Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Assessing Assessments: Part 2-Using and Managing Portfolios

Snow days can be a wonderful thing.  They can be a day to relax and bake cookies which is what I usually do on such a rare occasion.  However, the end of our trimester is Thursday and I am grateful for the day that is allowing me to catch up on grading without the interruption of classes.  Or is it that the grading is interrupting my teaching?  Either way, I am happy that I have a chunk of time to just get this work done!

In my quest to better assess my students this year, I decided at the beginning of the year that I would attempt to utilize portfolios.  These are sometimes referred to as "process portfolios".  This folder holds playing test results, music theory packets, compositions....any written work that students complete for class.  At the end of the trimester, the student takes their folder home (the folders are kept in the band room for safe-keeping) and review their work with their parents.  These artifacts of learning provide parents examples of how their students are doing beyond just playing the instrument.  When I introduced this idea to the parents at the beginning of the year curriculum night, I received a lot of approving smiles and nods of the heads.  These portfolios can justify why a student is receiving a grade.  It is also a great way to organize student work.  Each band is organized by section and I just keep the portfolios in a filing cabinet.  When I starting thinking about doing this, the organizational/managing all of this made me nervous, but the students and I have a pretty slick system and it hasn't been a problem.  Nobody has lost their portfolio yet.  When I presented this idea to my principal he suggested that I just start with one grade, to make it more manageable.  But I am ambitious and all of my band students have assessment portfolios....that is over 200 students 6th-8th grade!  BUT, it's not so bad and I think it is worth it. 

When the students take their portfolios home, they also take a check list/review/reflection/goal sheet to accompany the portfolio.  As you will see below, the first page has a list of written assignments that *should* be in the portfolio.  Students need to list what grade they received and what they learned from that assignment.  Here is where the accountability aspect of this portfolio is great.  If the assignment isn't in the folder it is clearly missing and the students need to explain to their parents the issue.  It is all on the students to be responsible for their work.

The second page I adapted from Susan Farrell's,  "Tools for Powerful Student Evaluation".  While this publication is a bit old, the resources are fantastic.

The third page, not shown here, is a concert reminder and parent/student sign-off.  This is a one-two punch in that if the parents sign off that they completed the review with their child, they also saw the concert reminder!

My goal is that the portfolios will follow the students throughout their time in middle school band.  So this year's 6th graders will keep adding work and by 8th graders will be able to display their growth in their learning and understanding.  Next year, I am planning on adding electronic portfolios of student's playing tests.  I have a class folder and each student has their own folder within my class folder.  This will be a great way track student progress through the years.

2nd Trimester 6th Grade Assessment Portfolio Review

Please complete at home with an adult and return to Mrs. Minette by Thursday, March 7th.  Don’t forget to return your portfolio as well!!

Part 1:  Portfolio Checklist

My Score
What did I learn from this assignment?
Music Theory Packet 3

Time Signatures and Music History


Solo Project
What level did I perform?

1    2    3


Half- Steppin’ Playing Test

Chromatic Scale/Enharmonics


Part 2:  Self-Assessment
Complete this form as honestly as you can.  You will use this to create a goal for yourself for the next trimester.

5= Always         4=Almost Always  3=Most of the time     2=Sometimes 1=Not Usually

My Score
Category Descriptions

I have good lesson attendance and make effort to be on time.

I am well prepared for my lesson music and my band music.

If I miss a lesson I make it up as soon as possible.

I come prepared to learn.

I am self-motivated.

My folder is complete, neat and organized.

My portfolio is organized and complete.

I display confidence and am willing to take risks.

I demonstrate regular and committed practice to our music.

Part 3: Goals

2nd Trimester Goal and Reflection:  Review your goal from  last trimester.  How did you do?  What helped you achieve your goal?  If you didn't reach your goal, what prevented you from obtaining that goal?

3rd Trimester Goal:  Reflect on the above self-assessment and your goal from 2nd Trimester.  With an adult, create a goal for 3rd trimester.


I must add that these goals are not put away and forgotten about.  We periodically review the goals when I pass back assignments and have the students put the assignments in the portfolios.  I should probably mention that I do not go through ALL the portfolios.  Students hand their assignments to me, I grade the assignments, I pass the assignments back and the students put the assignments in their portfolio.  Pretty slick and hassle free!


  1. I like your idea. Take a look at

    my latest attempt at doing the same thing as you. An on-going document showing students where they are at and where they are going. It's the entire catalog of teachable skills advanced through the SOE 1-3 books.

    I really like your first part, definitely something I can use soon! thanks for sharing, RW

  2. this AND standard based!!