Portfolios To Be Proud Of

Class members can create their own personal websites while collecting and celebrating their writing.

By Noel Woodward

girl holding folders

What do your pupils do when you pass back papers? Throw them in the trash? Stash them in a folder, never to be seen again? Leave them on the desk for you to find and try to return later? I’d like to propose an idea to implement technology in your class, while providing a place where your students can store their work and look back on it with pride. Writing portfolios are fairly common, so why not try out online portfolios?

The Idea

An online portfolio is an engaging way to collect class work and display it. You might start this assignment at the beginning of the year and add to it, or consider spending the last week or two of school putting it together as a reflection activity that will ask kids to examine their work from the past year. When their sites are complete, class members can look back on their work and share it easily with family and friends.

How to Make it Happen

One easy way to create a website is through Google Sites. In order to do this, class members will need Gmail addresses. Once they have created a Gmail account, follow the steps below to create a website:

  1. Click More in the Gmail taskbar.
  2. Click Even more and then scroll down to the Home & Office section and select Sites.
  3. Click Create and choose a template. If you choose a blank template, you will have a long list of possible themes you can choose from.
  4. Add a title.
  5. Create the site!
  6. Edit the site by pressing the pen symbol in the top right corner. Type in text, insert a Google document, and play around with fonts and formatting in this mode.
  7. Click Save to exit edit mode.
  8. Click on the page symbol with the plus sign on to add a new page. Add a title and watch your new page show up on the menu bar to the left. Repeat the editing steps.

This is the basic website that Google Sites offers. If your class wants to get more involved in the layout and play around with settings, tell individuals to go into the menu titled More or open up Manage Site for more options. I suggest having students go into Manage Site and clicking on Sharing and Permissions. Here they can change who can view their website and make it more private.

Google Sites is not the only option for creating websites. Certain blog hosting sites might also be appropriate for your class. If your school uses a system that hosts websites, consider that option as well.

Extras for the Portfolios

Once their basic websites are put together, students can type in information or add Google Documents directly onto each webpage. One easy way to set class members up for success in this situation is to have them create Gmail accounts at the beginning of the year and complete all of their major assignments in Google Docs. That way, they can simply insert documents on the appropriate pages. Class members can create a new page for each assignment for an organized portfolio that will be easy to navigate.

In order to personalize the portfolios, and add in some more writing, have pupils compose new work particularly tailored for their website. At a minimum, ask them to write up a dedication and an about-the-author page. These pages can be writing lessons first. Put class members to work analyzing models written by famous authors, or about them, and composing their own dedications and author blurbs using text features you determine as a class. The about-the-author excerpt could be the home page, or you might allow learners to decide on the content of the home page. Perhaps they will choose a quote that inspires them, or a picture of themselves.

At the end of this process, each pupil will be the proud creator of a professional-looking portfolio. Not only will your class work on writing and take ownership of their work, they will also learn how to make a website.


Blogging for School Credit

Learners analyze blogs to determine what works and what doesn't before creating their own. This could work as an introductory lesson to creating a website and lead into actual website creation. Class members could post their work and other comments on their blog.

Online Publishing

After carefully choosing and editing a piece of writing, pupils have the chance to publish their work on the Internet. The lesson suggests SiteMaker as a posting platform; however, you could use this idea with other hosting sites.

Brochures Made with Technology

A different approach to portfolios, pupils put together brochures that include short writing assignments from class. The lesson calls for learners to use Adobe PageMaker. You could also implement technology by making a template in Word or Google Docs that class members can access and edit. Choose a few to post to your own website or a school site.