Spirals and Portfolios – Professional Development Series

Check out the third video in my professional development series – suggestions on using spirals and writing portfolios in the classroom:

More about spirals (or comp. books, or binders)

Binders and spirals and composition books, oh my (Mrs. Gannon): https://mrsgannon.wordpress.com/2009/07/24/binders-and-spirals-and-composition-notebooks-oh-my/

This teacher comes to a similar conclusion I did, except she’s willing to pay a little extra for comp books to avoid the spirals snagging and getting tangled:

Personally, I prefer composition notebooks for their consistency, relative durability and inexpensiveness, and organizational properties.  I really like having all of my students “on the same page”, and it is very obvious during parent conferences when work is “missing” because of all the blank pages. In a binder, there aren’t blank pages for the missing work and the visual isn’t as apparent.

Teaching Organization with Notebook Checks (Mrs. Huff): http://www.huffenglish.com/teaching-organization-with-notebook-checks/

This teacher describes how she conducts notebook checks (for a grade) and compares it to a couple of other methods she observed and didn’t like.

Interactive Notebook Wiki: http://interactive-notebooks.wikispaces.com/

This site has a great deal of information about Interactive Student Notebooks (ISNs), both theory (including Marzano strategies) and practice.

More about writing folders/portfolios

Authentic Assessment Toolbox (Jon Mueller): http://jfmueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/toolbox/portfolios.htm

This is a good discussion of the various ways to use a portfolio: anywhere from a collection of all writing to an assessment of growth in a certain area to a collection of the student’s best work. Here’s an excerpt:

Furthermore, in the more thoughtful portfolio assignments, students are asked to reflect on their work, to engage in self-assessment and goal-setting. Those are two of the most authentic skills students need to develop to successfully manage in the real world. Research has found that students in classes that emphasize improvement, progress, effort and the process of learning rather than grades and normative performance are more likely to use a variety of learning strategies and have a more positive attitude toward learning. Yet in education we have shortchanged the process of learning in favor of the products of learning. Students are not regularly asked to examine how they succeeded or failed or improved on a task or to set goals for future work; the final product and evaluation of it receives the bulk of the attention in many classrooms. Consequently, students are not developing the metacognitive skills that will enable them to reflect upon and make adjustments in their learning in school and beyond.

Portfolios provide an excellent vehicle for consideration of process and the development of related skills. So, portfolios are frequently included with other types of authentic assessments because they move away from telling a student’s story though test scores and, instead, focus on a meaningful collection of student performance and meaningful reflection and evaluation of that work.

Portfolios That Make a Difference: A Four-Year Journey (National Writing Project): http://www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/resource/237

This teacher spent four years really working on writing portfolios and trying to figure out what practices actually helped her students. Her conclusions in Year Four remind me of my own conclusions in my 10th year of teaching (see my Targeted Writing Conferences video for more info):

What could I do about these concerns? I decided I needed a more fluid approach to grading. Students needed to be able to revise their writing to raise their grades.

The biggest change was that after “portfolio days,” which occurred every six to eight weeks and were devoted to finding and assessing writing pieces, students had a week for revision. Many students did not like their work or their grades and were not aware of how badly they were doing until we set aside those few days to review all their writing. They could change their grades or evaluations by redoing, rethinking, revising, or just editing their work. When I gave them this time, I found that they were happier about writing and felt more in control of their own grades and their own growth.

Every year as I make my plans, I make sure to specify times and dates for portfolio assessment and for portfolio rewrite days. I make sure that I have days and times when students can discuss their reflections with me before I evaluate the portfolios. Students experience their own voices, and I hear them in a whole new way. When I read their letters, I am often humbled and moved by what students discover about themselves and their writing.

Using Portfolios to Empower Student Writers (Cooper and Brown, NCTE): https://faculty.unlv.edu/nagelhout/ENG714f10/CooperandBrownUsingPortfolios.pdf

The two authors, one a middle school teacher and the other a high school teacher, describe how their approach to portfolio assessment evolved over a three-year period. In the conclusion, they describe how using and reflecting on their writing portfolios benefited students:

We have come to believe that, when students become more conscious of the many decisions they make in order to improve their writing, when they begin to be aware of the processes they must engage in to produce effective writing, and when they finally look over a body of their work,judging it against a set of criteria they have developed and internalized, they are engaged in the kind of thinking characteristic of writers.

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