Can you believe it that there is only one more week left of the Australian school year? At the end of every year, one of my routines is to ‘sort out the folders’, a statement that when made to classes guarantees a collective groan! I don’t know why because they enjoy looking back through the work they’ve done over the year as well as comparing aspects of front covers from previous years.
The student work folders have evolved into a chronological compilation of student work. The first couple of years I taught Indonesian, each student began the year with a blank lined book however by years end, I was always uncomfortable sending home a book that was not chockablock full of worksheets and other such evidence of traditional teaching. I have never been one for worksheets or book work. After a couple of years of this, I did some research and decided to try using display folders with the idea that they can be reused year after year, thus I would only need to buy each student one display folder for their entire time at primary school. Display folders do have a downside though and the biggest one is the fragility of the spine. I have had several accidentally crushed by students walking around the room, not watching where they put their feet. In preparation for this, I keep a small pile of ‘seconds’ (folders from previous students) that are still in good condition and they are great for replacing or repairing,
The process for sorting student folders has developed over a number of years and improves with each tweak, in my opinion. The process used to begin with students completing their ‘front cover’ during the first lesson of the school year. Each year I created a new front cover in the Christmas holidays and it always includes the title ‘Bahasa Indonesia’, the year and any language necessary for the upcoming years’ aims. It was also minimalistic to ensure that it can be completed in a single 50 minute lesson, yet with plenty of scope for more creative students. The front cover is photocopied on coloured paper and each class teacher has a specific colour. Keeping the colour consistent over the years has been incredibly valuable. If a folder is left out, I can see immediately which class it belongs to and in following years, I can see too which teacher they had in previous years. On completion, the front cover is slotted into the front page of their display folder and remains there for that year. Initially, the front covers included an introduction to each term’s theme incorporating an English ‘shush & colour’ introductory activity as you can see below on the 2014 cover. From 2015, the front covers have reflected my shift to TCI; providing junior primary students with an opportunity to revise class expectations and middle primary students an opportunity to personalise the top ten Indonesian high frequency words from a ‘Kursi Luar Biasa’ perspective.
A change I experimented with this year was the timing of the front cover. Previously it was completed in week 1, term 1, yet after a discussion with an amazing colleague about front covers, it was pointed out to me that this is actually the optimum time of the year where student engagement and participation is at its highest and a ‘shush & colour’ activity is a sheer waste of this window. So, I trialled it this year in the final week of term 1; the first and longest term in the SA school calendar. Week 11 is always a tough week and a ‘shush & colour’ activity was a godsend for me and my exhausted students. I can’t recommend this enough. It worked brilliantly.
Fast forward now to the end of the school year…..
For various reasons, mostly the limited time I have with each class (50 mins per week on average), student work is rarely added immediately to student folders upon completion. I generally put it in a pile and then add it straight into each classes locker tray where it remains until the end of the school year. Last week (week 8; the penultimate week of the school year), I asked students to “Cari satu teman. Siapa ambil dua klipboard dan siapa ambil satu pensil pot?” (Find a friend. Who is getting two clipboards & who is getting the pencil pot?) I then distributed a self-evaluation sheet to each student. The self-evaluation sheet has also evolved over the years. At first it was just a back sheet to neatly package all the work completed through the year and all that was written on it was the calendar year & the year level completed by that student for that year. Imagine (or look at above pic); a blank A4 sheet with the following written in the centre in large text:
The first self-evaluation sheet encouraged students to reflect on their learning. The first self-evaluation questions asked specific questions yet many students had difficulty remembering details from earlier terms. My first questions were simply:
- What did you learn this year that you feel was the most useful or interesting?
- What was your favourite activity this year?
Very quickly I realised that it was too open, so I tweaked it to add prompts:
- What are some of the structures you learned this year?
- What were your favourite activities this year?
*acting out class stories
*kursi luar biasa
*story based activities
*writing your own stories
*meeting Indonesian visitors
* (blank for students to add their own dot point)
In 2017, the following year, I left the entire process too late for many reasons and barely managed to have classes sorting out their folders let alone creating and incorporating an updated self-evaluation sheet.
This year, I edited the self-evaluation sheet once again to include the following 3 questions:
Junior Primary :
A huge thank you to Annie Beach who has given me permission to add her gorgeous monkeys to this post!
Considering the time of year and the energy levels for both me & my students, this version is straightforward and easy to explain. My explanations included making it very clear that this sheet required personal information and therefore there were no right or wrong answers because it was entirely about how you (the student) felt in Indonesian lessons. We read and clarified the statements together and students coloured in the face that best summed up their feeling for each statement.
While students were completing and adding final touches to the sheet (I suggested they add facial characteristics to their faces), I handed out the student folders. Students had to firstly remove the front cover and then while I am busy handing out their written work, students could choose to complete the front cover or any other work given to them. This is the first year I have incorporated this idea and it worked a treat as it kept the bulk of the students busy!
Once all the work was distributed, students were instructed to put all their sheets together in a neat pile with the front cover on one side and the self-evaluation sheet on the other side, both facing outwards. This is then inserted into the last available empty envelope at the back of the folder. Each year’s pile of work is added this way and by the time students graduate after potentially 8 years of primary school, students have all their Indonesian work sorted chronologically at the back of their folder. Isn’t that cool?
I then travel around with a stapler and staple the sheets in to ensure they don’t fall out and go missing. This also gives me a chance to double check that the pages were sorted and inserted correctly. I insist that all the front covers face the back cover of the folder so that when sorting folders into the next years classes, it is easier to see student names. This part can be done later, but it is so much quicker to do while students are still in the room, especially with older students because they can re-sort and re-insert the pages themselves. While I am moving around with the stapler, I encourage any student whose folder is finished and in the locker tray to help classmates in difficulty.
Folders finished and ready for sorting into the new class configurations next year.
The final benefit of this system is that at the end of the year, when students are more focused on the fast approaching holidays & Christmas, ‘sorting the folders’ is a fabulous way to spend one of the last lessons of the years. It can be a noisy and chaotic lesson, but well worth it, I believe.
Are you tempted to give folders a go? If so, my self-evaluation sheets are available free on teachers pay teachers. I will add my latest front covers soon too. Stay tuned….