Back to School Portfolio Projects

By creating portfolios, you can provide opportunities for students to organize, study, reflect upon, and write about their art.

By Alison Panik


Art Portfolios

Even if you haven't used art portfolios in the past, there are easy ways to get started. Many teachers use large folders, folded pieces of tag board, or oversized envelopes to store student artwork. Other ideas include asking local pizza parlors to donate clean, unused pizza boxes or putting recycled cereal boxes to new uses as individual art portfolios. A technology-integrated idea is to move all student artwork to CD to create digital art portfolios to save the shelf storage space for art supplies. 

But art portfolios provide more than just a storage solution. Through the use of portfolios, students can also gain skills in self-reflection and peer-assessment. Provide self-reflection checklists after each art lesson. Discuss what students have learned from the art experience and how they notice they are growing as artists. Invite students to complete peer-assessment surveys. Peer artwork should be identified by number only (no names) to encourage students to be fair and impartial in their assessments.

While many teachers create art portfolios with their students, the key to using the art portfolio as a tool is to provide time, training, and encouragement for student reflection and peer-assessment. Clearly defining what is to be learned in each art lesson, and working together with students to define what success looks like will help students interact with their artwork and gain knowledge from their art experiences. The lesson plans below are a great fit for back-to-school portfolio-building.

Portfolio and Art Lessons:

Art Smart:

In this lesson students explore how colors can show emotions. Students write in a journal about their artwork to show their understanding of how emotions can be communicated through color using their own artwork as an example.

Eric Carle Collage with Color Theory:

In this lesson students study primary and secondary colors. They create collage artwork in the style of author and illustrator Eric Carle. Student artwork is kept in a personal portfolio to show ongoing progress, as well as for self-assessment.

Pop Portraits:

In this lesson students use collage techniques in the style of Andy Warhol's mass-produced images. This lesson includes a list of wrap-up questions that encourage students to reflect on the artwork created in this lesson as well as to assess previous works and peer artwork.

Art and Art Appreciation for Young Children:

This lesson presents a series of activities exploring line. Students create, design, and evaluate line in several different works. They will begin to build a portfolio while at the same time building a language for discussing artwork they create later in the school year.

The Art of Trees:

Students use art as a way to explore and understand a tree. Teachers encourage students to discuss what they notice as they reflect on the artwork created in this lesson.


Elementary Art Guide

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Alison Panik