Parent Teacher Conferences with ELL Parents

Later this week we have our spring conferences. As a classroom teacher, I loved conferences because it gave me a better insight into my students, and provided a great opportunity to talk with parents who are not as available.

As I have transitioned to a full time ESL teacher, I’ve found that one of the hardest transitions was during conferences. I cannot be at all of my kids conferences due to time restraints and the fact that I work in two separate buildings. This makes me miss my time in the classroom, getting to really interact with families.

Once I became the ESL teacher, I was in charge of finding all of the needed interpreters for conferences. I have to be honest, before I became the full time ESL teacher, our families had to find interpreters on their own, or their children tried to interpret.

My district is small enough, that out of three elementary schools, we only have one bilingual para, and she is located in the building I do not work in. Now we use a service to provide interpreters for our families. This service has always been around, I just finally figured out how to really make it work.

Here are some hints to using and scheduling multiple families who need interpreters during conferences, when you have to be budget minded and keep the number of interpreters down to a minimum.

1. Schedule your conferences FIRST. Do not let teachers schedule anyone else first. (Keep in touch with SPED teachers as IEP’s might be scheduled during this time).  This allows you the flexibility to fit one student per slot, and keep them all together. Be sure siblings are scheduled back to back.

2. Really communicate (over and over) with classroom teachers the times that have been chosen for their students.

3. Be sure to check in with the business that the interpreters will arrive on time, and as expected. It’s even better if they can give you names of interpreters so you can let your classroom teachers know.

4. Document everything. Keep everything. You never know.

5. Check in with your teachers as often as possible to make sure conferences don’t change. When they do change and you don’t have a translator, check back in with the teacher to see if another time will work.

6. Let your school office know that you have an interpreter coming. I always like to give them a copy of the schedule so they can help guide the interpreter if they get off track.

7. Be nice to your interpreter. Be overly organized and give them a list of all the conferences they will need to translate, the time the conference begins, and the location. I even like to color code (this is because my school is broken up into different color pods).

8. Be even nicer to your interpreter. Have water available, at the bare minimum. They’ll be doing a lot of talking.

Up next week: Information to share with classroom teachers about how to work with an interpreter. Including a free printable that you can just slip in teachers mailboxes.


Free Grammar Games

Teaching grammar can be difficult. It’s one of those things that you have to circle back several times each year, and re-visit year after year to make sure that your students really “get it”.

Games are a great way to revisit the skills after a quick review section. I’ve found the students become really engaged in the game and therefore the skill.

One of the best, new websites I’ve found in a while is this:

You can have the kids play individually or with teams. And the best part is that you can choose specific skills that are often targeted in ESL instruction.

Anyone else have any good, free games that they play with their students?

ELL Schedule & Daily 5

This year I’m using a modified version of “The Daily 5” to guide my time with my ELL’s.

Daily 5 Book

My reasoning for switching from what I’ve been doing to the Daily 5 stems from some assessments that I did at the end of the year last year. Many of my students are missing skills. But of course, they’re not missing the same information.


In order to help each of them make up what skills they’re lacking, I wanted to be able to do smaller groups. Which lead me to watch what my fellow teachers were doing. There was a grade level who successfully implemented Daily 5 last year, and I was thoroughly impressed with the work their kids were doing.


So, now I’m working on doing a shorter, more focused “Daily 5”.

My kids will be meeting with me for 15 minutes each day, and they will have a choice of centers for the other 15 minutes.


The other activities that students will eventually be doing include:


~ Word Work (spelling activities)

~ Sight Word Activities (Using Fry’s Sight Words List)

~ Fluency Activity (students record themselves reading using an iPod, and use this fluency rubric to assess themselves)

~ Writing Station (once we’ve started doing writing mini-lessons, this choice will be added)


I’ll share more examples of specific activities as I introduce them to the kids.