Selecting Samples of Student's Work

Building a student portfolio isn't something that happens over night or just at the end of a school year. In fact, it is best done little by little throughout the entire school year. By starting your child's portfolios early, the task is quite manageable.

Each year, I compile a student portfolio to showcase my child's school work. Prior to the start of the school year, I obtain a large three ring binder, which usually gets some decorative paper inserted into the cover to make it pretty. Then I set about printing off a title page. The title page includes student's name, grade level, school year, and school name. Once this is done, I shelve the binder and await the student's completed work.

{math test}

As the year progresses, I keep a keen eye out for good samples of my child's work. Notice I didn't say perfect papers. Showcasing perfection is not the goal of a portfolio. Displaying growth is. I use the following criteria for deciding if a sample should be included or not.

Samples of student's work should display...
  • positive examples of their current abilities. Your child bombed a test even though they knew the material - don't include that!
  • progress. Work showing improvement over time like the writing process for a paper are excellent examples which clearly showcases progress. Additionally, selecting samples from the beginning, middle, and end of a school year easily demonstrates growth.
  • proof of education. By pulling together samples of a student's own work, you are clearly offering evidence that you did in fact teach your child throughout the school year. As someone who has reviewed portfolios for years, I want to see your student's actual work, not a listing of accomplishments with no substance to validate these claims.

The goal of a portfolio is to display growth over the entire school year.

{worksheet from Travel the World lessons}

A child's portfolio should answer these questions:

Has this child...
  • learned anything?
  • been exposed to great ideas?
  • participated in a neat club or activity?
  • visited a unique place?
  • read a variety of books?
  • shown a particular interest or talent, and developed it?
  • grown in any area of life/study?

Choose samples which help answer any and all of these questions.

{project from Exploring Biomes of the World lessons}

5W's and 1H of Selecting Student's Work Samples:

Who should choose the samples? You, as their teacher and parent, are the ideal candidate. You know your child's strengths and weaknesses, and can best decide which worksheets, papers, projects, and tests to include.

What kind of samples? Samples should reflect the type of work done throughout the school year. If your child writes written summaries/narrations twice a week, then you should include some of these in the portfolio. If your child learns best by filling in worksheets and taking a weekly quiz, then include some samples of each.

When should the samples be picked? Ideally, throughout the entire school year, you can and should be adding to the portfolio.

Where should I look for samples? Major projects, papers, and tests are easily identified as samples to potentially include, but don't overlook daily seat work. Sometimes, daily practice better showcases a student's progress than tests. Try to include a little of everything your child does.

How many samples? Major subjects, which are those the child spends more time studying or working through, should be represented with more samples. Minor subjects, though important and need represented, should not have as many samples as a major subject does.

Why should I do all this work? Most importantly, it is easier to build a student portfolio by focusing on the why. A portfolio offers you and your student:
  • Remembrance - One day, you and your student's will look back on their work and school years with great fondness. A portfolio will offer you a way to remember the activities from each year.
  • Sense of Accomplishment - Over the course of one year, your student will accomplish a lot. They will learn and grow in many ways. A portfolio showcases some of these.
  • Proof of Education and Academic Progress - In addition to these two benefits, a portfolio is a handy way to prove your student has received an education.

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