When I hosted a school art show, I wanted to make sure the artwork looked uniform and neat. Since I usually had somewhere between 75 to 100 entries I let my students help make this happen. The students and I spent class time trimming and mounting the art entries to colored pieces of construction paper. The construction paper was cut so it framed the artwork with at least a 1″ to 2″ mat all the way around.
This process usually took 20 to 30 minutes of class time for each student, depending on how many entries they had. I made sure that the class was working on another project at the same time.
I pulled 5 or 6 students aside and had them trim their own art entries with a paper cutter. This worked better than scissors because we could be sure the pieces were square. Then the students looked at their entries and determined what colors would look best framing the piece. If we were in doubt we chose black as a mat. Any pieces over 18″ x 22″ in size did not get a mat because they would have taken up too much space and would have required too many pieces of construction paper.
The students measured their work and either cut the construction paper down or taped pieces of paper together. Sometimes the paper was overlapped. to make the mat the correct size. It took a little trial and error. If the papers were taped together, the students made sure no tape was showing on the front of the mat.
The artwork was attached with loops of clear tape. I asked the students to put loops of tape on the back of their work and then to wait for me. I was the one that placed the artwork on the colored paper. Why? Because I had a better eye for placing the artwork straight and in the center. I also could tell if the mat was the correct size before taping artwork to it. If any student questioned me about waiting, I told them I was a perfectionist and I hoped they would forgive me. The students were usually very agreeable and waited patiently. They wanted their work to look its best.
You may be thinking, “Well, construction paper is a cost that my classroom can’t afford.” I also was on a pretty tight budget, so this is what I did. At the beginning of the school year I gave out an art supply list. The list consisted of pencils, paper, paint, colored pencils, 9″ x 12″ packages of construction paper, etc. When the students brought their supplies, they kept them in a labeled tray which was shared with their classmates. But, the construction paper was put together in a cabinet for the whole class to use. Each student in all of my classes brought a package of construction paper. That adds up to a lot of paper!
Now, you may have some students that can’t afford to buy their supplies. I told my students that if they could not afford supplies to come to me privately. I tried to help them out. I had students that donated their supplies to the classroom at the end of the year. Some of these supplies were like-new. I gave those donated supplies to some of my students. Our local Parent Teacher Organization also gave supply scholarships to some students.
I absolutely never wanted any of my students to feel embarrassed because they couldn’t afford supplies. To me it was important to be flexible, which I feel is a big part of teaching.
Anyway, when the group of 5 or 6 finished matting their work, they went back to their seats and started working on the class assignment. I then pulled another 5 or 6 students aside and started the process again. If I had a really large class this process might take a few days. So, be sure your class is doing a project that will take more than one class day.
I hope this article has been helpful. Here are more articles about school art shows: