Visual Arts: Portfolios

Grade Level: 5-12
Duration: Nine-week quarter, or eighteen-week semester (depending on time frame of teacher and students)
Media Type: multi-media, paper, cardstock, mat board
Subject Integration: Language Arts, Social Studies, Art History
National Standards for Visual Arts: (see bottom of page)
Objectives: In a multi-media format, students will create a portfolio reflecting all work completed, over a period of several weeks. If students create a 3-D artwork, a digital image can be taken and added to the portfolio. This portfolio will be a visual diary of progress made throughout a quarter or semester of time. If students complete an imovie, or digital movie of some type, a DVD can also be added to this portfolio. Students will also complete an Artist’s Statement.

Helpful website for writing rubrics:


0 - Portfolio shows little evidence of originality, detail, or completion. Portfolio does not express a semester (or quarter) of valuable work done in several different mediums.
1 - Portfolio shows some evidence of originality, detail, and completion. Portfolio is incomplete and lacks expression of several mediums.
2 - Portfolio shows evidence of originality, detail, and completion. Portfolio is complete, but lacks full expression of art mediums.
3 - Portfolio shows evidence of originality, detail, and completion. Portfolio shows full expression of art mediums used throughout the quarter (or semester). (Student submits six to seven completed works, for example.)
4 - Above, plus exceptional display and detail of completed work. Student went ‘above and beyond’ when completing his/her portfolio. (Depending on work being put into the portfolio and teacher’s expectations, maybe student submits eight artworks for a ‘4’ on the rubric scale, for example.

Materials and Procedure:

  • mat board covers, two for each student
  • white paper for inside pages
  • scissors
  • glue sticks
  • markers
  • patterned papers
  • colored cardstock

Day 1:
Students view PlayList clips about artists, Nancy Daley and Kelly Dupre.

Nancy Daley (3:07)
Kelly Dupre (3:32)


“What did you see?” “What did you notice about these two artists?” “What intrigued you?” “Where do you think these artists got their ideas?” “What is a ‘visual diary’?

Explain ‘portfolio’ and what students will be creating over a period of time. Hand out two pieces of mat board, one for the front cover, one for the back. Students will start to create both covers with various materials. Students will include name, date, school name, etc.

Day 2:
Students continue work on covers.

Day 3:
Portfolio covers complete.

Day 4:
Inside pages are folded and added to front and back covers.

Day 5-8:
As the quarter (or semester) progresses, student work will be added to the portfolio. Time is set aside periodically for students to add work, to add writing or ideas about his/her work and to complete an Artist Statement.


  • line
  • shape
  • texture
  • color
  • portfolio
  • multi-media
  • visual texture
  • visual diary



  • Portfolios in the Classroom: Tools for Learning and Instruction (Stenhouse in Practice Books) by Beth Schipper and Joanne Rossi (Jan 1, 1997)
  • Portfolio Journey: A Creative Guide to Keeping Student-Managed Portfolios in the Classroom; Grades 1-8 [Paperback]

Follow-up Activities:
Host an art show for others to view completed portfolios, complete with cookies and punch! Show off awesome student work. Have fun!

National Standards for Visual Arts:

Content Standard #1: Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes
Achievement Standard:
Students know the differences between materials, techniques, and processes. Students describe how different materials, techniques, and processes cause different responses. Students use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories. Students use art materials and tools in a safe and responsible manner.

Content Standard #2: Using knowledge of structures and functions
Achievement Standard:
Students know the differences among visual characteristics and purposes of art in order to convey ideas. Students describe how different expressive features and organizational principles cause different responses. Students use visual structures and functions of art to communicate ideas.

Content Standard #3: Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas
Achievement Standard:
Students explore and understand prospective content for works of art. Students select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning.

Content Standard #4: Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures
Achievement Standard:
Students know that the visual arts have both a history and specific relationships to various cultures. Students identify specific works of art as belonging to particular cultures, times, and places. Students demonstrate how history, culture, and the visual arts can influence each other in making and studying works of art.

Content Standard #5: Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others
Achievement Standard:
Students understand there are various purposes for creating works of visual art.
Students describe how people's experiences influence the development of specific artworks. Students understand there are different responses to specific artworks.

Content Standard #6: Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines
Achievement Standard:
Students understand and use similarities and differences between characteristics of the visual arts and other arts disciplines. Students identify connections between the visual arts and other disciplines in the curriculum.

Funding for this program is provided by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Click here for more information or visit the Minnesota Legacy website.

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