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How to Organize a Portfolio for Each of Your Students in 2022

Are you looking to learn more about student portfolios and perhaps begin implementing them in your classroom?  Did you already take the leap of faith and begin using them but haven’t found an organization tool you love?  Wherever you are on your student portfolio journey, know this… Student portfolios can seem like an incredibly overwhelming task, but if you use effective organization tools, it will become one of your favorite things you do in your classroom!  Even if you don’t do formal portfolios, it is important to keep a collection of all their published writing and such for open house and parent teacher or student led conferences. Read below to learn all about how to organize a portfolio for each of your students!

What is a Student Portfolio in Teaching?

A student portfolio is a purposeful collection of a student’s work. It is added to throughout the school year and shows students’ progress from the beginning of the year to the end. It can be used to evaluate their growth.

What Does a Student Portfolio Look Like?

A student portfolio can take many different forms. It can be as simple as a binder with work samples like writing samples and math projects. It can also look like a folder on your computer desktop that has pictures of students working on performance tasks and links to their Google Classroom submissions.

Why Teachers Should Use Student Portfolios

Below are 5 reasons why teachers should use student portfolios.

  1. It is a way to keep documentation to prove that student learning is taking place.
  2. Parents want to see what their children are learning about and doing.
  3. There is such negativity around test culture and portfolios are an opportunity to focus on authentic assessment of a child’s true skills, strengths, and abilities.
  4. The trend is shifting towards project-based learning, which allows students to feel pride in their accomplishments.
  5. It fosters a growth mindset.

What Should be in a Student Portfolio?

You can decide what will go in your students’ portfolios, but some ideas are writing assessments, performance tasks, pictures of students conducting science experiments, and student reflections.

How to Organize a Student Portfolio

Below are 5 organization systems you can use to organize a portfolio for each of your students.

1. Go Digital

Keep everything digital by creating a folder for each of your students on your computer and storing everything there.  I have really been including more digital documentation of my students which I’m really loving. Instead of holding on to a project or writing piece that includes artwork I will photograph the work or take a quick video of them sharing their project. I’ve really enjoyed sharing these on my Smartboard during conferences and the parent feedback has been amazing.

2. Utilize Boxes

I love the idea of just dropping the work in. Each student will have a box with his or her number on it.  I decorated the boxes to match my classroom and used student numbers so that I could reuse them each year. The boxes fit well on a top shelf in my classroom that isn’t easy to reach so the fact that I only add to them every other month or so makes them a good option for that space. I typically take them down and pass them out to the students. I then have kids pass out the work that will go inside. Each child puts his work into his own box and then I call them in number order to return the boxes to the shelf. I like these because they hold more than just flat 8.5 x 11 inch paper.

3. Use Traditional Binders

These will allow you to move things around and make a nice keepsake since everything is organized within. They can be costly if you replace them each year. If you decide to use binders I suggest putting them on your school supply list.

4. Set Up Folders

I’ve used folders in the past. They are a very cheap option.

5. Repurpose Pizza Boxes

You can usually get one or more local restaurants to donate them to the classroom. They are a good choice because they are free, stackable and oversized which is great for those larger art projects. The downside is they aren’t easy to get into, a large and not always easy to store and can be a bit of an eyesore.

an idea for how to organize a portfolio for each of your students

How to Make a Student Portfolio

I came across the image below and loved it. I decided I wanted to create something similar for my student portfolios. One of my favorite parts about it is the use of ribbon. What a nice touch! I also really like how neat and organized it was, yet each box is different. I would have gone uniform, but this picture inspired me to mix it up. I’m a big fan of white font on black backgrounds. It looks so sharp! Below are steps for how to make a student portfolio. These steps apply even if you choose to do a bit of a different setup for your own classroom (like using binders instead).

an idea for how to organize a portfolio for each of your students

1. Select an Organization Tool

What I have found works best for me is a combination of open-top boxes and digital images. Check out the ideas above to get inspiration for what other tools you can use as your organization tool for your student portfolios. I selected magazine boxes, because I had a row of boxes on my top shelf that were previously used to house weekly reading resources from Treasures. I had reorganized my reading materials and was planning to repurpose the boxes to hold student work samples. This immediately caught my eye!

2. Gather Supplies

Collect all of the supplies you need and keep them together to make the project go a lot smoother for yourself. Some items you may need are scissors, glue, tape, binder/folder, scrapbook paper.

an idea for how to organize a portfolio for each of your students

3. Add Labels

In case you didn’t already know, I’m a big fan of labels! Labels help me organize my student portfolio collection and find what I am looking for so much faster and easier.

an idea for how to organize a portfolio for each of your students

4. Add Student Numbers

Putting student numbers on the boxes instead of student names makes it so you can reuse them year after year with ease.

an idea for how to organize a portfolio for each of your students

5. Store Them for Easy Access

Store them in a place where you can easily access them, but they don’t take up valuable wall of shelving real estate in your classroom. I like to store them high up with the numbers facing out so I have a visual reminder about them, can access them when I need to, and students don’t really notice them.

an idea for how to organize a portfolio for each of your students

6. Add to Them Regularly

The boxes fit well on a top shelf in my classroom that isn’t easy to reach so the fact that I only add to them every other month or so makes them a good option for that space. I typically take them down and pass them out to the students. I then have kids pass out the work that will go inside. Each child puts his work into his own box and then I call them in number order to return the boxes to the shelf. I like these because they hold more than just flat 8.5 x 11 inch paper.

I have really been including more digital documentation of my students which I’m really loving. Instead of holding on to a project or writing piece that includes artwork I will photograph the work or take a quick video of them sharing their project. I’ve really enjoyed sharing these on my SmartBoard during conferences and the parent feedback has been amazing. I’m looking forward to further developing this process.

In closing, I hope you found this blog post about how to organize a portfolio for each of your students helpful! If you did, then you may also be interested in my classroom organization guide shown above as well as these posts:

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