Week 9 – Student Led Conferences, Ben Franklin, and KenKens

Week 9 – Student Led Conferences, Ben Franklin, and KenKens

Week 9 was a short academic week. At Khabele, we have student-led conferences once in the Fall and once in the spring.  We take two days off of academic classes to create space and time to have these conferences.  This week, I’ve also started some Ben Franklin-style daily reflections and introduced my students to KenKen math puzzles.


Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 2.41.18 PMA student led conference is quite a bit different from the more traditional parent-teacher conference.  Students prepare to lead a conference with their parents and their advisor for 30-45 minutes.  The philosophy is that it helps the student take more ownership of their learning, forcing them to reflect on areas of stregnth and areas in need of growth.  Many students will genuinely rise to the occasion and be very honest in these meetings about their stregnths and weaknesses.

To prepare, students have been spending the last couple weeks in advisory reflecting on both their academic and personal lives.  My group used THESE organizers to help them.  They didn’t write out word for word what they would talk about, but more just bullet points what they wanted to bring up during the conference.  A few of the questions included:

  • What are you mission statement and goals?  How are you progressing?
  • What’s your favorite part of being a student right now?
  • What are you greatest strengths?
  • What areas need more work?
  • What predictions do you have for the remainder of the year (where will you shine? where will you be challenged?)
  • How will you face challenges as they come up?
  • What are you gifts and how will you share those this year?

They then rate themselves on the school’s 5 attributes and how often they demonstrate them.  They’re also encouraged to have work samples of what they’re proud of.  I had a few students share their art porfolios, some share their blogs, others share tests they performed well on, and some share how thoroughly they have been using their planner.

After the student gets through all of that, I will usually ask the student who their three closest friends are at school and if those relationships are different from last year (either positively or negatively).  I also try to end by acknowledging what I appreciate about the student and why I’m glad to have them as a student.  I started doing that after some sessions in the past where parents were a bit more aggressive in asking the student about their failures without acknowledging their successes.  I think it’s really easy to forget to tell people what you appreciate about them, but how encouraging it is when someone tells us why they appreciate us.

I was really glad to have this time to check in with some students that I had last year for advisory, math, and robotics, but only have for advisory this year.  I have an awesome group of young people doing some amazing things.  Glad I get to be a part of it.

Edutopia has some pretty great resources HERE on how to get started with doing student-led conferences in your school.


A podcast I listen to somewhat often is The Art of Manliness.  Pretty great stuff on what it means to be a man and take responsibility and care for a family and be kind to others.  Was reading an article on their website the other day about Ben Franklin.  Franklin had a morning journal where he pursued 13 various virtues as well as answered one little prompt in the beginning and end of everyday:

  • What good shall I do this day?
  • What good have I done this day?

I found that I’m pretty great at making to-do lists but doing something like this makes you realize how much your to-do list is self-serving.  I was trying to interpret ‘doing good’ as ways to be kind, even though doing good could obviously be things like ‘plan for the week’ or ‘grade papers.’ I’d like to think there’s deeper ‘good’ I can aim for in the day.  I’ll occasionally have a few to-do’s that serve others (make dinner for Sara and I or lift weights with a friend).  The end of the day is to see if you met your ‘goodness goals’ as well as reflect on any other opportunities you had to do good.  I keep forgetting to do the reflection at the end of the day and end up doing both in the morning.


One of the options I give my students if they finish work early is a KenKen puzzle.  They’re pretty awesome.  Similar to sudoku but a lot more mathematical thinking and strategy involved.  Students really love them.  I took about 15 minutes in class this week to introduce everyone to them so they would have that option if they finished early.  There’s ones you can print out and there’s online ones you can do.  I’d start with 3×3 puzzles and print out a few 4×4’s and 5×5’s for students who want a challenge.  I have yet to have a student not find them interesting and engaging when I introduce them.

You can subscribe HERE to get new KenKen’s emailed to you weekly for free.  The online games can be found HERE.

By Thom H Gibson

I help middle school STEM teachers create meaningful & memorable experiences for their students. Teacher, podcaster, YouTuber. Two-time teacher of the year

Related Posts

One Comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: