One tool I like to use in my classroom is an Idea Book. This is the new cover for next year. I found it helpful to add the table designation to save time. That way when I'm passing them out I just need to look at the table instead of finding each child by name. I can also have them out on the table when they come in without have 25-30 seating charts memorized.
I teach 1st-4th using enduring themes whenever possible so I only use the idea books with these grade levels, not with Kindergarten. When I intro a unit, I usually start with questions. I type these up and print them out (usually 2 or 3 sets to a page so it is less copies). This saves time because the children are not copying from the board which uses valuable class time. This also diversifies the instruction because students can see the question in front of them, on the big screen as well as hear/read it. We do our practice sketches in this book too. They are super cheap to make. I use 5 sheets of 11x17 with one colored sheet for the cover. Fold it in half with two staples on the fold and you have a super cheap idea book, color coded by grade level with 10 pages, or 20 front and back! It's use creates a portfolio of thinking and shows how students grow both in process and over time.
The idea book becomes the pre-test and the completed work is the post-test to show student growth. Another way that I gauge student growth is by using student self-assessment or reflection. This comes in many forms but my favorite for its speed and simplicity is a checklist.
In this example I give students four "I" statements and they respond "yes", "sort of" or "no". This helps me to understand if the students recognize and can use the weaving vocabulary in written and verbal form. I observe the verbal in class while the rug is being created as well as listen to them while they fill out the student evaluation. This is a first grade example so I do read through the statements with them to be sure that lack of reading skills does not keep them from showing what they know. At the bottom I added a matching section for students to recall the process of weaving. This worked better than last year when I had them number the statements.
I also use fill-in-the-blank with first and second. This is another first grade example. I know it is harder to picture it with the younger ones. In this innovation unit, students designed a "robot" and stamped it with found objects. The robot had to be specifically designed for a planet or location in space. Students then created an outer-space landscape using markers and pastel and glued in the robot where it made the most sense on the picture plane. They love this one- they have a chance to tell the viewer what the robot was designed to do and what changes need to be made to the design, if any. The mission report is a quick way to allow students to reflect on what they have learned and created through art.
I also use Artsonia.com, the online student art gallery. It is amazing to see the growth and progress over the years. Of course we have no way of storing a self-portrait each year for five years and even if we could some of our schools are so transient that you could never keep track of them all. This way, Artsonia archives all the work for you. Here are two portraits by Maggie, one in Kindergarten and one in Third grade. It is amazing to see the growth there!
Check out my school on Artsonia.com http://www.artsonia.com/schools/school.asp?id=76429