Thinking that your preschooler isn't really "learning" just because all she seems to do at school is play with dolls, finger paint and build blocks is more than slightly inaccurate. Whether your child is tending to a plastic play-set of veggies in the pretend kitchen, marching along with her friends in a kiddie band or coloring with crayons, play almost always equals learning in the preschool environment. That said, your preschool parent-teacher conference won't just cover play-filled activities, and will instead focus on learning and development.
Communciation and Involvement
According to the experts at the Michigan Department of Education, early involvement in a student's education can have a greater impact on the child. While you might already help out in your little learner's classroom by reading stories to the kids or volunteering to help out at the holiday party, parent-teacher conferences are a prime way to get involved. The National Association for the Education of Young Children notes that parent-teacher conferences offer parents the chance to communicate with the early educator, making it easier for them to participate in the child's learning process. Before you head off to your first conferences, expect to communicate back and forth with your child's teacher. Although the educator may do the majority of the talking, conferences do provide parents with the chance to show their involvement and commitment to the child's education.
Instead of just telling you what your child is doing, her teacher may present you with a portfolio that shows samples of her work. Some pre-k programs may use a work sampling system to assess the students' performance, learning and development. This system uses a portfolio approach, taking into account samples of artwork and projects along with observational notes that the teacher makes. During the parent-teacher conference your child's preschool teacher can take out the portfolio samples and show them to you. This isn't just to display cute crafts, but instead to demonstrate your little one's strengths and the changes that she is going through over the course of the preschool year.
Content and Development
The parent-teacher conference provides your child's preschool teacher with the chance to talk to you about the specific content areas that the curriculum covers, as well as how your child is learning and developing. The pediatric pros at KidsHealth.org note that preschool parent-teacher conferences often include information on social development, language skills, cognitive abilities and physical or motor growth. For example, the teacher may tell you that the class is working on emotional-language content, where the kids must use their words to express feelings. She may then follow this by explaining how and what your child is doing -- such as, "She is using her emotion words instead of hitting her friends when she is angry" -- when it comes to this type of learning.
Strengths and Areas for Improvement
Although you may think that you know everything about your child, chances are that her teacher has some insider information about behaviors and abilities that you may not see at home. For example, during the day-to-day rush of your busy home life, you may not have the time to do letter writing or counting lessons with your preschooler. While you aren't exactly focusing on these academic areas at home, her teacher is taking on these tasks at school. During the conference her teacher will tell you what she thinks your child's strong points are -- such as counting up to 10 with ease or following the sequence of a story -- as well as areas for improvement. Don't feel on edge if the teacher brings up points that may seem like weaknesses to you. Not every preschooler can master each task easily. If the teacher brings up areas for improvement, they are just that -- things that you can work on with your child to improve, and not negative points.