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Tips on Planning & Organizing Student Portfolios

By Kellie Hayden

Portfolios are a wonderful educational tool. However, it is helpful to plan what needs to go into a working portfolio and a final portfolio so that students can be organized and nothing gets lost!

What Goes In?

Portfolios can be used in most academic areas. A working portfolio is a body of work that a student is currently working on in the class. It can include brainstorming, rough drafts, partially finished drafts, final copies and published work. The final portfolio can include a list of required items and student selected items, or it can include what the student deems as his or her best work.

Portfolios can be organized in many ways. The assessment of the portfolio is discussed in Part 3 of this series of lessons on portfolios. The following is an example of what could be included in a middle school language arts classroom.

Working Portfolio

To learn tips on how to store and organize the portfolio, go to Part 1 of this series of lessons. To decide what types of writing to place in the portfolio, teachers should look at their writing content standards.

For example, an eighth grade language arts portfolio could include the following types of writing:

  • narrative
  • response to literature
  • business letter
  • informational essay
  • research paper
  • persuasive essay

The topic for the types of writing is the student's choice. And, the student could write one or several pieces for each type. In addition, the student could self-select different types of writing not listed, such as speeches, poetry, friendly letters, a Power Point presentation, etc. It is helpful to assign students to write on a weekly basis.

The teacher should teach lessons on each type of required writing throughout the year. Students should go through the writing process for each type and save it in the working portfolio.

Final Portfolio or Showcase Portfolio

During the final grading period, students need to self-select an example of each type of required writing. They may select other writing pieces as well. The important part is that they are showcasing their best writing, and that they are showing growth as well.

The final portfolio could be in a three-ring binder, a plastic report folder or in any attractive folder or binder. All pieces should be neatly written or typed. It should list the items included and a reflection of strengths, weaknesses and growth in the student's writing.

The working portfolio and the final portfolio are two separate items that have separate focuses. However, they are both equally important. Portfolios are time consuming and take up classroom space, but the end result is priceless.