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.
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).
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.
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.
Literacy Coach, Reader, Writer