Sunday, February 15, 2009

Time/Portfolios...How do you balance?

I'm finishing my last class for my Pre-K Disabilities Endorsement. This week our discussion has been centered on portfolio construction. There are two common threads upon which most of my classmates agree:

1) Portfolios are a great way to document student growth.

2) Constructing portfolios takes an enormous amount of teacher time.

In the class I teach at the community college, I am constantly telling my students to ask themselves "So what?" We've learned a new concept. We've been reminded about something we already know, but haven't been implementing. So what? My purpose is in asking them "so what?" is to get them to think about the action component. We can learn many new ideas, but if we don't apply the concept or the theory to our practice, then so what?

So here's my "so what" about portfolio construction.

By no means do I think the students in my class have the greatest portfolio, there are always things at the end of the year that I wish I had done, but my assistant and I are getting better at it each year. The trouble with portfolios is that they are so vague. We have CARE portfolios, work files and portfolios...what goes where and what information is important? How do you categorize information? How do you access information needed daily? Where do you keep it?

I currently have three systems that I think help me organize my data.

1) The student's portfolio (This is 4 inch three ring binder. We put plastic page protectors in it at the beginning of the year. We add work samples inside the page protectors as the year progresses.)

2) The student's work folder (This is a file folder in my desk drawer.)

3) My anecdotal record book (This is a smaller 3 ring binder with page dividers. Each student has a section. I keep this behind my desk so I can easily pull it out at any point in the day and jot down an anecdotal or other data.)

Between the work files, the anecdotal record book and the portfolios, we usually have pretty good examples of the student's skill development and continuing challenges.

Here is the list of things that I keep in my student portfolios:

1)Digital pictures of classroom activities glued to construction paper. The child chooses a picture and then tells about the activity for a language sample. (we do approx 1 per month during small group the end of the year I typically have 8-10 language samples)

2)Self portrait (one at the beginning of the year one at the end...again done during small group time)

3)Work samples from units (we pick 4 units from the year and keep 2 or 3 samples from each of the 4 units. Out of the two or three samples, the student then chooses one of them to talk about/reflect on. We end up with a total of 4 pieces for their student led conference.)

4)Any random/miscellaneous piece that I think really showcases skill development (i.e. one girl was drawing picture about a recent field trip to Mote Marine. I asked her if she could write the sounds for the pictures she was writing she wrote "stnra" and "rjn" (stingray and urchin)...I wasn't planning on keeping that piece when we started the activity,but for her I did because it was such a great example of her writing development. Another boy made the coolest picture of a robot by cutting and gluing scraps when we were making collages. I didn't plan on keeping his when we started but it was such a neat showcase of his fine motor and visual spatial skills that I kept his.)

In work folders I keep the following:

1) Brigance data (This is the assessment inventory that my district is currently using.)

2) Daily reports if the child has one

3) Any notes from home/school

4) Any discipline/referral documentation

5) Copies of IEPs and quarterly progress reports

In my anecdotal record book I keep:

1) Anecdotals (running log from day to day, I file these in the work file at the end of the year)

2) Any RtI data and intervention forms (when we go to CARE I pull the documentation and put it in my work file)

3 things help me the most with portfolios/work files.

1) My assistant rocks! I give her a list of the things I want in the portfolios and approximate time frames and she helps to remind me....we haven't done a language sample in a while, we don't have anything in the portfolio for this unit, etc. She also helps me file work samples during nap time when we have one of those rare days and every child is sleeping.

2) We schedule structured small groups every Tuesday and Thursday so if I need something for the portfolio we can build it into small group lessons during the day.

3) I almost always take at least some portion of my planning time. Pre-k teachers seem to always end up fighting for their plan time. Some teachers don't take it and some teachers can't take it. We need it. I build it into our schedule and take at least a portion of it almost every day. This is when I can look at work samples, file daily reports, write progress reports etc.

What do you include in your portfolios? What systems do you use to help you keep up with the work load? I'd love to hear others' ideas on how to keep authentic examples of student work in practical ways for teachers!