Children share their learning journeys through portfolios

At the very beginning of the year, we introduce the children to their portfolios. We explain that the portfolios were empty, but throughout the course of the year the children will add “learning stories” that will tell about their individual learning journeys throughout their time in Kindergarten.

Ryan’s big brother Aidan was in KC two years before, so we ask Ryan’s family if we could have a look at Aidan’s portfolio, as an example. The children are totally absorbed as we turn the pages of Aidan’s portfolio. They are captivated by a story Aidan had written about his baby. “That’s a fiction!” someone cried. The children all know Aidan, and they know he doesn’t have a baby. Suddenly Nia clicked! “It’s Ryan! He was a baby but now he’s not!”

Thanks to Aidan’s portfolio, the children see how their empty portfolios will be used to document their personal learning journeys. As the year progresses, the children select pieces of work to put in their portfolio to highlight their learning. They make decisions about how to mount their work and use the safety paper trimmer to present their work they way they want it. Some children type their own reflections, others dictate as adults scribe, the adults re-reading what they have typed so the children can check that their thoughts have been accurately recorded.

The children have ownership of their portfolios and are enormously motivated to select work to carefully place inside them as the year progresses. The children often choose to look at their own and each other’s portfolios during Free Inquiry times and reading times. They are excited about sharing their learning stories at their Celebration of Learning at the end of this term. These portfolios will provide a rich documentation of each child’s individual learning journey during their time in Kindergarten.

The children particularly want to share their learning journeys with their ELC teachers and with their friends who are still at the ELC. We email the ELC teachers to ask if we could come and visit. The ELC teachers reply they would be delighted to have us, so off we go, the children carefully clutching their portfolios.

Both groups of children were deeply engaged as they pour over the portfolios. There is a buzz of purposeful conversation as children ask and respond to questions. The KC children are clearly proud of their achievements and are able to talk about their work in depth. The ELC children are genuinely interested to hear about their older friends’ learning journeys.

The ELC children kindly made some cookies especially for us, which we all eat together before returning to the ‘big school’. This sharing session has been a wonderful student-led reflection on and celebration of the learning that has occurred this semester, made so much more powerful because the children have been in the driving seat.

13 thoughts on “Children share their learning journeys through portfolios

  1. Great post on portfolios! It’s so neat that you had the opportunity to visit the ELC and have your kids reflect back on their learning while also sharing it with a new group of students! It sounds like your kindergarten portfolios included typed work. Is any of the portfolio digital (i.e., an e-portfolio)?

    • Hi Maggie! At the moment are portfolios are hard copy. I’ve been wondering about going digital. I can see many, many advantages, particularly as much of the content is digital in the first place and I am having to reformat it for hard copy. The one reason that I am still working with hard copy is because the children gain so much, on so many different levels, from being able to pop things in their portfolios themselves and from taking the portfolios out and looking at them any time they want. The children have ownership over them and refer back to them frequently, sharing their achievements with peers, reflecting on past learning with parents, etc. I don’t know how to set up the portfolios digitally so that the children would have the same access and ownership. I’m sure it’s possible, I just don’t know how to do it. The iPad would be a great tool in terms of accessibility, with it’s light weight and intuitive swipe pages, but the flash limitations are a problem. And I don’t have a vision for how to format the portfolios so that the children would have the same ownership. Interested to hear what others are doing.

      • Hi Tasha,
        Keeping hard-copy portfolios so that the children can have more ownership over adding new pieces to the portfolio and also sharing it with peers and parents makes a lot of sense. It’s tough, with so many becoming digitized to find the right balance between what we put on paper and what we keep in the cloud or on our computers. One idea could be to try and do both – to create e-portfolios that can easily be shared digitally with parents and peers or sent to a new school/teacher but also printed, so children can have a hard-copy to hold and display. I know there are some subscription services that allow for this (e.g., Teaching Strategies, SchoolChapters) but they’re more teacher-based. Free sites (e.g. http://www.foliospaces.com/) or creating them through Google or WordPress (http://electronicportfolios.com/web20portfolios.html ) might provide more flexibility with child-ownership and ipads.

        • Thanks for the link to @happycampergirl’s post. So many interesting ways to manage digital portfolios. I think you are right about trying to do both. Seems to be the best balance as i think both hard copy and digital have got their place. For now, the class blog http://blogs.yis.ac.jp/cowdyt/ is a sort of class portfolio in that it’s a digital documentation of the children’s group learning stories. The next step is to set up something individual. A lot of people are using Evernote. Weebly is another possibility. Hmmmm! Much food for thought!

  2. Your classroom is truly inspirational! I am so excited to have found another K teacher in an IB school!! Our school is presently looking to re-vamp our portfolios to make them more meaningful. I have a couple of questions for you if you don’t mind :)
    - What type of book are the students using for their portfolios?
    - Do the student portfolios follow the children throughout their years at your school (or do they go home at the end of each year)?
    - Do you negotiate (or have any sort of guidelines) for the children about which pieces are added to their portfolios?
    - Do you schedule specific times for adding items to portfolios (if so, I’d love an idea of how often and how much time) or do the children just add at will?

    Thank you so much for sharing :)

    • Hi Sarah!
      We use A3 ring binders and plastic pockets.

      Our portfolios go home at the end of each year, as a documentation of their learning journey that year. We did talk about having a portfolio the children take from year to year, but there is too much work in the portfolio for this to be manageable. A possibility would be to have the children select a couple of pieces from their yearly portfolio to put in a portfolio that would accompany them from year to year, but this seemed to be adding an extra layer. We didn’t pursue this, although I know other schools have found ways to manage long term portfolios.

      As a school, we have agreed that the purpose of the portfolios is to show development and make learning visible, not to show case best work. Having trialled several different models for selecting work, I find that what works best for me and my students is for me to suggest that they might like to add a particular piece of work to their portfolio when they are working on it. Left to their own devices, the students want to put everything in. I find they need support in selecting the work. Each student has a folder in which to keep potential portfolio pieces. The children add to these folders all the time. The portfolios are stored where they are easily accessible to the children and the children regularly pull out their portfolios to browse through or share with a friend. At the beginning of a new month, the children and teachers go through the folders containing potential portfolio work and decide which work will go in.

      Sorry for such a long comment! Hope this helps.

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