Parent Conference season is here!  I thought it would be fun to share a quick, little, creative activity I do with my students in preparation for parent conferences: recycled folders.

Basically, I have a set of 26 bright, yellow folders, numbered 1-26 to correspond with my students’ numbers.  (I love giving each of my students a number according to their place in alphabetical order.  It makes certain organizational things easy in my classroom.  I’m sure many of you do the same!)  These are folders that I’ve been using for about 5 years now just for parent conferences.  In them, I like to collect important papers and examples of work that I can use to illustrate each student’s strengths and weaknesses at school.

Now, I’m not the kind of teacher who will painstakingly fill each folder for each student.  To me, that is not a very good use of my time.  Instead, I carve out about 30 minutes a day or so before conferences for the students to do this for me.  On this day, I ask a small group of students to pass out the collection of papers I’ve piled up over the last weeks to the other students in the class.   But before they start doing that, I first give each student their numbered, yellow conference folder.

As I’ve said, I’ve been using these folders for years and while students are getting their papers passed out to them, they are also decorating the folders.  Seems simple, right?  The fun part, though is that because these folders have been used year after year, the students are adding to other’s art work.  So, Suzie, who is #14 this year is adding to the other students who have been #14 for the past years.

I haven’t asked the students to sign the inside of the folders until this year.  That is something I wish I had started from the beginning.  I mean think about it: Do you remember getting assigned a text book when you were a kid and other students’ names were written in the front cover?  It was fun to see if you recognized a name!  (Am I dating myself here?)

The fun, creative part of all this is adding to the art work on the folders year after year.  It’s fun to see how some people will color in designs that someone else made with pencil, who will draw the fire coming out of a dragon drawn 2 years back, who will add a fashionably dressed girl standing among Minecraft characters.  Regardless of what is there to begin with, adding to someone else’s design is always fun.

And for the very first class, the class who gets the blank canvas for a folder, they are bestowed with the honor of starting such a fun tradition.  Believe if or not, I actually had a visiting student ask to see the folder they worked on years ago.

So, that’s it! It’s fun to have students reuse the folders (sending the subtle message of recycling) and get creative as they add to years of past drawings.

Of course, an important part of parent conferences is for students’ voices to be heard.  If students aren’t going to be part of the face-to-face conference (or even if they ARE), I often have students write a short reflection or answer a few questions to share with parents.  These papers are ALSO added to the folder!

Want to see the paper I use?  Awesome!  I created a freebie you can use for your own students and I made it pretty basic so that you can use it no matter what grade level or subject you teach.  If you are in the lower grades, you may want to ask these questions and scribe what your students say.  For grades 2-12, you can hand most of your students this paper for them to fill in themselves.

You can download it by clicking here:

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Student Reflection Freebie


or you can get it by going to this page:

I wish you the best in this conference season!