Portfolio Assessment in the Reading-Writing Classroom

by Robert J. Tierney, , Mark A. Carter, and Laura E. Desai (Christopher Gordon, 1991 ISBN 0-926842-08-0.) Professional Book.
This review by Carol Otis Hurst first appeared in Teaching K-8 Magazine.


The authors studied the use of portfolios in local school systems for three years before they compiled Portfolio Assessment in the Reading-Writing Classroom. Besides presenting persuasive arguments and validation for the use of portfolios as a major assessment form, the authors offer some important caveats, the most important of which is that their power can be negated if teachers or administrators take over the content of the portfolio, dictating what should or must be included. They point out that one of the most valuable aspects of the portfolio is the student's self assessment, much of which occurs when the student, after thoughtful consultation with peers and teachers, decides what to include and exclude from the portfolio. The authors have included a lot of information about conducting conferences before, during and after a portfolio has been formed. There are several possible report cards and check lists based on portfolio assessment.

Among other useful items, Tierney et al provide a list of what a portfolio might include, acknowledging that some are more appropriate for one level than another. The list may expand the work you and your students could consider for their portfolios:

"Projects, surveys, reports and units from reading and writing
Favorite poems, songs, letters, and comments
Interesting thoughts to remember
Finished samples that illustrate wide writing
- persuasive
- letters
- poetry
- information
- stories
Examples of writing across the curriculum
- reports
- journals
- literature logs
Literature extensions
- scripts for drama
- visual arts
- written forms
- webs
- charts
- time lines
- murals
Student record of books read and attempted
Audio tape of reading
Writing responses to literary components
- plot
- setting
- point of view
- character development
- links to life
- theme
- literary links and criticism
Writing that illustrates critical thinking about readings
Notes from individual reading and writing conference
Items that are evidence of development of style
- organization
- voice
- sense of audience
- choice of words
- clarity
Writing that shows growth in usage of traits
- growing ability in self-correction, punctuation, spelling, grammar, appropriate form, and legibility
Samples in which ideas are modified from first draft to final product
Unedited first draft
Revised first draft
Evidence of effort
- improvement noted on pieces
- completed assignments
- personal involvement noted
Writing that illustrates evidence of topic generation"


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