PORTFOLIOS DON'T HAVE TO BE a static collection of work tucked away until parent-teacher conference time. They can be an active part of sharing during group time. Whether children opt to talk about something they've been working on in a particular curriculum area or a recent, spontaneous project, the excitement extends beyond group time into the rest of the day.

What to Share

Prior to your first event, invite children to brainstorm the types of work they would like to share at group time. You can focus on a particular activity, such as drawing and writing, or general sharing -- anything a child chooses from her portfolio. Children also enjoy telling others about the results of an experiment done at the sand or water table. There may be times when groups of children are involved in a specific topic. For example, learning about the rain forest might produce shared art, science, math, and book activities about animals and their habitat.

When children know that they will have opportunities to share their work throughout the year, they begin to request turns and the quality of their involvement soars. One kindergarten class decided to record the process of building towers in the block corner. A number of children were interested in experimenting with different methods of building using unit blocks and other materials. Art supplies and disposable cameras were made available so children could record their structures, and they were encouraged also to write about their experiences. The "Tower Group" began to check in weekly with the class to share their experiences and answer questions. The give-and-take during these exchanges inspired a higher level of problem solving among the entire group.

Ensuring Success

The difference between successful group-time sharing and frustrating sessions is amount of time and children's interest levels. Realistically, it can be more interesting for the child who is doing the sharing than it is for those who are listening. So, in order to keep everyone involved, remember to limit the amount of time and the number of children actively sharing.

Consider asking a different child to present once a week on a designated portfolio day. That child will feel special, and you can help the others focus.

Encourage children to interact with each other, by asking the presenter questions about his work. Help them along by asking: "What do you notice or wonder about what you are seeing?" "Do you have a question about the procedure or how it was created?" "Maybe we should ask Michael to tell us what he finds interesting about this work." At first children's questions may be stilted, or even nonexistent, but over time and with your modeling, children will learn important social, observational, and interviewing skills.

Demonstrate acceptance of children's work. If the group sees you supporting something in everyone's work, they will begin to do so too. In time, children who are working on a project will learn to regard group time as a forum for recommendations and advice.

Share your work! Making a quilt, training for a marathon, renovating your house? Bring in examples of something you are working on. Children will be fascinated and, at the same time, will learn more about the process of presentation and demonstration.