In the thick of it…Third Quarter Recap on Student Growth Portfolios

There’s so much going on right now I don’t even know what to write about!

  • Student Led Conferences are in two weeks
  • I’m helping to pilot a school-wide website portfolio program that ties to school goals
  • The end of third quarter is a week away
  • We’re finishing up final projects in Social Studies that include Minecraft buildings, Prezis, Hands-on models and more (had to dig up a glue gun!)
  • The Elementary Student Council Sponsored Talent Show auditions start March 17th (I’m a STUCO Advisor)
  • I’m starting the advanced Tribes training on March 12th
  • I’m tutoring once a week and running an Afterschool Drama Club for 2nd-5th graders
  • Personally, just got engaged to be married and…
  • Have started a weekly exercise routine that involves kickboxing, pilates and tennis.


I feel like the pace in my professional and personal life has just gone from 0-60 in the last month! I’m really excited about all these projects and upcoming events, however, it has required some long hours. And will continue to require them in the months to come.

I needed to write that list just to focus my attention a bit. Professionally, at the moment, I’m diving into the first two items: Student Led Conferences and the School-Wide Portfolio Project.

I suppose it’s time to do a Third Quarter Recap on our progress with Student Growth Portfolios. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, and I think the students have gotten a lot out of the process. Of course, with any new venture, there have been pitfalls and holes where good intentions have fallen through, but overall it’s been good.

Because we’re piloting the school-wide portfolio project, I’ve had to start incorporating elements of that portfolio into our class process. It’s been difficult to see where they align and where they don’t.

Ultimately, I decided to keep the two portfolios rather separate because the fundamental difference is purpose. The purpose of our class portfolios has been for students to set specific, attainable, individual goals, reflect on work and show growth overtime in pursuit of those goals to themselves and to their parents in the March Student Led Conference. The purpose of the school-wide process is for students to showcase work that meets our school goals for graduates in benchmark years of 5th, 8th and 12th grades.

Of course, some student and school goals overlap. My students, at the beginning of the year, set individual goals that pertained to becoming better readers, writers and math problem-solvers. These, of course, are school goals as well. One of the major pitfalls that I addressed in my Second Quarter Recap post still stands, however. Curriculum demands have not always addressed individual student goals in a timely way.

We spent third quarter writing a comparison essay about characters in a book. This is a standard I needed to teach. We used the writing process and focused mostly on organization and building a strong thesis statement with supporting evidence which is something my 5th graders needed. If the child’s individual goal in writing, for example, was to improve in using similes and metaphors to spice up their writing, we didn’t necessarily get to that this quarter. We’ll be working on it in fourth quarter in writer’s workshop, but they won’t have this show their parents in two weeks. I’m not sure how to address this problem in the future except maybe by tinkering with planning and curriculum pacing. Now that I’m aware of this pitfall, next year, I can pace the curriculum differently to match student goals for Student Led Conferences.

One of the requirements for the school benchmark portfolio website is an introduction. Students will have the work and reflections they did for Student Led Conferences to build on and can absorb some of that work into the benchmark portfolios. I also thought, that since it could be an interesting element for their Student Led Conference, I’d have them write the introduction for Student Led Conferences and then modify it later if needed.

I’m using the two forms below to help them organize their conference, address individual goals as well as craft an introduction:


I’m excited to see how their conferences go. One major benefit to our class portfolio process that I’ve seen is that my students have become much more reflective. Being specific is still a challenge for a 5th grader, however, for the most part, students have moved beyond focusing on things like neatness and getting better at their multiplication facts to looking at how much detail they put in an assignment, what they’ve learned that will help them in the future and so on. I’ll share examples after conferences. Wish us luck.



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