portfolio · technology · writing workshop

Digital Writing Portfolios

As an instructional coach (and a writer myself), I encourage teachers to use writing portfolios in their classrooms.  I suggest each student keep a portfolio which includes a sampling of his writing across the school year.  The portfolio should also include some sort of reflective component where the student is able to articulate what he did well as a writer and the ways in which he is working to improve his craft.  You can read about how my former district used writing portfolios here.  One minor issue facing the portfolio committee was whether to send completed writing pieces home or keep the pieces in the portfolio.  Some teachers sent pieces home for parents to see and asked for the pieces to be returned to school for placement in the portfolio.  Other teachers spent time copying pieces for the portfolio so they could send the original pieces home.

One way to resolve this problem and to increase communication with parents is to use digital writing portfolios.  I was recently introduced to SeeSaw, a platform for keeping digital student driven portfolios.  I have been experimenting with the app, using my own kindergarten-aged daughter as a sample student.  Take a look at some our entries.

This entry is a brief writing interview.  I simply asked Maddie what kind of writing she likes to do.  I could imagine an interview being the first (and last) entry of the school year.  When you click on the video to watch it within the SeeSaw platform, you will notice a small note underneath the video that reads “An interview with Maddie about her writing life.”  Students or teachers can easily add a note or explanation to the bottom of an entry, rather than always using a voice recording.

Click on picture to play.

This next entry is a sample of Maddie’s handwriting practice.  I chose to include this piece because using proper letter formation has been a struggle for Maddie so far this school year. You will notice the small blue circle around the ‘dd’ in her name.  Maddie used the SeeSaw app to draw a circle around her best letter.  Listen to how Maddie reflects on her growth this year (and how she attributes the growth to her hard work).

Click to hear audio recording.
Click on picture to hear audio recording.

This final entry is a sample of Maddie’s independent work.  She has been using her free choice time at daycare to write a book.  This is one of the pages.  I used the app to quickly draw a blue arrow highlighting the speech bubble.  Then, I used the audio recording feature to ask Maddie about it.

Click to play.
Click on picture to play.

In just three simple entries, you already have a picture of where Maddie is in her development as a writer.  We know she has some writing interests, she is working hard on letter formation, and she understands the use of speech bubbles.  More importantly, Maddie knows herself a bit better as a writer!  Sharing a collection such as this one would only take minutes during a parent-teacher conference.

Some other features of SeeSaw worth mentioning are:

  • It’s confidential.  Teachers need to approve parent access.  Parents who download the app can only view their own child’s portfolio.  (As Maddie’s parent, I chose to share access to her portfolio for you to see.)
  • It’s very easy to use.  Even the youngest of students can access the app by scanning a QR code.  Maddie had no trouble navigating the features.
  • Teachers can adjust the settings so students can offer feedback on their classmate’s portfolios.  I love this feature.

SeeSaw is just one platform to house digital student-driven portfolios.  You can also create digital portfolios using Google Drive, Evernote, or a number of other platforms.

If you have not started using writing portfolios with your students yet, give it a try.  Start a collection of their work and build in a system of reflection.  The portfolios could be physical or digital.  Giving students the opportunity to share and reflect on their own work is powerful.

7 thoughts on “Digital Writing Portfolios

  1. This fits perfect with our ELA-content leader discussion this week. We are deciding what to do with our writing folders that get passed on each year. This task has gotten more complex as we move into more digital writing. I will be sharing this post with our team.


  2. I learned about SeeSaw right before school started this year and took the plunge! I love it and my third graders to too. They took a picture of a self-portrait and then recorded themselves saying why they were special for a first entry. We’ve also used it for math problem-solving and a writer’s notebook entry celebration. Parents love to see their child’s work in real time! Great post, Dana. Love to see Maddie’s learning!


  3. Very cool! We have a 1:1 device pilot going on in three of our 6th grade classrooms this year and I immediately thought of them when I read this. I’m hoping they check out Seesaw so that we can look at upgrading how we do writing portfolios! Such great information that can be put into play quickly!


  4. I started using See-Saw this year. The children have a folder for every component of both workshops. We’ve used the video component to film our peer-conferring sessions, independent writing sessions, goal setting and midpoint reflection.

    I love that my students can record thoughts, so we can have an online conferring session. The students have access to their notebooks at anytime and parents have an account of what’s going on during workshop time.

    ❤️ See-Saw and highly recommend it!


    1. Terrie, your portfolios sound amazing! I can’t get over the ease of this tool. It’s so student-friendly and easy to use! I’m going to continue building a portfolio for Maddie and then, hopefully, introduce this to some classroom teachers.

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  5. My 5th gr students are using Google Classroom this year to draft, store and publish their writing pieces. They are excited to use the Chromebooks as tool to help create their stories. Not only has storage/management been much simpler, leaving them comments and suggestions on their pieces has been a breeze. They are genuinely excited to write each day. Thank you for today’s post. As always it gets me thinking of what else I can do to improve our writing lessons.


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