English is a Human Body: Electronic Portfolios in the Middle School English Class – pt 2/3

Yesterday’s post dealt with how I used Google Classroom and a Google Slide template to help students get started on their quarter one portfolio. It also discussed how students selected a piece of work and analyzed it for the first part of their portfolio. Today’s post explains the next stage in our portfolio process: analogies.

First up: here’s the day’s presentation. As before it contains the entire lesson, not just the portion discussed in this post.

I first became aware of the power of analogies after reading a book on differentiation to earn recertification points for my teaching license. The book recommended asking students to compare two dissimilar objects in order to come up with new observations and thought patterns. For instance: how is chapter three of your independent reading novel like a website? It seemed hokey at first. But after giving it a shot I was seriously impressed by students’ creative and unique responses. I also wanted to get away from the standard reflective prompts such as ‘What did you like/dislike?’

So I started the lesson out by introducing students to an analogy of my own. I briefly discussed how I wanted them to find common ground between two different objects. I wrote a different analogy for each period. Here’s first period’s.


Next up it was time for students to take a crack at it. I walked them through the process step by step. Vigilant readers might have noticed yesterday’s Q1 Portfolio Template contained two slides mysteriously titled: Q1 English is a Human Body and Q1 English is the Weather. For the first round of analogies I decided to limit students to using one of those two options. I’ll open it up next quarter.

Here’s a quick summary of the process.

  1. Choose the human body or weather analogy.
  2. List four appropriate parts of either the weather or the body.
  3. List at least five things that each of those parts does. For instance human hands open, wave, shake, pinch, and catch.
  4. In what ways did Q1 English open, wave, shake, pinch, and/or catch?
  5. Write a paragraph beginning with “Q1 English is like ____ because ____.”


It’s a lot on one slide, but I tried to include only the most necessary words and examples. That way I could leave it up while I went around and worked with individual students. Once students got over the “this is weird” hurdle, they started cranking out some interesting connections.

After students wrote their paragraphs it was time to take the abstraction up a notch: how did you interact with Q1 English? I wanted them to stick with their analogies, so I modeled my own. I imagined Q1 English as a human body that I danced with. Since it was the first quarter the dance was awkward. New routines, new students, and new expectations meant a lot of miscues and stepped-on toes.

Analogy Interactions

I knew students would need help with this process, so I created a slide to give them a way begin. Regardless of how students felt about Q1 English, I provided options for getting started with both the human and the weather analogy. Chose the weather analogy and hated the class? Then you might say you sought shelter from the storm. You stayed inside and watched TV while Q1 English pelted the windows trying to get in. Or maybe you chose the human analogy and loved Q1 English. In that case maybe you two became fast friends, learning about each other’s quirks and getting outside your comfort zone.

Analogies Interactions2

Students typed up their paragraphs onto the corresponding slides in their Q1 English portfolio template. Students enjoyed the lesson, even though some of them remained somewhat confused by the slightly unorthodox approach.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about the culmination of the portfolio: the grade reflection component. Although I don’t use grades, my district requires at least one grade for each marking period. I use the summative grade reflective essay to help students make sense of what they’ve done in my class during the last nine weeks.

Thanks for reading!


  1. Sarah

    The analogy idea is intriguing,..many of my 6th graders are SO concrete that it would be quite a stretch for them to grasp and then apply this concept!


  2. Pingback: What Grade Do I Deserve? Electronic Portfolios in the Middle School English Class – pt. 3/3 | Mr. Anderson Reads & Writes
  3. Pingback: If I Stuck a Camera into your Brain, what would I see? Responding to Literature | Mr. Anderson Reads & Writes
  4. Pingback: Pulling an Iceberg up a Mountain: A Portfolio Analogy | Mr. Anderson Reads & Writes

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