Saturday, April 5, 2014

Portfolio Day

In previous years I spent a ton of plan time hanging artwork in the hall. I'd wait until an entire grade was finished with a project, photograph the work for Artsonia, load up my cart, staple all the work (between 450-500 pieces at my primary school), and then in about a month I'd take it all down and repeat. This year I've changed my method and thinking about hallway displays. The response has been positive, the students are involved, and I'm saving lots of time, too! 

This year we've been trying out choice-based art education. Since students are working on their own projects there's no waiting until one assignment is finished and hanging a whole grade's worth of art. Here's what I've been doing instead:
  1. When students finish a project (including artist statements for 2nd and 3rd grade) they turn it in to me.
  2. I photograph finished projects once a week (usually) for Artsonia.
  3. I put the finished projects inside a file folder for each class, organized in a box for each grade.
  4. On a "Portfolio Day", usually every 6 weeks or so, all the finished projects are passed back.
  5. Students choose their best piece for the hallway and attach their artist statement.
  6. We clean up a little bit earlier than usual and each student lines up with their best piece.
  7. Students follow me into the hallway and hand me their artwork one at a time. I staple the artwork and stick out my hand for the next piece like a runner in a relay receiving the baton.
  8. We go back to the classroom and students collect any other finished pieces to go home with them that day.
Choice-based art allows students to work at their own pace (within reason) so some students will have several pieces to choose from and some may only have one piece finished. If there's only one finished piece, it is the best and therefore the "hallway piece". When there are several pieces, the students have to think, compare, judge, and finally make the decision of which piece is their strongest. Most of the time, they really do pick the best piece. In December, I let the students take their best piece home if they really really really wanted to give it to someone for a gift. On portfolio days students often talk to each other about their work and offer advice and opinions on what should go in the hallway.
Two students working on an artist statement.
One thing that makes Portfolio Days go more smoothly is that no new projects are started. If students have something in progress, they continue working on that. If they have finished pieces that slipped under the radar and didn't get an artist statement, artist statements are written. If students are finished with everything, they can choose from one of the centers that are not open regularly- blocks, modeling clay, etc.- until it's time to hang artwork.
The most unexpected benefit of this display method, is that students are noticing, really noticing, the artwork in the hallway. I always assumed they looked at it before, but I was wrong.
*At my intermediate school I still hang all the work myself. I see the students every other week as opposed to every week, and since they are older they tend to work on pieces longer. I don't feel I can take even 5 extra minutes away from their work time to hang hallway pieces. I just hang pieces as they are finished because it would take too long to get more than one piece finished at a time.


  1. Hi Katie !

    Just came across your blog on bloglovin. Can you explain he artist statement a little bit more? I teach grade 1 and one of our reporting outcomes is self assessment, criteria setting and analysis in Art. Would love to hear what you do with grade 1,s and the artist statements for 2 and 3 .


    The Reading Corner

    1. I haven't done much with first graders so far- I usually just have them write a sentence on the back. I may play with a form for next year, but I've found that asking first graders to WRITE anything at the beginning of the year takes them more time than they spent on the artwork. My artist statement forms were heavily inspired by examples on the Midwest TAB Facebook page.
      I'll have to write more about my artist statement forms later. :)

  2. Necessity is the mother of invention, once again, Katie! Good job with getting creative!

  3. Great system! :) Everyone gets caught up and organized! I have been playing with the idea of something like this for next school year...Right now as projects are finished I choose several classes to hang up and rotate classes so Each class has an opportunity to shine. Thanks for posting how this system has been working for you, it helps me for planning how I want to organize mine next year. :)

  4. Also, I like how you have put together their artist statement! I love that you included the different elements and that they have to choose which ones they have used in their project! Great way to get the kids to remember /think about what elements they are using! :)

  5. This is a great system Katie! I have my students select their favorite piece for our art show, too - it's so fun to hear them chatting with each other and offering advice. I need to figure out a way to post the artist statements - our show space is really tight with not much room between the pieces, and I'm not sure it would be effective to hang the writing in a different space... Hmmm....

  6. Wow! That's a great system and saves me so much time. Instead I can use it more productively such us getting my students get more involved! Thank you for sharing!