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Volume 3 Number 10

"Everybody loves hummingbirds, and they are wonderful tools to excite students about learning."

That quote from a classroom teacher is the basic premise of Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project...

Effective Practices Apply to All Teachers Effective Teaching by Harry & Rosemary Wong
Given Names - When NOT to Use Them and when TO Use Them Promoting Learning by Marv Marshall
10 Tips for the Best Parent Conferences Ever! Instant Ideas for Busy Teachers by Barbara Gruber and Sue Gruber
Assessment of Online Discussions Online Classrooms by Leslie Bowman & George París Conway
Internet Security for Kids Ask the School Psychologist by Beth Bruno
Talking about the Six Traits and Quality Writing The Eclectic Teacher by Ginny Hoover
Primary Sites Grades Pre-K to 3 The Busy Educator's Monthly Five (5 Sites for Busy Educators) by Marjan Glavac
That's Novel! 4 Blocks by Cheryl Sigmon
October Articles
October Regular Features
October Informational Items
Gazette Home Delivery:

About Barbara Gruber and Sue Gruber...
Barbara Gruber and Sue Gruber are a mother-daughter writing team who share a passion for teaching and writing. This is not an "overnight success" story--they have been writing together for eighteen years. They are currently developing new educational products to be released by publishers this spring. They have written and sold over one hundred fifty educational products to publishers which are sold worldwide.

Barbara is a former teacher who was employed by Frank Schaffer Publications from l980 to l996. She developed and presented curriculum seminars nationwide for K-6 teachers. Barbara was involved in product development and was a freelance writer exclusively for Frank Schaffer Publications. After "retiring," she wrote a series of idea books for teachers for The Mailbox. Practice and LearnRight is the publisher of a series of best-selling word wall products. Barbara and her husband live on a farm in Healdsburg, in Sonoma County, California. She has four grown children and four grandchildren. Barbara earned her M.A. at Santa Clara University in California.

Sue Gruber is a kindergarten teacher who is sharing a teaching contract this year. Working half-time gives her more time with her 18 month old son Cooper. Sue, her husband and son live in Sonoma County, as well. Sue's first experience as a writer was helping Barbara write a science book for Frank Schaffer Publications. Sue has a degree in geology and a strong science background. They continued as a writing team and created dozens of products for Frank Schaffer Publications. Sue and Barbara wrote eight new teacher idea books soon to be released by Practice and LearnRight. Sue taught grades three, four, five and is currently team teaching kindergarten. Sue earned her M.A. at Sonoma State University in California.

Barbara and Sue are are partners in Barbara Gruber Online Courses for Teachers. They personally write each course with today's busy teachers in mind. Teachers can do coursework completely on their own, or, if they wish, interact on line with others. They can earn one, two or three semester units from University of the Pacific. Barbara and Sue present information on a practical level. It can be put into action immediately in classrooms. Barbara and Sue provide instructional strategies and management ideas without creating more work for teachers.

The internet allows Barbara & Sue to do the work they love most—work directly with teachers. They are thrilled with the response by teachers to their courses. They have a fresh, teacher-friendly approach to affordably-priced courses. Barbara Gruber & Sue Gruber have created exactly what today's teachers are looking for! You can find out about their courses at

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Complete Guide to Self Publishing: Everything You Need to Know to Write, Publish, Promote, and Sell Your Own Book (4th Edition)
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Browse through the latest posts from the Upper Elementary Chatboard...

Instant Ideas for Busy Teachers...
by Barbara Gruber, M.A. & Sue Gruber, M.A.
10 Tips for the Best Parent Conferences Ever!

Parent Conference week is such a busy time for teachers. Do you start getting panicky as parent conference time rolls around? Do you get tired just thinking about how to fit all of those conferences in during conference week? Do you feel like you might as well live at school during parent conference time? Are you already dreading meeting with certain parents? Here are the ideas you need to turn conference time into a positive experience for parents and for you!

  1. Take it Easy!
  2. Most schools set aside four or five days for parent conferences. Do your parent conferences become a huge blur as you frantically squeeze all of your conferences into one short week? Do you find yourself becoming more concerned about keeping on schedule than about taking the time to communicate with parents? Wouldn't it be wonderful to only have two or three conferences each day rather than six or seven?

    It's time to take it easy! Decrease your workload during conference week while maximizing the effectiveness of your conferences! Schedule some conferences for the week before the official conference week begins. This slower pace allows you to digest important information that parents share with you. You'll find that conferences can be downright enjoyable when you don't feel such tremendous pressure to squeeze them all into on short week. Be sure to tell your administrator that you're beginning your conferences early this year. Go for it! You'll be glad you did!

  3. Schedule for Success
  4. You don't want early bird parents barging in on conferences that are in progress. You also don't want parents hanging around after their conferences are over. You need time to make notes and get ready for your next conference. Here's an easy way to keep your conferences on track!

    Write out your daily conference schedule and post it outside on your classroom door. The posted schedule keeps early birds from entering the room. Have another copy at the table where conferences are held. Make sure both you and parents can easily see the schedule.

    Be sure to schedule a break for yourself between conferences. What ever you do, don't write the word "break" next to this spot in your schedule or that time will evaporate! List your break on the schedule and write, "Work in Office" or better yet "Meeting in Office." When the time comes, head to the office, put your feet up and enjoy a snack. After the last conference on your list you might want to jot "Meeting with Principal" so that last conference doesn't go on forever.

  5. Be Prepared

You want to be ready to begin conferences the minute parents step through the door. Here are some quick tips to help you be ready to go:

  • Set up a conference area that includes a table, several adult size chairs, paper for taking notes, pens, a copy of your conference schedule, and a small clock. Many parents find it less threatening to meet at a table rather than at your desk.
  • Gather dated samples of children's work that you want to share with their parents. Keep the papers in folders labeled with children's names.
  • Round up copies of texts and materials that you may refer to during conferences. You don't want to lose valuable conference time scrambling for materials.
  1. Conference Attendees
  2. It's up to you to decide who you would like to be present at conferences. Do you prefer to meet only with the parents? Maybe you like to have the students present, as well. Make sure to let parents know if you want the students to be there. Ask parents to make arrangements for childcare for siblings so they can concentrate during conference time.

    Should the principal, reading teacher, speech pathologist or any other staff members attend the conferences? Make your decision and let parents know in advance who will be in attendance. You don't want to surprise parents unexpectedly with a group when they may be expecting to meet just with you.

  3. Don't Be Caught Off Guard!
  4. Have you ever had a conference grind to a halt when a parent asks a question out of the blue that puts you on the spot? Have you ever answered one of these questions in a way that you regret? If a question or issue comes up during the conference that you are unprepared to answer, don't feel compelled to respond. Tell the parent you need time to reflect on the question and you'll get back to them in a few days. Jot the question down so you are sure to remember to follow through.

  5. Conference Content

Many parents feel anxious about conferences. Help put them at ease immediately. Begin every conference with a positive comment about the child. Don't overwhelm parents with lots of unimportant details during conferences. Make sure to present the big picture that shows parents exactly how their children are doing in your class. Let parents know:

  • if their children are attentive during lessons
  • where their children stand academically
  • areas where their children excel
  • areas where their children experience difficulties
  • let parents know specific ways they can provide help in areas where children are having difficulty
  • how well their children get along with classmates
  • how long homework should normally take.

Be prepared to give specific examples to illustrate the points you are making during conferences. Allow time for parents to ask questions. Ask parents to give you specific examples if you are unsure about what they are asking.

Wrap up each conference on an upbeat note with a positive comment about the child.

  1. Difficult Conferences
  2. Occasionally, a conference takes a negative turn. Remember that both you and the parents are concerned about the child. Look for ways to find common ground. You may want to state that you know that both of you want what's best for the child and that you're looking for ways that you can work together to meet the child's needs.

    Sometimes, the best thing to do is to provide an opportunity for all parties to reflect on the issues at hand by bringing the conference to a close. Set another time and date to continue the conference. If you are dealing with angry people and feel threatened, have the principal, vice principal or school counselor attend the next conference.

  3. Parent Tip Sheets

Most parents are open to the idea of helping their children learn. Many parents feel unsure about the best ways to help their children. Consider investing the time to prepare tip sheets with lists of ideas telling how parents can help their children learn. For example, when you tell a parent his child needs help with reading, give him the reading tip sheet. Create tip sheets for reading, writing, spelling practice and math help. You can use the tip sheets year after year. Here's an example of information from a reading tip sheet:

Tips to Help Your Child Read Well

  • Read to your child.
  • Ask your child to tell you about a book or story he has read.
  • Tell your child about your favorite children's books.
  • Give books as gifts.
  • Listen to your child read.
  • Play games with your child.
  • Limit television time.
  • Go to the library together.
  • Read and discuss your child's schoolwork.
  • Subscribe to a children's magazine.
  • Establish a family reading time.
  1. Conference Notes

Over time, important information shared during conferences can be forgotten. Take a few minutes at the end of each conference to write quick notes. When important issues come up during conferences, make notes. The more sensitive the issue, the more you need notes! Always make notes if your conferences include discussions about:

  • retention
  • behavior problems
  • special education referrals
  • participation in pull-out programs for extra help
  • low academic skills
  • changes in the child's health or family composition.

Keep your notes about each child handy. You'll want to refer to them before your next conference with the parents.

  1. Telephone Conferences

Do some of your parents have impossible schedules? When parents cannot attend a conference, schedule a telephone conference instead. Telephone conferences can make life easier for you and the parents. Here are some tips to make telephone conferences valuable:

  • Formally schedule telephone conferences. When parents know that you'll call at a specific time, they'll be prepared to give you their full attention.
  • Photocopy the conference form and work samples that you plan to discuss. Number the pages. Slip everything into a large envelope and send the packet home the day before the conference. On the front of the envelope write:

Telephone Conference with Ms. Sunshine

Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

Have this envelope and a pencil at the phone, please.

  • Conduct the telephone conference the same way you hold face to face conferences. When you call the parent, you can ask them to refer to the numbered papers you sent home in the packet. By having identical packets of papers in front of you, it's easy to be specific when you're discussing a child's work.

Telephone conferences require additional planning on your part. However, most parents really appreciate this extra effort.

Parents appreciate your efforts to keep them informed. They will be more supportive of their children's efforts and achievements when they feel comfortable meeting with you. Parent conferences are a great way to involve parents in their children's education.

When you are looking for practical ideas for your classroom that save teachers time and work, take a look at our online courses for teachers. Teachers tell us we've helped them put the fun and joy back into teaching---that's music to our ears.

Best wishes ~

Barbara Gruber & Sue Gruber
Barbara Gruber Online Courses for K-6 Teachers

Copyright 2002: Barbara Gruber Courses for Teachers

Gazette Articles by Barbara Gruber & Sue Gruber: