Managing All that Artwork!: folder, class art and art show organization

As I begin saving art work this school year, I thought I’d share my own tips for organizing the ins and outs of thirty plus classes per week.

I’m at the elementary level, which means throughout the day I’ll see a mix of Pre-K-fourth grade, usually six classes a day.  Our classes change every forty minutes with five minutes passing time in between (typically, but not always.) Keeping ahead of the game through good organization is how I manage the insanity. Here are some of the processes I’ve developed over the years to aide in that organization.

Folders

Have a folder for each class. I like to use a 18x24 piece of oak tag or poster board as the folder.  Use a different color marker for each day of the week to color code the folders. Write the class on the left for example and the day and time the class is scheduled on the right.
img_8095          folder example
I like to use the old metal magazine holders or book ends to hold the folders vertically. It allows me to store them on a windowsill or put them on my teacher table (in my shared school) which takes up less space.

Once I’ve finalized seating charts, at least for the start of the year, I tape a copy to the class folder. This is helpful for a couple of reasons- I use this seating chart to make tallies for class participation on the seating chart.  It also comes in handy when there’s a sub in the room as they can easily access this. (Yes, I also keep this information in at least one other place that could be referred to)  As I mentioned in my post about sharing a classroom, I only keep in process work in these class folders. I know other teachers do it differently, but this works best for me.

When work is finished, I have a place on my work table that I keep completed art and will take some time during the week on a prep or when students are independently working to sort through this work and pull pieces to be displayed in the hall.  You might also choose to use this part of the process to pull a couple of examples to save for your school art show. I add an additional step to my routine, you know because apparently I like extra work!  And do it later as I'm taking work down from the hall.

All student artwork is mounted, labeled and hung on my prep time.  Depending on the school and situation sometimes there are aides to help with this and sometimes not. But I feel it is important for the school community to see a thoughtful and well done display of the student work. This is really a top way to advocate for your program- be visible!

On to the next step!

I have a separate area in my room for storing finished work (work that’s not in the hall).
It’s a costco vegetable box with oak tag folders for each grade.
IMG_7995I  experimented with returning work at different times over my career- as it is finished, mid year and end of year or in my current practice, at the end of each marking period.  I’ve found that the classroom teachers appreciate this schedule more than returning work as it is finished.  This way they get a pile with the three or projects from that marking period to hand out all at once.

The Clipboard

When work comes down from the hallway, I save two examples per class from the project to display in the school art show at the end of the year. I have about 400 students in one school and about 220-230 in my second school (out of 500 children total at that second school). Two examples per class turns out to be a nice taste of all the projects we have completed.
When it comes to the end of the year art display, It is our custom that each student in the school is represented by one artwork at the art show.  So keeping track of that is the next challenge. I keep an extra copy of all the class rosters on a clipboard and write next to the student name the piece which is being saved. If your school district has started to use PowerSchool/PowerTeacher/Gradebook like mine, you can print a “report” with as many columns as you need to keep track of different displays.  If you are very motivated or perhaps use a more easily transferable site, you could also keep this information in a Google spreadsheet.
art-show-tracking-scan
Printing a “report” or having a spreadsheet is nice because then you can get just the student name and then use the amount of columns you need to track displays. Let’s say you wanted to note who already had work in the hall, you could create a column for hallway display. I have three columns, mine track work saved for the school art show, for the district art show and for a Board of Ed display. It might look like this:

Students are notified of their saved art piece through half sheet slips of paper.  Mine usually look something like this:   

Dear_______________________________________,
Congratulations! Your art project, _________________________________________________________ has been selected for display in the Gallery Night Display. Gallery night is scheduled for May 17, _______ at ____________Elementary School. Every child will be represented by one artwork. All artwork will be returned after the display. Thank you for your hard work!
Sincerely,
Emily McEneely
When I really print them I like to put in some graphics, a little frame around it, some kind of clip art image.  Every year I change it up. As they are only half slips of paper it also pays to copy them on colored paper so they are not so easily lost in student folders.  I hand the slips to the teacher with the work I am returning for that marking period.

I fill out the clipboard and do the student notification slips at the same time.  I highly recommend keeping these records.  It will save you when you have one left-over label for your art display and find yourself panicking,  where does it go!? WHERE does it go!?!  And when you’re standing at the door of your well attended art show greeting families, many will come up to you to ask- uh, what does my son/daughter have here? Where is it?  Well, as we are professionals and we want to be able to demonstrate that, especially on art show night, a recorded list of artwork per child is an excellent cheat sheet.  I keep one of these with me whether I’m at a school art show, a district art show or a library art display.  It’s also a good idea to give a copy to the head secretary in the main office as parents may call the school to ask and he/she can field the call for you.

I hope my organizational tips for managing artwork can be of some help to you. I see so many good ideas on pinterest for storing artwork and I wonder, what method do all of you use?
Also, perhaps you're at the very beginning of your art teacher career and it's great to know how to track saving the art, but you're thinking- what about making the art!? Try some of my own methods for starting a new lesson.  Thanks for reading!


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