Thursday, 3 May 2018

Using Portfolios in Grade 9 English

In July, I began planning for Grade 9 English with my teaching partner. I was (am?) new to the school, and my teaching partner and I had instructions to make some changes the Grade 9 course.

One of the key changes (and perhaps my favourite) was the introduction of the portfolio as the final exam. The portfolio counts for 10% of the overall grade.

They are introduced at the beginning of the semester, and students are given class time to complete a "Reflection of Learning" on a variety of formative and summative tasks. (This, as Sandra Herbst says, gets rid of the question "does this count?") In the last week of the semester, students are given more class time organize their portfolios and decide what pieces of work they will discuss during their exam interview.

The portfolio assignment is available here, and it details the following:
1. Course Goals
2. Questions (these are the questions that students need to be able to answer during the exam interview)
3. Audience
4. Content (examples of what students can include)
5. Rubric


--Real world. Students are going to have to sit one-on-one with a person (potential employer, investor, etc.) and communicate their knowledge and understanding and discuss their strengths and areas of need.
--Triangulation. Students use their products to engage in a conversation about their growth. Additionally, I am afforded the opportunity to observe the students prepare their portfolios.
--Metacognition. All of our strands in English include an overall expectation about metacognition and the portfolio and interview are ways for students to engage.
--Student Feedback. I was pleasantly surprised by the impromptu feedback that students provided. For example, I find the news report task less than engaging, but a couple of students said that they loved the opportunity to be creative. One student told me that she really liked the essay organizer. And another said that they really appreciated the choice in writing the series of paragraphs.


--Listen more, write less. I was so worried about not having "proof" to back up the grade that I spent so much time writing during the interview.
--Freedom. I have been pretty prescriptive about what students should have in their portfolio. I need to give time to the students to make decisions about their class work and what they want to include in their portfolio.
--Reading. I need to be more explicit in my discussion and teaching of reading strategies so that students can effectively discuss their growth in reading.
--Course Goals. These are very writing heavy, which I think is the result of the focus on OSSLT-skill improvement. I think we should re-evaluate our course goals and have them reflect reading, oral communication, and media studies.
--Kill less trees. Eventually I'd like to move to online portfolios using myBlueprint.

Overall, I found the use of portfolios to be a powerful learning and reflective tool and would LOVE to talk to others about portfolios so that I can improve my use of them.

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