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15 thoughts on “Portfolios”

  1. Hi Angela,
    I am a beginner at TCI, so have no years of expertise. I am also trying to go paperless like Ben. That said, I am using those “old school” black &white composition books for anything that they do on paper: quick quizzes, dictations, translations, freewrites. Mostly I do this because otherwise I’d drown under piles of loose paper, and I would definitely lose something. They also have the advantage that they are self-documenting. Kids write the date at the top of the page whenever we do something in them!

    Obviously this is not really a portfolio, but I just realized I can use them in this way for parent conferences! Our 8th graders are doing “parent-student” conferences next week, so they can use them to give their parents a “tour” of what they’ve done. That is about as complicated as I want to get.

    Just thinking on my feet here–I guess I also have hard copies of the class stories. Each kid has a folder to file these. I do this only because technology is so sketchy at school that I cannot depend on a computer/projector actually working when I need it, so we have to do all our reading classes by using hard copies. So these can be used to ??? maybe have kids read a story to their parents? I suppose I could assign them homework to illustrate their favorite story?

    Just a few things that I am doing. Nothing fancy.

  2. Angela I have used those composition books for years until a few years ago when I realized that I didn’t ask the kids to write enough (level 1) to justify the purchase. However, if you do a fair amount of freewrites and dictee, then you can get student work to show parents. They work as long as you write enough.

  3. This year I have been using the composition books with my first year students. Here is the good and bad, based on my experience so far.

    1. students won’t lose their notes, since the books don’t leave the room. And three-ring binders don’t really work for most students–papers just rip out.
    2. reduces clutter on the desk. They can only have comp. books on the desk and a pen/pencil, nothing else.
    3. Emphasizes that written work, even notes, is not meant to be taken home and memorized
    4. Keeps all written work in one place, and allows me, them, and parents/administrators to see their progress.

    1. if you teach a section in more than one classroom, it can be difficult to take them back and forth. I have one section which meets once a week in another room far away, and I try to avoid having them use them on that day.
    2. If you need to review/grade work off-campus, it’s a lot more to carry with you. However, this keeps you from taking work home, which is positive.
    3. It is still something on the desk.

    I will probably continue to use them.

  4. I like your pro/con list. Here is how I avoid a few of the “cons”:

    1. Kids do most work, except for dictation, on a separate sheet of paper. Sometimes, it’s just a little quarter sheet for a five-item quiz. I can easily carry this work home if I need to. (Sometimes, I just have them glue it in and decide later if I want to score it or not. ) If a kid is absent and it’s glue time, they write what the missing assignment was on the blank page in the book, and I literally never forget to have them make it up.

    2. Kids glue the sheets (work) into the comp book sideways on the day the quiz/free write/etc. is corrected or handed back. I do nothing = my favorite part. (They fold over a little “eyelash” at the top of the page–about 3/4″– toward the back, only apply glue stick on the eyelash, glue sheet close to the inner binding sideways, fold their paper to the left so it fits inside the book–if it’s a full 8-1/2 x 11. They like covering up their score so that no one can see it unless they unfold the paper out. Go figure.)

    3. The comp book is only on the desk during dictation time or glue time. Otherwise, it’s on the shelf.

    4. I don’t use full-sized comp books–way too big and too many pages. I use something like this: http://tinyurl.com/7hrjq3h

    It has just twenty pages. Only $1.19/ea. Much better on the pocketbook. Keeps me from having them save junk work that just doesn’t matter. Here’s the one with forty pages: http://tinyurl.com/6no7rp4 $1.59–still a bargain

  5. Thanks for the great ideas guys. I started out last year with the composition book, but I was teaching multiple sections in different classrooms, and it got too overwhelming for me to keep up with. I’m hoping that I can streamline and simplify the process as I start a new semester and I want to incorporate portfolios. I think that I may stick with the composition books and use some of your ideas with my students.

  6. One more note. “Portfolio” is one of those education buzz words that is meant to bring to mind all of the ideals of student-centered, creative, differentiated curricula, but in practice the products often lack substance. For many language teachers (including myself) student portfolios have contained all the junk that has no relation to language acquisition–with the occasional forced essay thrown in. Again it comes back to unreasonable expectations of student production in the first year(s). I am moving further and further away from these kinds of collections of random student work. If by “portfolio” we simply mean a collection of student work, and that work is level-appropriate, it will probably not be very exciting, but can be used as evidence.

    Another way to exhibit evidence would be to create a book for each class or each year, containing the class stories, interspersed with student illustrations of those stories (either full drawings or comic-book format). This is something I will try to assemble at the end of the year, and which I think will be compelling evidence for imaginative and linguistic achievement by the entire class, not just the stars. Also, when students come back to visit they can re-visit the stories, which many of them will probably remember.

  7. …student portfolios have contained all the junk that has no relation to language acquisition–with the occasional forced essay thrown in….

    I am so glad somebody finally said this. What does a portfolio have to do with comprehensible input? It’s output. John says that creation of class evidence, a book or video, is another way to do a portfolio but really it may be the only real way of showing evidence.

    I guess, like Jody said, that you can put in free writes and count words and throw in some dictees, but, as output, they were forced, and, as forced, do not align with my own definition of portfolio, which I see as containing work that was not required. Like Krashen says about reading, it has to be unforced and enjoyable work, in my opinion. I think that portfolios are just more bullshit that the kids have to do.

    Now, if a kid makes a portfolio and keeps a comp book out of passion for the class, that is another story. But I think that record keeping of any sort is part of the old model that evidence and records belong in schools. All the collecting of evidence and data must consume a very large percentage of my district’s budget, as in millions and millions and millions of dollars. And what does it do for kids? Nothing.

    1. It helps me “see” the bigger picture. It is not just scores in a computer program. I can see progress over time (or not). I can see evidence of improving fluency (or not). I can grab my lowest kid’s and my highest kid’s and compare them to inform my teaching. It is the easiest tool I know of to use when talking to a parent or an administrator about a child’s real progress.

  8. And so we differ and that is fine. The difference is in styles. Jody is a real teacher who actually wants to know if her kids are learning. So the portfolios have value to her. I am a fake teacher who just wants to hang with my kids in the target language and be lazy. So the portfolios have no value to me. I think that Angela is probably a real teacher and they will work for her. To be honest, that is one of my main interests in TPRS. It allows me to be employed even though I am not a teacher and I am ever so lazy. That is how great this method is – even lazy people like moi can succeed at it.

  9. Our entire school is portfolio based. We do not hand out grades. That said, there is a lot of paper collecting so that we can be accountable. But our emphasis to our students is that they select their best work for their portfolio. Because the portfolio is their accounting of what they learned. The teachers keep track of scores to back that up for parents. The students and parents come in for a portfolio conference twice a year.

    But like I said, there is a lot of paper collecting for accountability. I like the ideas you’ve suggested above. But John’s rung out to me. I know that when classes create their own books, these are what individuals pick up most often. What a great success they can be for free reads!

  10. Angela Williams

    Ben, I try to be a real teacher 🙂 In our district (Savannah-Chatham), we are moving to a new eval system (CLASS Keys) that will require us to submit student work as evidence of our best teaching pratices. Anyone have any experience with this??

    I really love your suggestion John about creating a class book/portfolio. Maybe I could even let the students pick which items could go in the class book???? Sounds like a plan, I’ll think about it as the semester begins and see what i can come up with.

  11. Plus, Angela, the amount of tech that you could use in making such a book is huge. People would just love that. I expect some useful comments on this topic from blog members, so that you can have as many of the best kinds of evidences possible. Nothing wrong with playing the game if it can be done where it doesn’t cost class CI minutes, which is the strength of all we read from jen this weekend – not losing CI minutes to bullshit. Her determination to not use CI minutes is my big take away from the excellent stuff she sent us this weekend, which made us all better teachers just reading it and thank you jen for the way you stare down ignorance.

    By the way, our newest blog member seems to be a very conscious teacher in Charleston. With you in Savannah and her in Charleston, this could be the start of something real in the Carolinas. If you guys want, I can come down at some point. I go back to Myrtle Beach/Charleston from time to time. Susan Gross went to Charleston 8 years ago, but it didn’t spring anybody loose, as far as I can tell. And there’s a guy in Orangeburg doing this as well.

  12. The “class book” idea really resonates with me. I have had numerous requests from students to put all the stories we have done/are going to do this year in a book for them to keep as a memento. Especially the students who will be going on to another teachers are pushing to have those stories as keepsakes. Plus, these books might come in handy for future classes, either as parallel readings or for use during FVR.

  13. When Lori and Michelle did their embedded reading process at NTPRS last year, I was inspired. I have been putting the stories we write in Power Point and then adding our additions after each session. It makes it easy to whip it into a mini-book for reading later. I’d love to read some more of their ideas on this.

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