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 new portfolios can really add up, but if you make them yourself it’s much easier on your budget. Plus, you can often recruit parent volunteers to help with this sort of thing! Here is a simple portfolio that I always start out the school year with…
Take a piece of white 22″x28″ railroad board and mark it at 13 1/4″ on both long edges, then fold at these marks. (Scoring lightly first will give you a clean, crisp fold.) Then staple both sides three or four times. This leaves 1 1/2″ at the top to write in the student’s name and a “blank canvas” on the front for the student to decorate.
When I need to make lots of portfolios, I create a “template” for making the scoring marks. First, I place one of the boards on a table and outline the two long edges and one of the short edges with masking tape. Then, I use a Sharpie to mark the tape at 13 1/4″ on the two long edges. Next, I lay a straight edge between the two marks and lightly run my open scissors 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 like to 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 (pictured) 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. A parent recently told me that when her 1st grader brought his portfolio home at the end of the school year, he set up an easel with chairs in front of it for the whole family, put on a shirt and tie (!) and proceeded to take his artwork out piece by piece for his own personal “one man show”! How cute is that???!!