How do I set up a portfolio assessment system?
I usually begin with getting a three-prong folder or binder for each student.
To me, one of the important parts of every portfolio is the student information form. this form contains information about the student's proficiency levels in each domain, when they entered US schools, this year's teacher, who lives in the home (and who in the home, if anyone, speaks English), and ways to contact the family (address, phone number, etc.). Depending on the student’s proficiency level, I may have them fill out the information sheet or I may assist them by asking questions and using information from their cumulative record.
The next step is to have the students do a quick self- assessment and set goals for reading, writing, speaking and listening. Again, whether you have students do this independently or during a 1-on-1 conference really depends on the student’s proficiency level.
What goes into a portfolio?
In the case of portfolio assessment, we want the portfolio to showcase both strengths and weaknesses, and show progress (or lack thereof) that the student has made over the course of an academic year. Therefore, the portfolio should include items that show the student’s best work, as well as items that show need for improvement.
Each item included should be accompanied by a rubric or analysis of some sort. Classroom work, informal assessments, and formal assessments can be included. Some of the items should be chosen by the teacher, and I like to let the students choose a piece or two of their work each quarter to include.
Should the same work samples go in every student’s portfolio?
One of the excellent things about portfolio assessment is the more individualized nature of assessment made possible. Different students have different strengths and weaknesses that can be showcased better through portfolio assessment than other standardized measures.
The work that students are doing should be appropriate to language level, scaffolded, differentiated, and modified as necessary. This should be reflected in the assessment portfolio.
While some items in the portfolios may be the same student-to-student, there should be some variety to showcase the student's abilities.
I hope this little primer on portfolio assessment for ELLs is helpful as you begin your journey into the wonderful world of assessing ELLs through portfolio assessment!