Bringing Your Best to the Table

Over a week ago we implemented the use of portfolios. To introduce them, students used 140 characters or less to define portfolios and tell if they felt they were useful. Some students were able to post responses on Twitter via @GSMS7thMath.

After realizing that portfolios aren’t a new concept for students I went on to inform them their math portfolio will be their avenue to take charge of the year. Students collected work samples from Wednesday to Wednesday, an idea I gained from @turtletoms. On the second Wednesday, they reviewed their portfolios and selected at least one piece of work which they felt best demonstrated their understanding of the learning targets.

Wednesday the 10th, students submitted their first piece of work from their portfolio for scoring. A few revelations happened for students. Some students realized they had ample pieces to submit and turned in more than one, some saw they didn’t have anything of quality to turn in and other saw they had absolutely nothing to turn in. I’m reserving judgment on if this will be a turning point for those students.

The variety of work submitted ranged from the pretty good







IMG_1170.JPG<br /

To good





To down right…blank, literally no work:


My hope is that the focus will shift from how students are performing on a particular assignment collected by the teacher to the students’ progression towards mastery of the standards. My hope is students will be more invested in the quality of work they produce because it is a reflect of their understanding. It is also my hope that students will stop asking, “Is this for a grade?” and begin thinking of each activity as a chance to refine their demonstration of the expectation, a Austin’s Butterfly affect.


    • I try to layer on a new piece of independence each week or two. Most times I ask the students if they feel what I am implementing is fair and/or makes sense. I’m really careful about releasing them too early, I made that mistake earlier in the year and had to backup and wait for them. A friend once described this release of control as an upside down triangle. As you move up, the grip of control loosens more and more.

    • Thanks for the feedback Christina. My hope is that this practice as well as others I’ve yet to implement will promote critical thinking with my students. I’ve always found critical thinking skills something very difficult to teach. I believe if I make the learning relevant and manageable for students it will begin to shift their way of thinking from surface level (is this for a grade) to in depth (how will the work I’m doing affect my understanding and performance).

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