Friday, May 27, 2011

The Power of Portfolios

This week I have been reminded of the power of portfolios! I was in one of the centres I support and in the last three months the portfolios have come out of an inaccessible area to an area where children and families are now able to revisit these with relative ease. I had gathered a number to look through and sat down on a comfy chair and had no sooner opened the first one than a child came up and sat with me to look at the photos and stories. As luck may have it, the portfolio I was looking at happened to be his sisters and we spent quite some time looking at friends and family that were familiar to him and having a conversation about what we saw. There were a number of favourite stories that he kept going back to and I could see the connections he was making to people, places and things that were of significance to him.  Our new friendship firmly established, when we had finished looking at the portfolio we moved on the dough table to spend more time together.
This could be an every day occurrence, we all spend time working alongside children, sharing their stories as well as their daily experiences. What is unusual here is I was a relative stranger to this centre and to this very young child, the portfolio became the vehicle for this interaction and I got to know him through his sisters portfolio (we did read through his as well). The other thing that amazed the teachers at the centre was this boy hardly ever speaks to them, they hear him speak with his family so they knew he could, often they will get gestures instead of words for an answer. The teachers said to me later that this was the most they had ever heard him speak! How fabulous that the portfolio revisiting gave him the confidence and desire to begin to have conversations.
 It is so important to engage children with their portfolios, to share the new learning stories that have been added and spend time revisiting them alongside them. I remember when I was teaching being so excited about the story I had written the night before that I would have the portfolio in hand to share with the child when they arrived in the morning!  How ever you encourage children to revisit their portfolios, what is important, is to find ways for children to not only take ownership of their portfolios, but also to revisit them regularly. From this interaction we can see the power portfolios have to build relationships, become literacy artifacts and support children to have a view of themselves as competent capable learners.

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