Monday, July 6, 2009

Inside the Art Room: Managing Student Art

One of the most overwhelming aspects of being an art teacher is the management of the artwork. Of course, you don't have to manage it at all; children can take their precious piece with them when they leave class. But for me, I like to keep all of the art created in the art room in the art room.

There's a reason for my madness:Art Shows. Each spring there are a medley of opportunities to showcase the student's art, starting with the biggest: the school art show.
Each child gets to display one piece. I like to have all pieces available in individual portfolios in order to select the student's best one. Also, this system gives me the opportunity to select a variety of artwork so the parents can see all of the projects done throughout the year.

So that's what I do: create a portfolio for each student.

Sounds like a lot of work, but done in baby steps, it really is no big deal. At the beginning of the year, I take a 18" x 24" piece of Sulphite Tru-Ray drawing paper (any color, but color coding would be cool!), fold it in half then:
  1. Write the student's name,
  2. Write the teacher's last name or room number
  3. Write the grade level.
  4. * If that class has inclusion students, I like to put an asterisk next to those children's names, because even though they attend art with this class, their artwork is group with the inclusion classes for the art show.
So, now that you have a portfolio for each child, what do you do with it? At one of my schools, I have this nifty cubical shelf. It's old and wooden and the perfect size for holding a classroom's stack of portfolios. (see photo at beginning of this post.)
By chance, this shelf has 5 cubes per row. Perfect, since I teach no more than five classes in one day. So this is how I organize the cubicles. I put a label at the very top of each row: Monday Group A, Friday Group A, Monday Group B and Friday Group B.
As you may have determined, I teach in cycles: Group A for 5 weeks, then Group B for 5 weeks. I work two days a week (Monday and Friday). So If I'm looking for Friday Group B's portfolio's, I just look at the last slot.
Of course, you may have a different schedule. At the other school where I teach, my schedule is different and so is my storage. I don't have this nifty shelf, so I use legal size filing cabinets. They are a perfect fit for my portfolios and you can organize the drawers however you like.

Now, don't think I'm an organizing freak. I'm really quite sloppy. After a class is over, the art either goes on a drying rack or gets placed in a stack with a piece of paper on top stating whose class it is. Sounds easy but there have been many times when that little piece of paper that should have a teacher's name on it, gets forgotten. I've mixed up ALOT of art by being rushed and anxious to get home or whatever.

The best part of this system is when a parent comes into the art room and wants to look at what her child has done, I can easily go to the filing cabinet, select the right class, find the portfolio (never alphabetized, I'm afraid) and let the art work spill out in all it's glorious color.

So there you have it: my version of being organized.
Good luck!



Unknown said...

Thank you so much for this post- I was trying to come up with a plan this year for storing art from week to week and this has solved my problem.

I love your site!


Mrs E (in Texas) said...


Great ideas!! It gives me somewhere to start thinking about how to handle my art room next year. I am blessed with a set of wire storage shelves for every grade level, but I have never done anything more than just use a shelf per class.

I love your it daily.
I am inspired by so many art teacher blogs to start my own, but my district is currently debating our policy of student work only appearing on our intranet and not out in the big www.

Keep up your great work -

Karen E

Anonymous said...

Your blog is wonderful, I'm so glad I found it. Thank you so much for sharing your super ideas. It pays to be so organized and I'm sure your students take pride in browsing through their folders. I agree it's great to see progression through the year by holding onto work. Well done!

The Munoz Family said...

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! For this post. I was having a hard time figuring out how to save the students work. This helps a lot. THANK YOU AGAIN!!!!
Also, thanks for answering my question about what project to start the school year with. I would love to come see your work in person, if you allow me.



Patty Palmer said...

You are all welcome! I'm so glad this post has helped you out. I'll try to do more when the inspiration hits!

Unknown said...

Happy Birthday!

Alejandra said...

I totally agree with you. KEEP EVERYTHING! I do two art shows--one in December and the other one in June. The kids make giant portfolios out of butcher paper and decorate it etc. They take all their work after the December show and then in June bring back the empty portfolio to take the second batch. I love your site by the way!

teebo said...

Hi Patty, thanks for sharing all your experience. Do you every send art work home? Don't the kids ask to take it home? Do you hang alot on the wall?

Patty Palmer said...

Hi Teebo,
At the beginning of the year, I show the students a portfolio and explain that all art created in the art room will go into this folder. After that, they never ask, but parents do. Even after explaining in newsletters, etc. some parents still wonder where their kid's artwork is!
At the end of the year, the students proudly take home their portfolios. If I didn't have all the art shows, I wouldn't keep the artwork. But I do, so this method works for me.
As for displaying art, I have four wall sections available. I rotate every month or so. One class per section.
hope thsi helps!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Patty for your reply. Everything you do on this site is so helpful. Thank you. I just order all your lessons. Thanks keep them coming. Why not publish a book I would purchase that too!

teebo said...

Patt, Do you plan your whole year ahead of time. I am a new art teacher. Any advice you have is so great. Thank you again.

Patty Palmer said...

Hi Teebo,
My first year, I tried to plan my lesson in stages, but you know, sometimes it's hard to be too structured. Many times you have to be flexible.
My best advice for you is to do a variety of lessons yourself and get a feel for how you would teach that lesson. You might discover that you would add or delete a step. Also, teach what you enjoy doing yourself.
Good luck and don't is fun and as long as you are relatively organized and enjoy what you are doing, you will be hugely popular!

Anonymous said...

Hi Patty! thanks for always answering my questions. Do your students sign their names on the front or on the back. thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Great ideas; I am in my first year and feel overwhelmed. Your lessons are terrific! My roster is about to change; back to back classes up to four in a row. NO break between classes; none; not even 5 minutes. No sink either; any ideas????!!!

Patty Palmer said...

Hi Anonymous,
Have you read this post?

The post linked above might help you manage your class schedule although I think the first thing you need to do is to talk to your teachers. Have the arriving class delay a few minutes.In addition to that, dismiss the existing class early. Between the two shifts, you should be able to arrange for a 5 minute turnaround. No one expects an art teacher to herd one class out while the other class enters. If they do, you still need to change that. You'll provide a better program if there is a minute to breathe.
As for the no sink dilemma: Go to Home Depot and buy a couple of 5 gallon buckets. Fill one with clean water and leave the other empty. Dip empty water containers into the bucket of clean water to fill up; empty dirty water into empty buckets. Kids can do this as well.
For hand cleaning: use baby wipes.
Good luck!

LT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LT said...

Great tips! I love the idea of color coding student portfolios.

Please check my blog for more tips and projects:

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