So I wanted to share with you some strategies that I use in my Grade 9 math classroom that I think benefit our students, and that one particular strategy is a portfolio. So in our classroom we keep a math portfolio, and at the beginning of each unit, we have what I call our learning goal and success criteria tracking sheet. So for each new concept, or each day, we have a learning goal, and then at the end of the class, we talk about how they will show me how they’ve accomplished that learning goal through their success criteria, and then we revisit that throughout the unit. And one of the ways we revisit that is through doing our formative assessments. We try to focus on doing frequent formative assessments; however, I don’t put marks on their formative assessments; it’s focused on just giving them timely and descriptive feedback, so they can see their areas of improvement and which category they need to focus more on. And then—so all of that is kept in their portfolio—and then they are allowed to use their portfolio to help them prepare for their summative assessment at the end of the unit. And so a couple of things that we use are, in terms of review, we’ll give them a sheet that says “if you were to struggle with this success criteria, here’s some questions you should practise. However, if it’s this success criteria, then you should look at these questions.” And, of course, they’re encouraged to use their formative pieces of assessment to help them prepare for that summative task. And then, once they’re—every summative assessment will also have on it a self-reflection sheet at the end of that assessment. Within that self-reflection sheet, they’re being asked to reflect on their learning skills throughout the unit as well as how they prepared for the assessment, and then they’re supposed to make a prediction in terms of what they think they would get on the assessment. So it’s always interesting to see questions that I’ve asked them are “did you ask for questions during the unit when you needed help? Did you do your homework each night? Did you make use of your class time? Did you come to class prepared?” And so we’re trying to reinforce how to prepare and study for assessments because so many times kids say “I don’t know how to study for math.” So then at the end of the term, what’s really nice is that they have this great big portfolio that has each of the learning goals and success criteria that we’ve focused on throughout the term as well as all of their formative and summative tests. And I kind of say to them, you know, “This is my gift to you; you haven’t lost anything, so use this to help prepare for your final summative evaluation at the end.” And I always think it’s a benefit, you know, we’re not trying to trick the kids, and, you know, “it’s similar type questions on your final summative assessment. So use this package to help yourself in preparing.” One other thing that we use our portfolios for is for communication with our parents. So throughout the semester, especially prior to report cards and stuff, we send it home, and both students and parents are asked to complete a reflection piece together, reflecting on, you know, what is your student doing well, what do they need to improve on, is there any surprises that you saw. And I always find it really interesting as a teacher to read those reflections when they come back to me, because it’s nice to see parents’ comments and to see parents engaged in their students’ learning. So that’s one way to keep our parents informed and keep the communication lines open, because sometimes we’re all so busy, we don’t get time to come into the school and visit. So I think the portfolios are a great benefit, and I think a lot of the students would probably agree with me.
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