What is a History Portfolio Project?

History Portfolio Projects - Using them in your homeschool or classroomHistory Portfolio Projects have student focus on one theme, topic or time period and can include an array of writing, art, and geography assignments that are compiled together in a final product. While we did a couple of portfolio projects when the kids were in elementary (age 8 -10 or so), Portfolio Project really become a powerful tool during the middle and high school years!

History portfolio projects require students to analyze history from different angles and to write from different viewpoints.

Not only that, but portfolio projects expose kids to all kinds of different writing genres and ensures that kids get practice writing in many different styles.

Because of this, history portfolio projects are a powerful writing tool.  Some students may love creative writing, while others love the idea of marketing/advertising or non-fiction writing. By requiring a number of different types of assignments, students practice and improve a number of different writing styles and skills.

The last benefit is that the students create a final product that they can really be proud of!  I know my students were really excited to share their final products with each other when I was teaching in the classroom.

I have some of their projects that I can share with you (yes, I had the students’ permission to keep them!!  I had to submit these with my Teaching Portfolio and the students were gracious enough to let me submit them and then keep them to use as examples for other students.  They’ve been sitting in a been sitting in a box… but this fall I brought them out to share with my own kids as they complete their first homeschool Portfolio Project (more about that below)!

The project above was a portfolio project (done by one of my high school students many years ago) about the dynasties of China.  It included a “Letter to the Editor” (“written” by a peasant woman from the Sui dynasty and talking about the life of her family… building canals, walls, palaces); a piece about the Mandate of Heaven, spotlights (on the dynasties of ancient China), a timeline of ancient China, maps, autobiographies, and a journal (story of a missionary in Japan and his interactions with the Shogun).

What kinds of assignments can you include in a history portfolio project?

  • Letters to the Editor
  • Time Lines
  • Maps
  • “Autobiographies”
  • News Flashes
  • Creative stories
  • Political Cartoons
  • Contemporary Interviews (of someone who lived through that period)
  • Photos from the period
  • Wanted Posters
  • Brochures
  • Journal entries (fictional, but “written by” someone from that period)
  • Letters (written “by” someone from that period to a family member or friend
  • Advertisements
  • Bios
  • (Someone’s) plight — the account of someone who lived in that period
  • Spotlights – Highlight several people from that period and include a brief list of the primary events, accomplishments, bills or laws that they helped pass (this could be for presidents, rulers, famous people of the period, etc.) The purpose it to synthesize information.
  • Art projects

A couple of weeks ago, I shared many of the hands-on activity ideas and teaching strategies I’ve used in our homeschool.  When I first wrote up this list (to keep our homeschool fresh and engaging for the kids), I realized that I could adapt the History Portfolio Projects (that I had done with my high school students) for my kids who were about 8 and 10 at the time.

I then created some simple Portfolio Projects for them.    My kids were 8-10 years old when they did these and they really enjoyed all of the different types of assignments to choose from! Plus, this was a project that they did independently.  These are free to download, but in a nutshell they include different types of assignments/projects and the kids worked on what they wanted to (asking for help when they needed). I think they especially loved the fact that they had control of what they were working on that day (whether art, map work, or a story)

Animal Portfolio Project – This included non-fiction and fiction writing selections, art projects, geography and habitat projects.


WWII Portfolio Project

Now that the kids are older… and as they move into high school, I will have them do more and more portfolio projects. Why?  When I was teaching high school, I found that my students (especially my A.P. students) really liked the change from traditional essay practice (which we did OFTEN throughout the year).  Also, it forces students to examine history from perspectives (whether or not they agreed with it!). I had them write from the POV of a soldier, peasant, ruler, union member, prisoner, “enemy” … and so forth.

Generally, students had about 2 or 3 weeks to complete their portfolio projects.

Let me quickly give you an example of the Civil War Portfolio Project that I assigned one of my high school history classes years ago.  Here were some of the things in their checklist:

  • Overall appearance (presentation, pictures, etc.)
  • Questions (Students had to answer select questions from their textbook)
  • Creative Story
  • Letter to Harriet B. Stowe
  • News Flash: Bleeding Kansas
  • 2 Political Cartoons: Create your own political cartoon about some pressing issue form the period (One from the 1850s and one from the Civil War)
  • Campaign Pamphlet: Create a pamphlet for the Know-Nothing Party. Include their stance on the issues, their appeal to voters and their success rates
  • Historical Overview: Lincoln-Douglas Debates and the Free Port Doctrine: Write a brief historical overview explaining what these were and how they were significant to the period.
  • Bios: Complete 3 bios
  • Enlistment Pamphlet: Create two enlistment pamphlets (one for the North, one for the South) with the primary reasons to join each side
  • Historical Overview: Northern Economy
  • Movie Critique  (Do both for extra credit)
  • Time Line
  • At times, I also had the student create an 3-D art project as well.

Each of these assignments had a point value, so it made it pretty easy to grade.

This is another project one of my students did years ago. It was a Portfolio Project on the 1920s and 1930s (in America).  This portfolio also had a variety of assignments.

Portfolio Project - 1920s 1930s History PortfolioOver the years, my students did a number of different types of Portfolio Projects…

  • Ancient China and Japan Portfolio Project
  • American Revolution Portfolio Project
  • Civil War Portfolio Project
  • 1920s and 1930s Portfolio Project
  • WWII Portfolio Project (I taught a very popular elective on the Holocaust for a number of years. That was a tough elective to teach (Emotionally, I mean. My students were wonderful!)

Here are some select pages from one of my student’s WWII Portfolio Projects (note: This is high school level, not the WWII Portfolio Project I made for LD when he was 10 and shared above!)

WWII History Portfolio Project

Because I was teaching A.P. History a lot of the time, my students had a lot of content to cover.  By having them do portfolio projects with guided assignments, they would cover a range of material, analyze it from different perspectives, and would often remember more than if we had just rushed through this with a series of class lectures.

The past few weeks, my own kids have been doing their first major Portfolio Project on Industrialization and Imperialism.  My youngest, ED, (age 10) only did a few of the assignments, but my older two did an entire project.

Note that we read The Jungle (a novel by Upton Sinclair) aloud together.   This was a really important project for them in having to figure out deadlines and keep on track.  It was pretty challenging for them to keep working on it steadily.  I gave them time during the day, but also expected them to work on this project on “their own time” as well.

Industrialization & Imperialism Portfolio Project Instructions are free here.

Industrialization & Imperialism History Portfolio Project - Printable

As I said above, my younger daughter only did a few selections from the Industrialization & Imperialism Portfolio Project… the creative short story, a diorama project (city scene), and a Power Point Presentation on J.P. Morgan.  Below is ED’s Diorama (age 10) It’s hard to see, but she has rats and a dead horse, lot of trash, kids playing various games, people selling things on the streets and more! ?

Industrial city of 1900 - diorama

Download this FREE History Portfolio Projects Packet with examples and sample instructions on creating projects that work in your homeschool or classroom!

If you have any questions, feel free to email me! 🙂  ~Liesl

Click here for this FREE pdf – History Portfolio Projects

History Portfolio Projects - Using them in your homeschool or classroom - Free Prinable

You might be interested in some of our other History Resources:

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Happy Homeschooling, everyone!!  ~Liesl

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