Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Making a Portfolio For a Play-Based Classroom

This is the first post in a 8 part series of "How Does a Play-Based Classroom Teach...?" 
  1. Making a Portfolio for a Play-Based Classroom.
  2. How Does a Play-Based Classroom Teach...Social/Emotional Skills?
  3. How Does a Play-Based Classroom Teach...Language and Literacy? 
  4. How Does a Play-Based Classroom Teach...Math?
  5. How Does a Play-Based Classroom Teach...Science?
  6. How Does a Play-Based Classroom Teach...Social Studies?
  7. How Does a Play-Based Classroom Teach...Health and Safety?
  8. How Does a Play-Based Classroom Teach...Fine Arts?
     I am killing two birds with one stone by not only breaking down how children actually learn in a play-based setting, but by also organizing my ideas for my own classroom portfolio.  Documentation is an essential exercise for early childhood educators who follow a play-based curriculum. 

Why make a portfolio?
  • Because there are still many parents, teachers, and directors who still differentiate play from learning.
  • Portfolios tell your story. They document how you meet standards, your classroom routines, classroom traditions, the teacher's creativity, and the children's joy all in one place!
  • Pictures speak a thousand words. 
  • Portfolios demonstrate consistency in your curriculum.
  • When teachers are prepared with a portfolio that is organized and up-to-date, the teacher gains credibility.
  • When a parent comes in asking, "So what did they do today?" about their three year old, you can confidently say, "Play," with a visual portfolio showing how play supports learning.
  • Portfolios serve as a great resource when accreditation assessors come a-knockin'! Nothing growing in the garden at the moment? No worries! It's all documented in the classroom portfolio.
  • Maintaining a portfolio gives teachers feedback. What worked? What didn't? What were the children's interests? What are the program's strengths and what do we need to focus more on?
  • You can take portfolios with you wherever you go. Hey. In this economy, it never hurts to be safe. If you end up in a situation where you need to find a new job (or even just want a raise!), a portfolio is the perfect resource to have on hand.
Tips for Assembling a Classroom Portfolio: 
  • Know What Kind of Portfolio You Want To Make.  It might sound obvious, but before you start this project, ask yourself, "What do I want my portfolio to tell people?" In my case, my objective is to design a portfolio that portrays what standards we meet through play.
  • Gather Your Basic Information. Make copies of your daily schedule, hand washing procedures, disinfecting schedule, daily reports, a sample of your planning, parent newsletters, class expectations, and whatever else you have on your Parent Information Board. 
  • Take pictures throughout the year. I've found blogging to be the perfect excuse for me to take out my camera more often. Make it a habit to carry your digital camera around with you at all times. Technology has made it possible for some camera phones to have nearly equal quality to a digital camera.
  • Organize as you go. As you take pictures, mentally organize what standard the activity meets. When you upload your photos onto your computer, sort them into files according to your needs. You might sort them by Early Learning Standards, by date, or by what type of activity it is. It's up to you. For a long time, I only had mine organized into only two folders: "Printed" and "Needs To Be Printed." :)
  • Make neat, legible labels. Once you have the paperwork and photos organized, it's time to make labels. If you choose to write the labels with your hand, please make sure it is neat and legible. You also use a label maker, or type and print labels from your computer.

    This is important: if you decide to make an Early Learning Standards Portfolio, like me, make sure the labels are specific to each strand and sub strand.

    The Arizona Early Learning Standards read like this:

         "Strand 1: Knowledge of Self
               Concept 1: Self Awareness. The child demonstrates an awareness of his or herself.
                   Indicators: a) Demonstrates self-confidence."
  • Assemble. By now, you have an objective in mind, your papers and photos organized, and labels are made. Now all you have to do is assemble! :)
Take your time! This is a huge undertaking, and I'm well aware of all the MILLION things that teachers already have on their plate. Do a little bit at a time, and you will have a killer portfolio to show for it!


  1. What a straight forward guide to portfolios, thanks

  2. We use portfolios at preschool as well and I'm loving your tips on organisation - it can all get a bit out of hand otherwise (speaking from experience!). Looking forward to the rest of the series.

  3. I would love to see a sample. :)

  4. Thanks for sharing this post! Portfolios are definitely a monster, yet ideally they are a joyous process as well when teachers are organized like your example! Fantastic :)

  5. Samples coming soon! :) They ARE a monster, which is why I wanted to write something about them. I put off making this one for a long time, because it's an overwhelming, daunting task that I told myself I didn't have time for.

    When I put the word out that I wanted to make one, no one really had any suggestions, so I found my own way to do it. Thanks for the kind words, ladies!

  6. Such well thought out reasons and post - thanks - it is great to have it all here to refer back to

  7. I'm a prep/1 teacher - it's my first year, and we have portfolios, though they tend to be more 'work' oriented, even though I think we have a FANTASTIC play program every single day.. AND I love photography and taking photos of our kids playing, I just hadn't yet put two and two together to include photos in their portfolios. Will have to start doing that in T2! Thanks! :)

  8. I've never thought of making a portfolio for the whole classroom. Thank you for such a clear explanation. I look forward to the rest of the posts in this series.


Thanks for you comment! Happy playing!

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