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Portfolio Take 3

April 27, 2012

Teacher Musings:
A couple of weeks ago my students wrapped up the third term of the year, and therefore their third round of portfolios for my class.  This has been a new way I graded my students this year.  I based my portfolio system a bit on the great book on English Curriculum Development by Bruce Penniman and a bit on ideas I have gotten from various resources over the years.  Here is a basic timeline of what a typical 9 week term looks like for me with this system:

Weeks 1-6: A general thematic unit (which might involve reading a novel, short stories, non-fiction, poetry, etc.)  Within these weeks students complete at least three reading logs (that require them to closely analyze sections of text) and write at least two pieces (such as commentary, expository essay, narrative, etc.)

Week 7: Students revise and develop two of their reading logs and one of their pieces of writing that they then to include in their portfolio.  This week usually involves significant instruction around the aspects of these pieces that I have found students to struggle the most with.  In terms 1 and 2 students simply revised their reading logs.  In term three students used reading logs to develop a literary analysis essay.

Week 8: Students continue to revise, and type, their final portfolio pieces.  Portfolios are due on Thursday.  I grade them all over the weekend (I have 90 students) and make VERY limited comments.  Students get a score on a rubric for “literary analysis” and a score on their writing.  However, if their work does not meet the lowest standards on the rubric (including standards for spelling, grammar, etc.) students get a “revise and resubmit” score.  Also, the portfolio is worth 60% of their term grade.

Week 9: Students either revise their work if necessary, or do an extra-credit project.  At the end of the week students present their portfolios in some form.

Here is what WORKED with this portfolio system:

  • Students actually revise their work.  During the unit I make a ton of comments on their reading logs and writing assignments, and they do multiple drafts.  Students generally use my comments to improve their work for the portfolio since that is what a week and a half is dedicated to.
  • I spend less time grading and more time assessing.  I get to make a ton of comments that each kid needs, rather than worrying about their score.  Then, at the end, I score their portfolio work but don’t spend time with comments, which allows me to complete my grading much quicker.
  • Instead of using a different rubric for every assignment, I comment on their work during the term with the final rubric in mind.  That final rubric is the SAME for the whole year, so students (and I) get to know it really well.  Students also get very invested in improving on the rubric rather than simply improving a “grade.”
  • Students who have an off week, or some other temporary issue have an opportunity to still pass in the end.  This can also be a detrimental aspect since some students think they can just slack off until the end.  The ones that have tried this has failed because they haven’t developed the skills needed to pass, but the fact that a couple kids think they can get away with this is a problem.
  • Requiring students to revise and resubmit unsatisfactory work has helped me deal with the problem of student writing that has ideas in it, but that has serious spelling and grammar issues.  Instead of just failing kids for this, or letting them move along with a low, but passing, grade, the revise and resubmit option has lead to students working harder to edit their work then I have ever had them work before.

Things that I need to IMPROVE

  • There needs to be more synthesis, not just revision, in the final portfolio, especially with literary analysis.  This last term I had students develop a literary analysis essay using their reading logs.  This required a lot more work and a lot more thinking on their part than simply “revising” their reading logs did.  I need to do something like this for every portfolio.
  • Students need to present and defend their portfolio.  I’m trying to figure out a way for them to do this given the time constraints of the class.  I’m also wondering if there is a way to use digital portfolios to make their work more public, and therefore hold the students accountable to an audience other than me.
  • I also need a better system for students who don’t need to revise and resubmit.  Right now my “extra-credit” assignment is somewhat lame.  I think that those students should also be developing a presentation about something they teach to the rest of the class.  I’m just not sure how to make time for that.

Overall, I’m very, very happy I used this portfolio system this year, and I look forward to continuing with it.  I think that ultimately this system has allowed me to really say that my grades demonstrate my students true performance, not just the number of worksheets they turned in.  And that was ultimately my goal” grades that reflect skill development!

Yummy Stuff:

Tonight we made a delicious dinner from Vegan on the Cheap.  I added a few “splurges” but the recipe was pretty close, and a pretty easy way to have a delicious dinner!

Potato, White Bean, Sun-dried Tomato Roast

4 medium Yukon gold potatoes
1-2 TB olive oil
4 crushed garlic cloves
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes (dry, not the ones in oil)
1/3 cup pitted and chopped Kalamata olives
1 can of artichoke hearts in water, drained and halved
1  1/2 cups (one can ) of white beans
2 TB chopped parsley
1/2 TB lemon juice

1) Preheat the oven to 400.  Peel and cut the potatoes up into two-inch chunks. 
2) Combine the potatoes, garlic and 1 TB of olive oil in a large casserole dish.  Stir around until everything is coated with oil.  The potatoes should be mostly one layer (but some overlap is fine). Bake for 45 minutes.
3) Boil some water and pour it over the sun-dried tomatoes.  Let them sit with the hot water for at least 10 minutes until they are fully hydrated.  Chop up the other goodies while you wait!  Then, when the tomatoes are rehydrated pull them out of the water and chop them up into small pieces.
4) When the potatoes are done pull the dish out of the oven and mix in all the other ingredients.  Stir until all the ingredients are mixed around.  If necessary, add in a bit more olive oil.  Bake for another 10 minutes and enjoy!  We paired this with some whole-wheat biscuits for a delicious dinner!


From → Assessment, Dinner

  1. Thank you so much for posting this. I’ve thought about portfolio assessments a lot, and struggle with the details. We need to talk about this more – you’re an inspiration once again :).

    • I seriously struggle with the details too – and as you know I have a hard time trying something out without the details in place. But I think this year was a good compromise – there is a ton a would change, but it is a good start. Can’t wait to talk about it more!!!

  2. Awesome combo of portfolios and food! I worked on making portfolios active and effective in the upper elementary grades, and I found that each year I did well in some areas and had to improve others. There were years when something I thought I had nailed slipped again and had be be focused on again. Good luck, and I’ll be looking at your recipies, too.

    • Thanks for the comment! I also have that experience of losing focus on something I thought I really nailed, only to have to refocus on it. I think it comes with the teaching territory 😉 I would love to hear more about how you used portfolios in the upper elementary grades – any and all examples help me learn!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. An Ode to Colleagues « English Teachin' Vegan
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  3. The End-of-the-Year Number Crunch – to Pass or not to Pass? « English Teachin' Vegan
  4. English Teachin' Vegan
  5. A System that Works (Part III of the Assessment Series) « English Teachin' Vegan

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