Summative Portfolios-Chapter 1 “Trust” #SOL2023

Today was the first day of portfolio conferences with students. They have been working on reflecting, curating, and editing evidence of their reading and writing skills this semester which they will present in a media text through an oral conference or recording. We’d spent time talking about the ways that the forms of writing or communicating shape the content – they realized that an auditory text communicates using different content than a visual text and that all communication is really just a form of code.

I’d offered suggestions of forms to contain their learning (you can find the assignment here if you’re interested) – a treasure chest, a cereal box, a map, a website, a recipe book – whatever form it would be, they needed to use the codes and conventions of the form and design it with an audience in mind. Some were genuinely excited about the opportunities to annotate the lyrics of their favourite songs as a demonstration of reading skills. Others rolled out six foot lengths of craft paper for treasure maps and I could feel excitement in the room as requests for scissors and glue followed questions about layout or editing. They knew what they had learned and most just needed affirmation that their creative ideas for presentation would work.

We’re at the end of five months of learning together so this celebration of evidence is just what we all needed right now. Yet, I’m also reflecting and realizing what I’ve learned: I’ve needed to trust in the process, to persevere with the centering of student choice, and the letting go of traditional ways (even in a 100 year old building where generations of families expect to share conversations with their children about the same book that they had studied 50 years earlier). Most importantly, I’ve needed to trust the students.

And, I’m so glad I did.

One very quiet student shared his recipe book with me. He said that he had prepared notes and rehearsed. Blotchy spots on his neck contrasted his cool demeanour.

I noticed the complexity of thinking while he gave me a tour explaining the codes of the form and the content that he had created. We were both excited about his learning and the celebration of it – he could articulate the changes in his approach to reading and writing with honesty and clarity.

Another toured me through his website portfolio explicitly demonstrating the progress that he made over the semester.

What surprized me most about each conference was the enthusiasm in the sharing. The ten minutes that I had planned quickly turned into fifteen and they had so much to say, so much to share about their own learning, about themselves – they had transformed and I was a witness.

I wish that I had taken photos of the children’s book, the life sized map, the full colour printed magazine, the treasure chest (a cedar box created by his grandfather which usually houses other treasures from home). And then I realized that this story can have many chapters and there are more portfolios to follow. For today, I will trust that this is enough.

3 thoughts on “Summative Portfolios-Chapter 1 “Trust” #SOL2023

  1. Melanie,
    I am so impressed w/ the assignment, w/ the student work, w/ your reflection, w/ you in building such strong, trusting community w/ students. Amazing work, and you reminded me of collecting cereal boxes for both critical reading and and an essay assignment years ago. Write this project up for a journal.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is great that I landed on your post tonight because tomorrow, as the second class in a new grad school class on Assessment, we will be tanking about the potential of portfolios to demonstrate learning. I worry sometimes if these age-old ideas have a place in 21st education; your post reminds me I need to talk about portfolios!

    Liked by 1 person

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