Classroom Portfolios, Part 1

This post from Momentous School 4th grade teacher Katherine Probolous is the first part of a series on building student portfolios. 

By Momentous Institute | Sep 18, 2020
Portfolios 01

Today’s post comes from Momentous School 4th grade teacher Katherine Probolous. It is the first part of a series that we will track over the course of this school year. Katherine has begun a year-long journey to build student portfolios that represent their year, and we will follow along their journey with touchpoints along the way here on our blog. We hope other teachers follow along! Feel free to email us with questions along the way at and we will work with Katherine to answer them. Here’s Katherine!


This year in our class we are tackling a portfolio project to help students take ownership of their own learning.

Portfolios to me always seem sort of like an ideal, something I know I should do and would love to do, but something that can feel overwhelming and can lose steam over the course of the year. Of course it is important to track students’ learning over the course of the year, and it is best if we can organize it and have something to show at the end. I’ve tried different types of portfolios over the years but this year I started the year with a four-step plan.

Over the course of the year, we plan to cover the following:

Phase 1 – Creating vision boards and goal setting

Phase 2 – Explaining portfolios and adding work

Phase 3 – Revisiting and re-evaluating work

Phase 4 – Finalizing completed portfolios and preparing for presentation to 5th grade teachers

The end result should be a digital portfolio demonstrating each student’s goals for the year alongside their work that shows their learning over the course of fourth grade. Students will ultimately select what goes in their portfolio and explain why they chose it. They can choose to include their favorite work, work they’re proud of, work they didn’t do as well as they hoped on, work they found challenging, or any other selection method they would like to use, and they’ll explain their reasoning for including each piece. We’ll come back to all of that in future posts.

To kick things off, we entered Phase 1 at the start of the year with a vision board and goal setting exercise. Ultimately students need to buy in to this process for it to be successful, so we wanted to set the stage with what they can expect for fourth grade and set goals that they can revisit throughout the year.

Phase 1: Vision Boards and Goal Setting

Just like on January 1 many of us create a vision for what we hope the year will look like, at the start of the school year we took some time to come up with what we want our school year to look like. I started with an exemplar which is my vision board. It has a combination of academic and non-academic goals. Here’s what I put on mine:

I would like to improve my skills with Screen Castify, I want to make sure I get enough sleep, I want to do one-on-one check-ins, and drink enough water. One way I calm down is to use hand lotion, so I included that to show my self-care routines, etc.


If you’re interested, here is a video of me explaining my vision board to my students.

Here are a few student examples:

This student put the magical mystery bus to represent field trips, goals around staying active, breathing, becoming a better writer.

This student wants to eat right, sleep well, he uses a stress ball when he’s upset, he wants to be outside more, grow in reading and writing, and wants to eat more vegetables.


As you can see, this gives me insight into their academic goals as well as getting to know more about them and relationship building.

After they complete their vision boards, they will share them out with the class. I created a sign-up sheet and each student will take a turn talking through their vision board.

I tell students that the vision boards are living documents. During the sharing process, a student may see something on another student’s board and think, “I love that! I want to add that to mine.” The vision board can be added to at any point.

After they create their vision boards, they will use that to write a goal. That’s where we’re going next, so I’ll check back in after we complete that piece and share more!

My hope is that if students have a vision board and a goal, they will be engaged and motivated to continue building their portfolio throughout the year.


A lot of this work is based on two sources: the book Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners by John Hattie and work with Professor John Almorade from Learning and the Brain who Momentous School teachers worked with this summer.

I look forward to sharing this journey here and welcome any questions!