Tips for Assessing Students With a Literacy Portfolio or Profile

Tips for Assessing Students With a Literacy Portfolio or Profile
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What Is This Collection of Papers and Stuff?

Gathering various bits of data and artifacts of a student’s work are not necessarily helpful in assessing their abilities. Many educators find that the use of a literacy portfolio or profile gives them a clearer picture of a student’s literacy development than traditional testing and assessment could. The clearer picture comes from the ability to view various examples of the student’s work as well as other data during a specific period. Collection of materials for portfolios occurs during a semester or throughout an entire school year.

Sheila Valencia, an educator at the University of Washington, suggests that a wide variety of materials can complete a portfolio. These items might include teacher notes, teacher-completed checklists, student self-reflections, reading logs, sample journal pages, written summaries, audiotapes of retellings or oral readings, or videotapes of group projects. (Valencia, 1990)

What to Keep and How?

Creating a profile of a student’s literacy development can become overwhelming, especially if a teacher keeps every item connected to a student. So, how does a teacher weed out what to keep?

To begin, reflect on what is being assessed - literacy. Literacy encapsulates the skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening along with comprehension and language processing. Capturing a well-rounded portfolio means having authentic examples of literacy development that speak to all these skills. For instance, teacher notes on classroom discussion of a book the students read or journal entries by students reflecting on a current event are examples of authentic literacy artifacts.

The key to having an effective profile of the student’s literacy work is organization. Create a filing system that will be large enough to hold the various artifacts collected for each student. Multi-pocket file folders work well, as does the old-fashioned accordion files.

Developing a Portfolio

In order to develop a portfolio that will give an accurate assessment of a student’s progress,

planning is essential. Lesson plans need to include genuine opportunities for the students to share their understanding of language and language processing. Ideas for developing curriculum that will enhance a portfolio include:

  • a unit on current events that includes reading news articles, journals and primary resources as well as reflective writing after reading
  • in language arts class, a video/audio tape of students discussing a topic, book, current event highlighting the use of appropriate vocabulary or a performance given by the students reenacting a story they read (even through the use of a puppet show).
  • creation of an author’s day, in which students research their favorite author, then give a presentation as that author discussing the works of the author and sharing the author’s life - teacher’s notes, students’ reflective journals and, if possible, video/audio tapes of the presentation would be included in the profile
  • in art class, students would participate in a unit in which they read a story without illustrations, then create illustrations for the story - this demonstrates the student’s ability to comprehend and process what they have read

Authentic Assessment

The ability to accurately assess a student’s development is the deciding factor in a child’s image of self. Literacy profiles allow educators to show a student’s strengths as well as areas in need of improvement. They allow educators to discuss these areas with the students by providing concrete examples that the student can see. While providing educators with an ongoing assortment of data, these types of portfolios also provide the student with evidence of achievement, no matter how slight.

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