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Rachel Vanwyk

© 2001

Action Research

Writing Portfolios

What I already know:
While participating in methods classes and classroom observations, I have learned about and seen writing portfolios in action. However, I have never implemented a writing portfolio into my reading class. My knowledge previous to this research project was very limited. I had only been introduced to the concept that portfolios allow students, parents, teachers, and administrators to see student progress.

Why I am interested in this topic:
While teaching remedial reading/writing to seventh, eight, and ninth grade students, I have found that they do not have a sense of ownership or pride in their written products. The students lack confidence in their writing ability and, therefore, often refuse to write. Providing high interest writing topics will sometimes result in better quality work. I am always searching for lesson plans, writing prompts, or management ideas that will allow students to develop a long lasting confidence in their writing ability. .

What I want to know:
Through the action research in my classes in the 2001-02 school year, I would like to find out if writing portfolios have a positive effect on struggling readers and writers. Portfolios have been successful in elementary classrooms and in collaboration of core class teachers. The remedial classes have been separated from the core classes, therefore, unable to combine portfolio content. I would like to find out if implementing a portfolio into a single class period would be effective. I would also like to determine what is required by the teacher and students to create a successful writing portfolio.

Bishop, Penny A. "Promoting Student Self-Knowledge through Writing Portfolios." Middle School Journal September 1996: 33-36.
Penny Bishop reflects on the outcome of using writing portfolios in an eighth grade class. She found that the students developed confidence in their writing ability, became more aware of the reader, and were able to be reflective about their pieces and their writing ability.

Graves, Michael F., Susan M. Watts-Taffe and Bonnie Graves. Essentials of Elementary Reading. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1999.
Along with providing details of reading strategies, Graves also adds insight into how and why writing portfolios are an effective classroom tool. Writing reflections on portfolio entries and setting goals are two essential parts of writing portfolios. It is also suggested that reading test scores and reading strengths and weaknesses are also included in a portfolio. Portfolios can also be used as a quick reference to the level of student work.

Rafferty, Cathleen and Marylin Leinenbach. "Blazing a Portfolio Trail-Without a Crystal Ball." Middle School Journal September 1996: 27-32.
Two teachers begin the development of portfolios in an eighth grade math class. Neither woman had previous experience using portfolios; therefore, the article describes their learning process, along with the students. They focus on the importance of having the students be as involved as the teacher are in the development of the portfolios. The article contains student comments about using the portfolios.

Stix, Andi. "Bridging Standards Across the Curriculum with Portfolios." Middle School Journal September 2000: 15-25.
Robert Wagner Middle School is the focus in this case study. This school implemented portfolio assessment to help meet the required state standards in all subject areas. Stix focuses on what steps and requirements are needed for teachers and administrators to develop a successful portfolio program. The development and implementation of rubrics in portfolio assessment are a main focus.

Action Research Plan -
What I have already learned: Portfolio assessment is a type of evaluation that is being developed in all grades and subject areas. Although initially used in language arts classrooms, portfolios are now being implemented in mathematics, social studies, and science curriculum.

To produce the most effective and accurate assessment of a studentÕs ability, portfolio pieces are chosen by the student. The student completes many different pieces and then chooses one that they feel best reflect their ability. Portfolios should not be prescriptive, but allow for creativity and choices by the student. Students are able to reflect upon completed work, along with noticing the development of their writing skills.

Portfolios are not only used to evaluate a student in a classroom, but also used in parent-conference settings to show progress and as a tool for setting goals. Portfolios can travel with students as they progress through grades or be used only within one school year.

Action Plan (What I still need to discover):
I will be implementing writing portfolios into one seventh grade class, two eighth grade classes, and two ninth grade classes. I will not be using a portfolio in one seventh grade class, which will be used as the control class.

All students will be given a survey at the beginning of the year that asks them to rate their writing ability, along with asking a variety of questions, including, "Do you consider yourself a writer?"

Throughout the first quarter, I will be implementing writing portfolios in the designated classes. The students will complete a variety of written pieces and store them in their writing folder. During the quarter, they will be choosing pieces from the writing folder to include in their portfolio. The students will be required to write a short reflection on why each piece was chosen for the portfolio. The control class will complete similar writing assignments; however, the assignments will be evaluated and handed back, rather then placed in their writing folders and reflected upon.

At the end of the first quarter, all students will take a similar survey as taken at the beginning of the year. The students will have a chance to discuss any changes in rating and answers. The control class results will then be compared to the results of the classes using portfolios. Throughout the quarter and in all classes, I will also be documenting anecdotal records of everyday comments and reflections as a means of comparing attitudes towards writing.

By implementing writing portfolios into the classroom routine, I desire to see the same results that many other teachers have seen when providing the students a chance to reflect, polish, and save their pieces. Will the students gain confidence in their writing ability? Will they become more reflective about what they and others have written?


Creative Writing

I am from work hard and what people think matters,

doing what is right, not what is easiest.

I am from household chores and keeping my elbows off the table,

cleaning my room and respecting my elders.

I am from buckle your seatbelt and keep both hands on the wheel,

changing my oil and trips to the junk yard.

I am from brown hair and German lineage,

soccer at the age of two.

I am from church every Sunday and church every Wednesday,

a faith that can move mountains and change peopleÕs lives.

I am from taking responsibility and giving to others,

doing without thanks, not expecting acknowledgment.

I am from high expectations,

from rules.

I am from ethics,

from stability,

from love.