• Jennifer Laffin

Treasure Chests: A Gathering Place for Writing


The beginning of the year is crazy busy for teachers everywhere so I’m here to remind you that now is a good time to set up a system for saving your students’ writing throughout the year.

In my classroom, we used Treasure Chests: a manilla folder that was stored in a plastic milk crate in the writing center.

Each student had their own folder which they decorated with drawings of things that were important to them or however they wanted. (Of course, what this looks like will vary at different grade levels.)

I think it’s important to let students decorate their Treasure Chest. After all, this folder will hold all of their writing treasures throughout the year so we want it to be a special place and personalized.

When the decorating is done, simply gather the folders and place them into a plastic milk crate and place them in your classroom writing center or somewhere in the room where students can access them easily. (I found it easier to place each Treasure Chest inside a hanging folder first.)

What kind of writing goes into the Treasure Chests?

Any and all kinds of writing should be placed in a Treasure Chest:

  • Writing that represents thinking

  • Students' favorite finished pieces

  • Samples from genre units

  • Notebook entries

  • Evidence of growth

  • Drafts that could be finished later

  • Required writing samples or benchmark writing

  • Any writing students are proud of and want to save

Does ALL writing go into a Treasure Chest?

That is up to you, but I had students keep most of their writing in their Treasure Chest. This created a nice variety of writing samples and artifacts for students to use for reflection.

Who puts the writing into the Treasure Chests?

Throughout the year, encourage students to place samples of their work in their Treasure Chests themselves. In my classroom, there were times I would put writing pieces into the students’ Treasure Chests, but I also taught them how to add pieces on their own. This increased student ownership of their portfolios, yet also insured it was being fed on a regular basis. Keeping all writing in one place also helped insure that it was not getting lost.

What other ways can you use Treasure Chests?

  • At the end of each quarter or semester, have students go back through their Treasure Chest to look for signs of growth. This would be a great time for them to reflect on what they have mastered and set goals for the next period.

  • Refer to the writing in a student’s Treasure Chest during conferring. You can pull a piece of writing for goal setting or to look for evidence of mastery of a standard or skill.

  • Students can choose a piece of their favorite writing from their Treasure Chest to publish into a cartonera at the end of the year. (More information on cartoneras can be found here.)

When do you send student writing home?

I send the Treasure Chest home at the end of the year. Parents appreciate getting one folder with all of their child’s writing for the year instead of piece by piece throughout the year. Many parents will stick their child’s Treasure Chest into a keepsakes box to hold onto, which is much more difficult to do if writing pieces are sent home individually.

Setting up your students’ Treasure Chests is easy and doesn’t take a lot of time. It increases student ownership of their writing, provides a powerful resource for reflection, and helps manage your paper load.

Start your year with writing Treasure Chests. In May, you will be glad you did.

#WritingClassroom #ClassroomWriting #Cartoneras #AssessingWriting

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