Contemplating portfolios

Two children sit at the table, ready for their role play. 

“What’s the matter?” one of them says.

“It’s my arm.  It hurts,” the other answers.

The two of them carry on for another exchange or two, and then look at me.  “All done!” they grin.  I turn off the camera, and give them a thumbs up.  “Great!  That’s for your portfolio!” I tell them.  

By now, the children know to expect me to show up with the video camera every once in a while.  We make recordings of their work which then go into their portfolio.  It took a few tries to figure out a workable portfolio, and quite frankly, I’m still working on it.  But first, a short history of what I’ve tried out…


The first thing I decided was that I wanted the children’s portfolios to be related to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).  The CEFR had printable checklists that I could easily use to keep track of children’s learning.  From there, I had to decide how to document the children’s learning.  Ideally, I wanted to have some tangible form of proof: videos, pictures, recordings and the like.  A paper checklist alone was not going to be sufficient, that much was clear.  

My thoughts turned to digital documentation.  I scoured the internet for a child-friendly language portfolio.  The closest thing I found was the “Europees Taal Portfolio” (European Language Portfolio).  I decided to try it out with the children.  


This online language portfolio had a lot of good aspects to it: nice colors and design, space for documents and images, and checklists the children could fill in for themselves.  It also had room for improvement, such as: videos and sound recordings could not be uploaded and the teacher could not add documentation to the children’s portfolios.

After a year or two of working regularly with children on these online portfolios, I had to throw in the towel.  Too many children lost their passwords, the suggested activities for portfolio development weren’t always complete, and to top it off, I accidentally erased my own, years-old portfolio with a single click of the wrong button.  Recovery would cost an entire day, so my portfolio – including any access to those of the children – was scuttled.  Soon after that, the entire project was unexpectedly taken off the air, so all of the portfolios my children had built were gone as well.  

As a result, I renewed my search for an alternative.  Until now, I have yet to find anything that I can really use, and so I find myself making do with an external hard drive and a cd-writer.  Every year, I make certain to get two examples of work from each child.  This work is kept on the external hard drive.  When the children graduate or leave school, I burn their work onto a cd-rom as a good-bye gift.  

video4What kinds of work do I put into their portfolios?  I like to have a balanced sample of reading, writing, speaking and listening skills.  Writing, obviously, is the easiest sample to get: I scan samples of their writing from their project notebooks or save copies of power points.  For reading, I make a sound recording of the child reading.  For speaking, I make videos of the child doing a presentation or taking part in a role play.  I’m still not sure what to do for listening, so that’s something I think about on a regular basis.

I’m still on the lookout for a child-friendly online portfolio that actually allows all forms of digital documentation, so if anyone knows of anything I could use, please let me know!



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