Portfolio Presentations from Ron Berger's Classroom

This video features clips from portfolio (passage) presentations of 6th graders in Ron Berger's class in Shutesbury, MA in the 1980s. The presentations were given just before graduation, to panels that included school committee members, principal or superintendent, guest educators, community members and disciplinary experts. The video clips were shot by students from the class.


- I worked for about twenty five years as a public school teacher at a small rural elementary school, in the town where I still live in Massachusetts. I’m presenting to you here some of those highlights of my former students who are all now grown up, their beautiful work and their reflections on their growth.

- Hi, my name is Sophie. Last year, my class studied Deaf Culture. I was really, really impressed by the culture. Deaf people are different than hearing people in many different ways. They have a different sense of time, different values, different politeness and even a different way of looking at life. My favorite part of last year’s study was visiting all of the Deaf schools. My favorite Deaf school was the New York City School for the Deaf. I made so many good friends from that school. After we visited them, the Deaf kids came and visited us. I had three Deaf girls sleeping at my house, no voice.

- Hi, this is Noah, he plays on a basketball team called The Sonics, and here he is.

- Okay, the first thing I’d like to share with you is that this is my first year in this school. I moved here from Oregon in the fall of last year. It’s been a challenge for me, fitting in and making friends, but I did. I came into this school with some strengths and weaknesses, some of my weaknesses were that I wasn’t that strong in writing, and also in math I was about two years behind. In the first two months of school I worked very hard and I caught up to grade level, and I actually passed it. So, as you can see, here I got perfect scores on my last two tests. We also did a project where we tried to find long repeating decimals, and I had the longest in the class. Eighteen digits. Also, a mathematician sent the school a problem to work on where we used four numbers and tried to come up with one through one hundred, and that was the one my group worked on. I contributed to that a lot. Some of the strengths I came in with were I’m very obsessive about detail and very meticulous, as you can see on my blueprints and some of my drawings. You also probably noticed how big my house is, and it has a lot of areas for kids to play. That’s because I have one sister and two brothers so I have a big family.

- [Woman] Okay, fifteen drafts is.

- Mainly, because it was due on that day. I really felt that it was completed, I was getting a lot of critique that day and I made a lot of changes.

- [Woman] What’s the critique like? And does it help you? Does it hurt your feelings ever?

- Mr. B’s rule is, first say something positive, then say a suggestion or something not too like, “oh this is horrible,” or something like that. But this could be changed, or maybe you might want to do that.

- For the well report, we tested 63 wells in Schutesbury for inorganic elements in pH.

- We gave each family a testing kit, which consisted of two sterile bottles, samples A and B, surveys, and an instruction sheet. Sample A is water that’s been sitting in your pipes all night, and sample B is water that has been flushed out.

- When the samples from homes all over Shutesbury were sent back, we took them to Hampshire College to be tested using the inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer. When we got the results back, we prepared an individual report for each family.

- After the individual reports were finished, our class started to prepare a well report for the town, which made sense. Miya and I had a lot of responsibilities to take and during our study, including our section, the introduction and methods, the summary of findings and labeling envelopes, writing cover letters, the bear contest along with two other classmates, presenting to teachers, scientists, guests, reporters, and others, and much much more.

- We’ve received an award from the state for our project which is up here. It was the Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Environmental Education.

- The first thing I’d like to share is my cave novel which is called Cavern of Terror. This is my favorite project this year. It’s about a group of scientists who are down studying frogs and amphibians in Central America. The book itself is sort of combination of political thriller and science fiction. So while they’re down there they get caught up in gorilla warfare, that’s the political thriller part. There’s all this stuff with the gorillas and what they do. Then when they go and hide out in this cave, when they escape, and inside the cave- this is when the science fiction part comes in, there are these things in the cave, these worm things, and they burrow into your flesh and they control you. So there’s a whole episode down there where they’re doing that. I’m going to read an excerpt from the story.

- This is for a character, we’ve done finances, and we made up their whole life. This is their checkbook which we got to make up. In it, we keep our checks and the balance of the checkbook. I’d also like to show you the tax forms that we did for her, we got to fill out tax forms for them. The first one we filled out was a W2 form and the second was a 1040 form. I thought it was interesting because it took a long time to try to figure it out and stuff, but I was happy because I really got involved in it. At the end of doing the taxes she got a tax return so I sort of felt like I got a tax return, even though it wasn’t real or anything. I liked that.

- [Student] One strength I have is, I progress a lot in drafts. This is my first draft right here. Between drafts I progressed a whole lot. I took things out, added things in, and my final draft is just so much more different than my first idea was. It’s almost no resemblance at all. Progressing between drafts is my original skyscraper design. One thing which makes me proud about this piece is that I used the critique of classmates really well because when we had a group critique session, everybody thought it was too busy and everything. So I took their critique, and on my final draft I really used the critique well and I made a lot less busy and everything, so that really makes me proud.

- I’m going to show a segment from the video from the play that we did. ♪ Where is love? ♪ ♪ Does it fall from skies above? ♪ ♪ Is it underneath the willow tree ♪ ♪ That I’ve been dreaming of. ♪

- In conclusion, I’m going to show you a clip of a disco video. I took a disco class by Mr. Berger. We practiced at recess times, and we did a performance for the whole school in the gym. This is just a little clip of it with me and my partner, Molly, who I danced with. ♪ Boogie oogie oogie ♪

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