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 9×12 and 12×18 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!!


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 22×28″ 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