Elementary Art · Inspire Others

Student Portfolios

Student portfolios are the first project I do with my students after we have our collaborative project completed.


Students are taught that their masterpieces are to be treasured. One way we do that at school is to keep our art stored safely in individual portfolios. The easiest way I know to make a portfolio is to use poster board. Kindergarten and 1st Grade projects rarely exceed 9″ x 12″ so each 22″ x 28″ sheet makes (2) 11″ x 14″ portfolios. For 2nd thru 5th grades I use one poster board per student which makes a 14″ x 22″ portfolio to safely hold 12″ x 18″ art. WOW! That’s a lot of inches in one paragraph!

I fold and tape the sides with masking tape and yes, I do it myself. I know it’s a lot of prep, but it is only once per year and it can be done slowly over the summer months. I’m a bit spoiled since I’m an empty-nester, but I haven’t forgotten how crazy life is with kids still at home. If time is an issue you can have some older students help or enlist a parent volunteer. Having them folded straight and taped up, makes it easier to keep things tidy as they get handled often through the year.


On one side I write the teacher and student names. And again, I do this personally for Kindergarten and 1st Grade. It saves me trying to decipher their hieroglyphics. Older students incorporate their names into the art project on the opposite side. I use a different lesson with each grade level for the decorating. Not only is this a way for students to personalize their portfolios but it also gives me some insights to their skill levels and art interests.


For kindergarten the lesson usually is focused on lines and color. This year we talked about and drew different kinds of lines and then the students colored between them. As you can see everyone has their own unique interpretation of the lesson.


The first grade classes learned how to trace basic shapes to create fun geometric patterns of color. I have a supply of shape templates that I cut from poster board and use from year to year. I demo how to trace and overlap and explain to them what the word “overlap” means. Then I show them how to use different colors in each of the spaces they create.


This is a great way to discover a bit about their personalities too. As you can see, some follow the instructions to a T and others quickly get bored and jump into more creative endeavors. This student turned the shapes into a fancy automobile. 🙂


I can’t say enough about how important I believe it is for students to have their own portfolios. It helps them to understand that their art has value and it helps me keep my sanity during the year as I prepare for art shows. I can quickly evaluate and pull art work for display and at the end of the year everything that hasn’t already been sent home is easy to transport without being crushed.

I’m always on the lookout for new portfolio lessons to do at the beginning of the year. If you have one, please share the joy!

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