Do these stacks look familiar? Like many teachers at this time of year, I find myself buried in piles of students work while desperately searching Pinterest for a cute solution. After several unsuccessful searches, I finally found my answer at my local grocery store. Here are 5 tips to replicate these easy, yet impressive student portfolios while keeping students engaged and focused (a true feat at the end of the year):
1. Get a class set of brown grocery bags (handles are preferred). Sounds simple enough, right? These bags serve as the portfolios; they are the perfect size to hold a variety of projects and the handles help students transport them easily. Allow students to decorate bags with Sharpies or markers (they love this and it will take up some time, an added benefit).
2. Meet the authors. My students love to read biographical information about authors so we study back covers from a few of their favorite writers to determine what should be included in their own versions. I divide the class into groups of 4 and give them a few copies of books with biographical information included. Students discuss similarities and differences between each and brainstorm a list of what should be included in their biographical paragraphs. I model writing my own Meet the Author using sentence frames. As students write, I photograph them and put photos on top of their biographical paragraphs. I laminate them and then glue them to the front of the portfolios.
3. Record contents. I type up a list of the writing pieces we completed throughout the year and the students help me put them in chronological order. Students then decorate these content pages with Sharpie and I glue them on the back of the portfolios.
4. Plan a celebration. Each year I am always amazed at the quantity and quality of students’ writing and the tremendous progress they make through the year; they truly become published authors. Celebrate students’ hard work and success with an Author’s Tea. Pick a time and date (I always choose a Friday from 1:00-2:00) and have students make a personalized invitation to family members. I include an RSVP section so I know how many family members are coming. If family can’t come, I recruit other staff and my own family members. I also provide a variety of refreshments for the Author’s Tea (you can also ask for donations).
5. Practice and prepare. On the day of the Author’s Tea, we spend an hour practicing and preparing for the big event. First I select a student to be my parent and I model welcoming my parent, getting refreshments and explaining my portfolio. I give my “parent” a list of questions to ask (these are common questions parents will ask) as I explain and share my portfolio. I pre-select partners; one student is the child, one is the parent. They practice sharing and listening and then switch roles. Finally we prepare for our guests; we have a cleaning, set up refreshments and pack-up before families arrive. Students welcome their guests and share portfolios. While they share, I walk around and take photos. When students finish, they go home and take portfolios with them.
These amazingly easy portfolios keep students engaged and productive while creating lasting memories for all involved.