Parent-Teacher Conferences Translation Guide

Does the phrase “parent/teacher conference” cause you to sweat and break out in hives? Maybe you had a negative experience as a child or perhaps you always leave feeling overwhelmed and confused. Parent-teacher conferences are part of the school experience and raising children, and it’s important to understand what your child’s educator is telling you so that you can best support your child at home. 

Many parents and caregivers want to help their child with reading but feel confused by all the educational jargon that is coming home on notes and report cards. I’m here to help! 

In this handy Parent-Teacher Conferences Translation Guide, I am going to clarify a few common terms and have you helping your child in no time! 

Reading Level 

This is a term used to assess and monitor how your child is reading compared to other students his/her age. Reading levels can be subjective, but they are based on the difficulty of words, grammar, sentence structure, and other components. There are several different types of leveled coding used to assess reading levels in children. Your child might be assigned a letter or number grade, a Developmental Reading Assessment score (DRA), or Lexile score. 

Tutor Tip: Ask your child’s teacher what skills to look for at their level!


Phonics is matching the letter sound with the letter name. You might see an activity where the child has to look at a picture and then circle the letter that makes the starting sound of that picture.  

Tutor Tip – A student that has mastered phonics can easily recognize the letter and knows the sound that goes with it. 

A mother works on phonics with her child.

Phonemic Awareness 

Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate letter sounds.  Phonemic awareness is the understanding of sounds in speech.

Tutor Tip – Phonemic and Phonological skills are foundational! Make sure your child can rhyme, blend sounds, and segment sounds. If they can segment sounds they know that CAT has 3 sounds – c,a,t.  

Vowel Patterns 

There are six vowel patterns that cover most words in the English language. They are the closed vowel pattern, open vowel pattern, silent e pattern, bossy r pattern, vowel team pattern, and the “c+le” pattern.

Vowel PatternNonsense WordReal Word
closed voweltetcat
open vowelpowe
Silent efodecake
Bossy Rmurbird
Vowel Teambainrain
Vowel Pattern Chart

Tutor Tip – make a chart in your home and collect words that fall into each of these patterns.


Decoding is a critical skill needed for reading. In order to decode or “sound out” a word, the student must be able to say the individual letter sounds and also blend them together.

Tutor Tip – Play with letters and words! Draw your letters in sand or shaving cream. Use letter tiles to build words. Boggle junior is a great way to practice!


Encoding is the ability to transfer spoken sounds into written words.

Tutor Tip – Practice dictation with your child. Start by saying individual letter sounds, then small words, and work up to sentences. You say the sound and they write the letter that goes with that sound. 


Syllables are the sound parts of a word and each syllable has to have a vowel. For example, the word “apple” is two syllables. “ap*ple.”

Tutor Tip – Play Guess my Word! You say the syllables of a word and your child has to put them together to guess your word.


A fluent reader is no longer decoding every word, but able to recognize and read the words he/she sees accurately, at an appropriate rate, and with expression. 

Tutor Tip – Read poetry! Reading poetry is a great way to practice reading fluency. I love using Shel Silberstein or Jack Prelutszky with my students. 


Reading comprehension is the ability to understand what is being read and then integrate that information with what is already known.

Tutor Tip – Have book talks with your child! Ask them questions about the characters, setting, and plot. Stretch their thinking beyond the text with questions like, “Which character would you most want to be friends with and why?”

Here are a few tips to help you create a culture of literacy in your home!

1. Let your child read whatever they want. 

Sometimes parents feel concerned that their child isn’t reading the “right” books. Go to the library and check out all the books on a topic that your child is interested in, and pour through these books together. 

2. Make reading fun. 

If you find you’re battling with your child about reading, take the pressure off and make it fun. Let them stay up later than normal, as long as they’re reading. Make a special reading nook and decorate it with your child. Read by flashlight in a fort that you make together! Use reading as a reward, not a punishment.

3. Read to your child. 

Read to your child as much as you can. We have this belief that it has to be before bed, but it doesn’t! Read out loud when it works for you! Maybe you read after school or in the mornings while your child brushes his teeth. You can read short stories, poems, news articles, or other genres. 

A mother reads a book with her child.

If you think your child is struggling, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

* Ask for a meeting with your child’s teacher and school support staff. It’s best if you can meet in person and have the teacher show you examples of books that are at your child’s level.  

* Ask the teacher to show you samples of your child’s work.

* Ask for specific activities and games to target her areas of weakness.

If you’re working with the school and implementing greater reading practice at home, but you’re still dissatisfied with your results, you may want to consider hiring a private tutor to target your child’s specific learning gaps and challenges. Contact me to set up a consultation and assessment. 

About the Author Ashley DiMercurio