Do you use file folders in your classroom? If not, you should start! File folders are a great way to teach a variety of skills, and they are especially beneficial for students with special needs. In this blog post, we will discuss four tips for teaching with file folders, plus the steps to creating file folder activities that can be used in the special education classroom.

There are many benefits to setting up independent activities in the special education classroom. File folders are a great way to differentiate instruction and provide students with multiple opportunities for success. These file folder activities are also motivating and engaging for students, which is important for all learners, but especially for students with special needs.

Tips for Teaching with File Folders

  1. Start with simple activities. When you are first introducing file folders to your students, I recommend choosing a simple matching activity featuring the types of skills students can complete independently (versus new academic skills). This will help your students understand how file folders work, from start (setting up) to finish (clean up).
  2. Set up file folders to teach a variety of skills: reading, math, science, social studies, social skills, life skills, and even fine motor skills.
  3. Consider including different levels – will students focusing on practice new skills or reinforcing previously learned concepts (or BOTH!)? Make sure to choose activities that are appropriate for your students’ skill level.
  4. File folder activities can easily be used during independent work time . You can assign them as independent work tasks or place them at independent work stations – they are also a great addition to your morning work routine.
  5. Use a file folder activity as a warm-up for a small group lesson. Our small groups rotated and there was always a few moments of transition as students get settled into their next activity. To avoid any downtime, lay out a file folder in each student spot for when they arrive at your table. Students can immediately get started with a quick activity before the direct instruction lesson starts. The best part – by choosing individual file folders for each student, you can differentiate to both needs and interests.

Setting Up a File Folder System for the Classroom

One of the benefits of using file folder games and activities is the minimal prep time involved. You need just a few materials to get started and you'll soon have your ENTIRE set of independent work activities ready for learning.

Here's the basic supplies you'll need:

  • Manila folders – I skip the prints and instead choose solid colors (great for color-coding!)
  • Printable games – this IEP basic skills file folders bundle has 28 matching activities ready to print and insert into folders
  • Glue for Assembling the Pages – I find it easy to use a glue stick for less mess
  • Adhesive “Coins” – to place on the backs of the moveable pieces (i.e.: Velcro)

Optional supplies:

  • Lamination – consider laminating the file folders for durability
  • Plastic bag or envelope – to hold extra pieces (most of the games I use don't require this)
  • File folder tab – I include tab labels in every set of file folders I create, BUT I often skip this step (I'm possibly lazy!)

That's it! One afternoon of assembling and you'll have file folder fun for the entire school year and beyond!

Are you ready to try file folder activities in your special education classroom? Check out this complete set of IEP Skills File Folder Activities. The bundle comes with 28 activities that are aligned with important IEP skills. Use these activities to assess letter identification, rhyming, syllables, count, shapes, addition, and more!

Hi there.

I'm Jennifer!

I’m Jennifer and I was a special educator in the elementary school setting over the past decade. I entered the classroom every day dedicated to making learning inclusive AND engaging.

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