With two weeks left in our school year, it is at last time to begin putting together our writing portfolios, setting aside some time to time travel through our year of writing workshop, and reflect upon both the progress we’ve made as writers as well as the goals we’d like to set for the new school year. In my first year of teaching, I simply collected together my students’ writing folders and handed them over on the last day of school. What a mistake…and what a lost opportunity! In their haste to get out of the building and begin summer at last, many of these portfolios were left behind in hallways, or simply tossed aside – too much to have to carry to the “let the summer begin!” festivities. I remember looking sadly upon all those scattered pieces of writing, work that we have spent so much time creating and refining, and making a promise to do better.
After every piece of writing has gone through the writing process (drafting/revising/editing/publishing), my students file away their writing in two folders: “Work” – all their drafts and revision in chronological order, from first draft to final revised piece, and “Published”: the final typed version, with its rubric:
we store these folders in our Portfolio Center:
and move on to our next genre study cycle, never to look upon them until this time of year. Over the next two weeks, I revisit each student’s sets of folders with the mission to find two stars and a suggestion – “here are two wonderful ways in which you developed as a writer, and here’s a suggestion for next year.” Each student gets a short note in which I share this, along with a photograph taken of them from one of the many writing celebrations we have shared.
On the day each student gets back his or her folder, we spend a class period just looking over these folders and re-reading bits and pieces of old work. I love listening in as my kids rediscover their memoir worthy moments, or marvel at all the work they put into their feature articles or persuasive letters and essays. We always make time to share thoughts about our writing journey: what we discovered about ourselves, what we struggled with, what we excelled at, and where we want to go next . These conversations give my students a chance to reflect and celebrate their work, and they also give me insight into what I need to improve/fine tune about writing workshop next year.
I am, of course, under no illusion that my students will ever revisit this collection of writing again. Some may store them away in memory boxes (as I did, for my own children), some may “lose” them somewhere between home and school that very day. But I, their teacher, feel much better about surrendering these writing folders with this one last look at their sixth grade writing year.
How do you “surrender” your students’ writing portfolios? Please leave a comment, and let us know!
I teach Writing Workshop, Language Arts and Social Studies to sixth graders at a middle school in suburban New Jersey. This blog is my attempt to capture all the "stuff" that goes into my teaching life - the planning, the dreaming, the reading, the preparing, the hoping and (above all) the kids.
Please note that the content of this blog is my own. It does not reflect the opinions of my employer.