Do I Need to Create an Annual Portfolio?
One topic that tends to come up in discussions of evaluations and record-keeping is that of portfolios. What is a portfolio? Do you need to create one as you process through evaluations? Let’s start with a definition.
A portfolio is a collection of school work and projects that can be evaluated and used to show progress to people outside your immediate family. In some states, a portfolio is required as part of the homeschool requirements and will be kept for each student throughout the course of every homeschool year. In this case, portfolios can be stored in a file folder, file box, or filing cabinet as paper items. They can also be electronic, and can be stored on a computer or online by scanning any paper items and using digital media.
Keep in mind that there is a difference between an annual portfolio and a college-prep portfolio. An annual portfolio is about record-keeping, reporting, and progress evaluation, whereas a high school or college portfolio is a representation of skills and accomplishments assembled for the purpose of gaining college admission or employment.
Making the Decision
Here are some tips to help you determine whether or not you need to build an annual portfolio.
The most obvious reason to create a portfolio is to meet state reporting requirements. Some states require that you keep a representative sample of your child’s work to show progress and improvement over the course of the year.
An annual portfolio provides a great tangible way for you to supplement your evaluation charts so as to easily observe growth, learning, and progress. You can compare work from the beginning and ending of a school year or compare from year to year.
If your child has special needs or health issues, combining a portfolio with your evaluation charts can offer a vital resource for charting patterns, improvement and decline, or red flags. Portfolios are also helpful for identifying growth, change, or potential issues if your family is dealing with special circumstances such as a move, parental deployment, illness, or other major life change.
Points to Ponder
If by this point you’ve decided that you do need to create an annual portfolio, you are probably wondering where to begin. Here are some tips for building an annual portfolio.
While it can be tempting to save every assignment, worksheet, and project, it really isn’t necessary. The goal of a portfolio is to show your child’s progress. Regularly go through your child’s schoolwork and choose items that best represent your child’s work. Also include notes about developmental and emotional milestones. Be sure to choose from the beginning, middle, and end of the year.
If your curriculum has a scope and sequence, add that to the portfolio. Check off each item as it is mastered. You can also find checklists online for a variety of subjects or create your own based on what your child is learning. For example, a kindergarten checklist might include items such as reciting the alphabet, counting to 20, or tying shoes. A high school checklist could include important household skills or a list of topics covered in history.
A rubric is a tool for evaluating schoolwork. It has a list of criteria for an assignment, with descriptions of quality for each of the criteria. The criteria would include rankings such as superior, excellent, meets expectations, and needs improvement, though you can use numbers or any other description you like for the quality levels, including percentages and letter grades. Whatever you choose, include any rubrics in your portfolio.
As you complete daily, weekly, and six-week evaluations, you will be making observations about how your child is performing on an everyday basis, in ways that a test just won’t show. If your portfolio is for your own benefit, you’ll want to make sure that it ties back into your planner so you can connect your notes to the items in your portfolio. If you need to submit your portfolio, make copies of your notes to include.
Large artwork, three-dimensional objects, and science experiments are all an important part of your child’s education, but they are impossible to store in a portfolio. Take photos instead! You can upload digital photos into an electronic portfolio or print them out for a paper one. Glue them to a piece of paper so you and your student can both add your observations, or add a description online.
If you are using an electronic portfolio, you can add recordings or videos. Record plays and music performances, speeches, or poetry readings. You can record your child as they are learning to read, or record recitations or narrations from an older child. Rather than write notes and observations, you can record these as well.
Besides core subjects, portfolios should include outside activities and learning experiences as well. Add photos of field trips or volunteer activities. Include certificates and awards. Add notes or information from coaches and music or art teachers.