Writing portfolios were a game-changer for me in my classroom. Before implementing them, I remember a student asking me for a certain story that she had written that she was really proud of and wanted to share. I didn’t have the story and she couldn’t find it in her writing folder. At some point, she may have taken it home or it just disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle of things that disappear in a classroom.
We never did find her story and it stuck with me the whole rest of the year. I knew I needed to implement a system for my students to store their writing pieces that they were most proud of. So, writing portfolios became the new norm in my classroom from that year on. On this post, I will share how we set them up, how we use them, and why you should consider writing portfolios.
Organizing Your Writing Portfolios
To organize my writing portfolios, I use the following materials:
- a crate or container to hold hanging file folders
- hanging file folders (one per student)
- file folder (one per student)
- downloadable Writing Portfolio forms —-> download the forms I use by clicking here.
The number labels and idea for the container came from Amy Groesbeck with The Animated Teacher. Click here to read her post about how she uses these containers and labels in her classroom.
Inside each hanging folder, is the students’ writing portfolio, which is just a file folder.
Inside the Writing Portfolio Folder
The students decorate their writing portfolio covers during the first week of school. It is then stapled to the outside of their file folder. I have a few different cover variations and I let them choose which they prefer.
Inside the folder is a stapled “table of contents” where the students record the title of their writing, the date it was written (or entered in the portfolio- your choice) and the genre or format of the writing. As they place a piece of writing in the portfolio, they complete the table of contents.
Selecting Pieces for the Writing Portfolio
Here are some general guidelines we follow when selecting pieces for the writing portfolio:
1.) Heavily student driven – The students choose the writing they want to put in their portfolio. While, I may add in writing pieces throughout the year, the majority of writing in the portfolios is selected by the students.
2.) There is an expectation of at least one writing per genre. – While the portfolios are heavily student-driven, I do have the expectation that they must include at least one piece per genre in their portfolio. This helps keep the portfolio well-rounded and shows the entire writer.
3.) Complete the “What I Learned From This Writing” form for each student selection. – After the students select writing pieces for their writing portfolios, they complete the form shown below, reflecting on what they learned about themselves as writers, what new techniques they learned or tried out, and why they chose this writing. They slide the writing piece and the completed form inside a page protector which goes in their portfolio. (Page protectors are optional and stapling the form to the writing would work just fine).
4.) The teacher puts in any pre-assessment writing, post-assessment writing, or other writing pieces that reflect the students’ growth.- I add in pieces throughout the year as well. I don’t use a specific form for my submissions but I will write notes as to why that piece was added to the portfolio. This is optional and you may choose to have your writing portfolios be completely student-selected.
Why Create Writing Portfolios?
* Creating writing portfolios shows the students that writing (and their writing!) is important and to be saved.
* Writing portfolios are a great way to show how much students have grown as writers throughout the year and through the different genres.
* Writing portfolios are also perfect for students to refer back to their own writing. When students are writing new pieces and want to refer back to a technique they used, they can easily refer to any writing they placed in their portfolios.
* Writing portfolios make excellent artifacts for student-led conferences.
* And finally (are you convinced yet?), you have a place to house all of those writing pieces that the students are proud of and you or your students will never lose a favorite writing story again (well, the chances are much slimmer.).
Do you use writing portfolios in your classroom? I would love to learn more about how you use them in the comments!
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