There is something magical about watching students share their learning. There was a buzz of excitement in the room as the children looked back and shared some of the learning they did in Kindergarten this past year. They remembered the pieces they included in their portfolios. They talked about how they mixed colours, or made a pattern, or wrote some words or numbers. Some children couldn’t believe they weren’t able to write their own name at the beginning of the school year. Some didn’t know any letters. Others couldn’t cut very well. They loved looking at their own personal documentation of growth and were excited to share their learning with a friend. Me? I sat back, took it all in, and realized how far these little people have come. I’m very proud of them!
I also took a few minutes for my own reflections. Well, to be honest, I’m always reflecting, but lately I’ve been re-thinking portfolios. I’ve used them in every grade I’ve taught and I’ve always been a strong advocate. They’re a powerful tool for self-assessment, goal-setting, developing metacognition, and for documenting personal growth. Since teaching Kindergarten, I’ve re-thought a lot of things about teaching and learning. Portfolios are no exception. Do I think they’re appropriate for children this age? Absolutely. But I feel as if some pieces are missing. Not physical “work” pieces, but learning pieces that are not captured through a painting, or a drawing, or a piece of writing. As I reflected I began to think about how to provide a more complete picture of each child. So much learning happens through talk — questions, thoughts, wonderings, hypotheses, personal experiences, observations, conclusions, and discussions amongst peers or with a teacher. Some of that talk is captured in notes and displayed in documentation panels, but not in the portfolios. This got me thinking about the power of learning stories, which in turn, got me thinking about setting my own goal. So, when it comes to portfolios, my goal will be to use them in tandem with learning stories. Tune in next year to see how they work out!