Student Portfolios: Second Quarter Recap and Goal-Setting Conferences with Parents

It is now second quarter, and we are well into the school year. A month has passed since I posted last and for good reason. Things have been REALLY busy!

So far this year, my fifth graders and I have:

1. Discussed collections

2. Set 4 criteria for portfolio collection

3. Discussed what quality work looks like in Math, Reading and Writing

4. Set initial goals

5. Added to or revised goals based on performance

6. Conducted a goal-setting conference with parents

It’s been a lengthy, involved process but has resulted in each child having specific, attainable goals to work on and specific language to use when discussing their work.

For their goal-setting conference, I gave students a reflection sheet to fill out about one notable piece of work from the first quarter, and we practiced a script they could use to explain the process. I felt at this point in the year, that they needed this support.

As we practiced the script, I asked questions to see if they could explain it in their own words. In the end, some students decided to “go off script” and conduct their conference in their own way. Others felt more comfortable keeping with the script. In the end, I think this was a good way to give students flexibility while supporting those who needed a bit more scaffolding.

This is the script we used:

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The steps we are following refer to this document:

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I’ve modified the Portfolio Artifact Reflection sheet they’ve been using slightly, and it now looks like this:

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The last step I completed personally was to make a document that records each goal in Math, Reading and Writing that each child has made. This helps me in conferencing with students to address their goals directly, design curriculum that serves their goals and to guide students in selecting meaningful portfolio pieces that will show growth. For example, next to my writing conference notes for each child are their goals, so we can discuss them in each conference even if the the day’s lesson isn’t directly addressing them at the time.

The challenges so far have been:

  • Designing curriculum that serves individual student goals in a timely manner
  • Finding time for students to pick and reflect on pieces that they choose
  • Making the connection between goals, improvements needed and showing growth

For example, in writing, my students have a variety of goals that they selected based on “Quality Work in Writing” tables we created together. Some have chosen to focus on strong leads, some on strong conclusions, some on adding sensory details, etc. My plan was to incorporate lessons into our writing curriculum that would address every goal. In this way, students would have samples that could show improvement. I’ve steadily been doing this; however, it just seems like it’s taking so long! Each skill takes time to teach, practice and assess. We’re getting there, but I’m afraid the process is dragging out so much that students are going to lose the thread.

The second and third challenges are related and both come from the fact that our portfolios are growth portfolios. Therefore, I’ve been very focused on making sure students are looking at previously assessed work and comparing it with current work to look for improvement. This takes a bit of orchestration, and I’ve found that I’ve been directly my students’ choices much more than I’d like. It has been really beneficial in the sense that it has helped me identify when reteaching is necessary and focus on the needs of the class; however, my goal is to find more of a balance. They don’t need 20 artifacts that show growth in each subject area. Our goal should be one piece that shows growth in each subject area per quarter. This will hopefully leave a bit more flexibility for student choice.

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