection telling us what they enjoyed and most importantly, what they have learned about their child’s learning. Each child also fills out a reflection with space for a drawing of their favourite part of the day plus space for comments for parenst to scribe if they wish. Each family returns these to us  before they leave.”

The original article can be found in Kate’s blog here.

Kate is a workshop leader and has worked with children aged 3 – 5 for 10 years both in the UK and Internationally. She blogs at with her co-teacher Shelby Brown.



4 Responses to Student-led conferences in the Early Years

  1. Kirsty van Rooyen 30 October 2014 at 10:05 am #

    It is a lovely article and it always helps if you set up the room the day before the parent teacher conferences. Great article!

  2. Erin Webb 17 November 2014 at 12:46 am #

    Great article with some good ideas on how to set up student led conferences. We are planning on doing 2 sets of parent-teacher conferences this year with the ones in the spring being student-led. The students I teach are part of a French Immersion program, so we are using the spring conferences to also show parents how much French language their child has learned throughout the year. I like how you set up stations so the child could show his/her parents various learning activities from throughout the year. This may be a more productive and beneficial way to have my students teach their parents what they have learned instead of having a traditional sit-down parent/teacher conference.

  3. Magic Years 17 December 2015 at 5:40 am #

    We just completed our Term 1 student led conferences and it was a wonderful time for everyone. Students are very confident and find a lot of joy in sharing their learning with their parents. The showcase is authentic, and students take pride in sharing and meeting their friend’s parents as well. Student led conferences in early years helps create the foundation for lifelong learners.

  4. Michelle Satchell 10 January 2019 at 1:44 pm #

    What a wonderful idea! I never thought about using centers during parent/teacher conferences. Thanks for sharing. My young students will take even more pride in what they do knowing that their work will be on display.

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