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July 30. 2018

Teacher Tip: Track Student Progress with Literacy Portfolios

Portfolios are a popular way to present students' work over time so that progress is evident. Many assessments can be part of a writing portfolio. The goal is to guide the process carefully so portfolios don't become unwieldy and time-consuming collections of "stuff" that no one examines or uses to inform teaching.

You will collect reading data and writing projects throughout the year. Many teachers keep all products for the year, selecting materials for the “pass on” portfolio in the spring. Others identify particular times when the portfolio is examined in conjunction with the child; some pieces are sent home and others remain in the portfolio. Some general considerations for the type of the information to include in the portfolio follow:

  • Include a list of the books the student read and the writing projects he completed. 
  • Feature “best work” or a range of writing projects and poetry (e.g. several pieces that you and the student have selected for a particular reason). 
  • Document the level of texts the student read during the year as well as the range of the genres he attempted. 
  • Illustrate the student’s growth and progress through a thoughtful selection of writing samples. 
  • Include writing projects of investigations that demonstrate the student’s ability to use knowledge in content areas.
  • Encourage self-reflection by asking the student to write rationales for his portfolio selections: Why he chose to include writing samples, how he chose books to read, and his reflections on his growth as a writer and reader. 
  • Feature writing samples from all the genres the student studied and explored in his own writing. 
  • Weave in written evaluations by the student about his growth as a reader, writer, and learner.

From Guiding Readers & Writers by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2001 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.

May 16. 2017

8 Ways to Help Students Summarize: A Teacher Tip from Fountas & Pinnell

Summarizing is a very important in-the-head strategy. The purpose is to help the reader comprehend the text. The current emphasis on proficiency tests--write a summary or select a good summary from alternatives or annotate the text--makes summarizing a required skill. The goal, however, is larger than passing the test. We want students to be able to abstract the important ideas and carry them forward as tools for thought. Here are eight ways in which you can help students learn to summarize:

  1. Write a summary yourself of a text that students know or have read and ask students to analyze what makes it a summary.
  2. Begin the process with short texts that do not have too many details and are easier to summarize.
  3. Work together to create a group summary, selecting and deleting details.
  4. Record a retelling of a text on chart paper and turn it into a summary.
  5. Have students work in pairs to create alternative summaries that are concise and include only the necessary details.
  6. Have each student write a summary and then share it with a partner.
  7. Ask students to summarize a text in their Reader's Notebook, and respond to this summary in the letter you write back.
  8. Encourage students to practice summarizing by making book talks to recommend books to their friends.
Adapted from Guiding Readers and Writers by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2001 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.