Showcasing Student Work for Parents

I’m not a huge fan of Parent/Teacher Interviews. It’s not the idea of speaking with parents about their child’s progress, because I am totally on board with that. It’s not the time spent after school, either; I’m usually one of the last teachers to leave my school at night, so I’m pretty used to being around after hours.

My issue with Parent/Teacher Interviews is that the focus is rarely, if ever, on talking about what students are doing daily in the classroom. To me, that’s the important thing: seeing their work and their progress over the course of the ten months that they’re in my class. My students work hard and take pride in their accomplishments. I’ve never liked that interviews are linked to progress reports or report cards because the natural thing to do seems to be to talk about grades.

I hate grades, but that’s another story for another time. ;)

A few years ago, I did something with my class that I felt really offered my students the chance to show their parents just how much they had accomplished that year. It was a really rewarding experience for everyone.

In spring of that year, a few students in my Grade 5 class came to me and asked if we could do a class talent show. This was a congregated gifted French Immersion class with many performers of all kinds. We discussed it as a class and nearly all of them wanted to participate. We decided that we would host the talent show in June as an end of year event and invite everyone’s parents to come. I was not going to force anyone to participate, though, so I had to come up with some reason for the parents of students who were not performing on stage to attend.

My students had been amassing large portfolios of work all year. I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to student work and I like them to keep it all at school for as long as possible. Usually this just leaves me drowning in a pile of art projects, scientific models, chart paper, and duo-tangs, but this one year it really paid off. I had my students go through all of their work and choose five things that they were really proud of.

We discussed why they might choose certain pieces over others. Some pieces were chosen because students had worked particularly hard and had done a really great job with them. Others were chosen because they were really fun and exciting. Others still were chosen because students felt that they had made a lot of progress that year. The highlight, for me, was when one of my students chose to showcase her Mathematics notebook. When I asked her why, she said that it was because she started that year hating math, just like every other year, but by the end of the year she felt really confident in math and it had become her favourite subject.

Validation! My teaching is working! But that’s not what this post is about.

We ran the entire event in the school’s gym, which had an attached stage. I pulled out some tables and set them up, then gave each student a space to display their work. They decided how to display it. As parents came in, they were able to wander around the tables and see the work all of the students had put out.

The talent show itself was what I expected: a seemingly endless parade of ten and eleven year olds playing musical instruments, telling jokes, dancing, and doing whatever else they had come up with as a talent. It was really sweet. They did a wonderful job. All I really did was invite the parents; they coordinated who did what and when, rehearsed on their own time, and ran the whole show for parents.

After the talent show, all of the students went and stood by their work. They were expected to explain to their parents why they had chosen to include each piece. I was there and able to answer any questions and chat with the parents, of course, but the students were the stars of the afternoon. I got a lot of positive feedback from parents on the event and they were happy to be able to hear their child talk about his or her work in a positive light.

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The Author

Shawna Rothgeb-Bird

Grade 4 Middle French Immersion teacher from Ottawa. Passionate about teaching (naturally!), board games, video games, music, and roller derby. Instilling a sense of wonder, curiosity, and critical thought in students since 2011 (or 2008 if we want to include Teacher's College).

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