Time to Make Portfolios!


A new school year means new port­fo­lios! A port­fo­lio for each stu­dent pro­vides a place to store and pro­tect a year’s worth of 2D art­work. While it’s great to put stu­dent work up around the class­room, there’s only so much room and then it has to go some­where! If you send it home, chances are pretty good you’ll never see it again, so if you’re plan­ning a spring Art Show keep that art­work safe in port­fo­lios and don’t let it out of your sight!!

Buy­ing port­fo­lios can really add up, but if you make them your­self it’s much eas­ier on the bud­get. Plus, you can often recruit par­ent vol­un­teers to help with this sort of thing!  Here is a sim­ple port­fo­lio that I like to start out the school year with…

You will need a piece of white, 4-ply, 22“x28” rail­road board for each stu­dent.  If you’re mak­ing more than one, it will be quick­est if you stack them and use a pen to draw a ver­ti­cal line down the edge of your stack along the long side, 1–1/2″ from one end.  Then, you can sim­ply fold each sheet up to this mark.  If you want a really crisp fold (espe­cially with any­thing heav­ier than 4 ply), you will need to lightly score each board before fold­ing it.  With 4-ply boards, I don’t bother with that step!  After fold­ing, sta­ple both sides three or four times.  Use the space at the top to write the student’s name.  Then you’ll have a “blank can­vas” on the front ready for decorating!

If you need to make a lot of port­fo­lios and want to score them before fold­ing, you can do this quickly by cre­at­ing a “tem­plate” for scor­ing.  First, place one of the boards on a table and out­line the two long edges and one of the short edges with mask­ing tape. Then, use a Sharpie to mark the tape at 13 1/4″ on the two long edges. Next, lay a straight edge between the two marks and lightly (and care­fully!) run open scis­sors along the straight edge, over the board. Each addi­tional board just fits right into the tem­plate so there’s no more mea­sur­ing after the first one. This really speeds things up!

I usu­ally use our first Art les­son of the year to have my stu­dents cre­ate some­thing per­sonal and col­or­ful with mark­ers on their port­fo­lios. Some ideas include a self-portrait or a fam­ily por­trait, a guided abstract draw­ing activ­ity using lines, shapes and col­ors (it’s fun to see how dif­fer­ent they all turn out while fol­low­ing the same direc­tions!), a draw­ing that illus­trates things the stu­dent is thank­ful for or a design using sym­bol­ism to depict the student’s goals for the new school year. In select­ing what you will have your stu­dents cre­ate on the front of their port­fo­lios, try to plan for some­thing that will be fun for them to reflect back on as they carry their port­fo­lios home on the last day of school!

These port­fo­lios will eas­ily hold the 9x12 and 12x18 projects that make up most of the lessons I teach. When Spring rolls around and it’s time to choose work to dis­play from each stu­dent, it’s already orga­nized and easy to fig­ure out who still hasn’t fin­ished any­thing for the Art Show! (There’s one in every class, isn’t there??!)

Stu­dents feel both pride and a sense of own­er­ship when they have their own port­fo­lio of work which they have uniquely dec­o­rated to reflect their own per­son­al­ity. Have fun with it!!

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5 Responses to Time to Make Portfolios!

  1. Adam Trowbridge September 4, 2008 at 8:55 am #

    Your awe­some Mom! I really like your blog. Im so glad that you did this!

    Love you!

  2. Meghan August 16, 2009 at 6:27 am #

    Where do you buy this from. I love the idea but teach­ing 500 stu­dents this really might add up. I may have to do it with con­struc­tion paper. This is a very help­ful post! Thank you

  3. TeachKidsArt August 16, 2009 at 1:33 pm #

    Hi Meghan,
    You can buy rail­road board at any art sup­ply store. You could also check office sup­ply stores, Wal­mart, or some of the larger craft stores. The key is to make sure it’s light enough weight to fold eas­ily after you score it. It can cost from 50 cents to a dol­lar per sheet, depend­ing on the weight and the quan­tity you buy. You can use these port­fo­lios as a “can­vas” for your first les­son of the year, as stor­age for all the projects you do after that, and as a case to carry work home at the end of the year. Now that’s muti-tasking!!

  4. The Woman Undone October 6, 2010 at 5:26 pm #

    We use garbage card­board boxes for kids port­fo­lios. Take a box and fold it in half, duct tape the edges and cut a hole (if you want to) for a han­dle. On the bot­tom, score the fold, do not go all the way through the last layer of the box. Our high school­ers use these for their odd & large shape projects.

  5. CherriR September 11, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    I like to buy paper and tag board from Molly Hawkins’ House. You can get 100 sheet 22x28” 4 ply poster board for under $30. Their aver­age dis­count on sup­plies is 52% ! They don’t how­ever have a web­site. You can email and request a cat­a­log at SALES@MollyHawkins.com

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