Portfolios in a Cinch

On Monday, I talked about how to use a portfolio as an assessment tool by using my handy Portfolio Cover Sheets. Now, I am going to explain how I make the portfolios and other details surrounding this process. I was lucky to run into some amazing free paper from our print shop in our district. It was too thick to run through their printers, so I had them cut it down for me. I am using these for my portfolios!  Did I mention it was totally free?!

I learned a new way to fold the Portfolios on Teach Kids Art.  Her portfolios leave a little space at the top to write names. This is very handy and I decided to do this as well.

After you fold the portfolios in half, you write the names at the top. Then, I just keep stuffing them throughout the year. I do have kids help me. I have what I call “Portfolio Day” where kids help pass back art a few times a year.

Why Portfolios?

I have adopted the philosophy that art should be sent home in a way that honors the art as a special event, rather than one piece at time that may get stuffed in a backpack and not held with a high regard. I Encourage parents to have a “Portfolio Night” at their house and sit down with their child and go through the work and look at their growth and processes.  There are times I will send the occasional “stray” piece home, and also the 3D or ceramic work will be sent home separate.

When do I sent Portfolios Home?

I usually send them home around the time of the second report card (February or March).  The remaining pieces from the year I will send home on their own. I don’t like the idea of keeping the work all year long, because then parents have no real idea what their student is doing in art.  I want to strike that balance of “keeping the art” and “sending the art home.”

Another reason I keep the artwork?  To save for art shows and other honors. If I send it all home I will not have the best to pick from for all of my art displays!

When do you send home art and how do you handle that process?  I am always looking for ways to improve this daunting task of passing out and collecting hundreds of pieces of art. I can’t wait to hear your ideas!

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • Jen

    What size paper do you use for the portfolios?

    • The paper is 28×20. It works perfect to house a 12×18 paper with room to spare. I think you can order larger sheets from a catalog around this size, too! Hope it helps!

  • Jessica,
    What a fantastic idea! Thanks for sharing! I found you through Elizabeth Peterson’s blog – you have such a beautiful site here. I’m looking forward to following you and reading more of what you have to say!

    • Thanks, Susan! I am blushing over here. You have a really neat site as well. Its so fun to connect as educators.

  • Becca Ruth :)

    I also use heavy weighted paper folded in half for portfolios. Each with the student’s name and class code at the top. After I have graded the work, I pass them back out to the class the next time I have them. I do not like work to pile up around my desk or class cubbies!
    The process of passing back work is now fast and easy. As I grade the work I place it into the student’s table color folder. Before the class arrives I place the folder on the table ready for them. I hand portfolios to the first 3 students to come into the room to pass out. Students know to look over their work, record the grade on their grade log, put it into the portfolio, and turn them back into me.
    It takes about two times to practice, but once they’ve got it’s great and the whole process takes about 5 minutes. I do choose a few times a semester to have a critique over the work.
    All portfolios go home at the end of the year. I like to keep them for the Art Show at the end of the year. Parents may come and see the portfolios whenever they wish. I have a huge sign to advertise on parent/teacher nights to come to the art room.
    I wish I had a better way to store my portfolios….. How do you store yours?

    • If they are not too full, portfolios will fit in theses drawers I have. I posted about that here:
      and here:

      I also have rubbermaid totes that I keep some of the portfolios in. The rubber totes allow the portfolios to sit up like a file cabinet for easy filing. (I do all the filing for my Kindergarten work)

      Hope it helps!

      • Becca Ruth :)

        Thanks Jessica! Yes that did help. Right now mine are stacked on shelves…. :( But I do have cabinets that if I cleaned them out better and really rearranged some things I could make cabinets work. No drawers :(…. I have used rubbermaids, but it was too hard to get the portfolios out.

  • Portfolios! I love the cover sheet format. What program did you use?

    I have had terrible failure with individual portfolios. I can’t seem to get them passed out plus notebooks passed out (we do a quick writing prompt (5min) in the beginning of class and if I do there’s just too much stuff on the tables! My students also have a way of asking for their work back that makes it impossible to say no. “My mommy’s birthday is tomorrow, I want to give this to her.” I am a softy. And many projects are 3-D or painting or collaborative pieces. Logistically I’d love to see how to make this work because I see a great value in it. I’m happy I stuck with the journals though!

    • I’ve always wanted to do the quick writing prompt thing and can never wrap my mind around that one. Maybe we could just switch strengths and have it all! So many things have value, and as educators we have to pick and choose because we can’t do it all at once. It’s a process.

      I used pages on my Mac to create my own cover sheet.

  • Anonymous

    I keep all the artwork for a big “Best of the Best” art show in March and have a hard time organizing, so I will try this! And the issue of parents not seeing…I have a gallery on Artsonia.com, so they can see the work while it’s still at school. I have gotten nothing but wonderful feed back about it!

    • Dinoh

      how do you manage taking pictures to all the work? I teach art 1st – 6th grade adding up to a total of 473 student i see weekly… I cant find the right time to take the pictures :s

  • A bit off topic, but I see that you are using some boardmaker in your class. Do you incorporate any boardmaker into your lessons for Additional support needs kids? I am teaching in a school for autisim so it would be really interesting to hear from other art teachers who also use adaptive learning supports in their lessons.