3 Ways to Use File Folder Activities in Special Education

Share for your fellow special educators!

Do you use file folder activities in special education? Once I started using file folders as work tasks, my planning as a special education autism teacher became a whole lot easier. I made tons of different file folders that I could rotate in and out each month to keep learning skills fresh and exciting for my special education students. But the biggest pro of using file folders is that once students understand how to complete one of these tasks independently, you can keep that part of your day the same and rotate new tasks in and out as much as you want. Using file folders is also really great for differentiating activities for the unique and varying needs of the students on your caseload.

I want to share below 3 different ways that I used file folder activities in my autism classroom to help make planning easier. Plus, there are some FREE file folders linked below fo you to grab!

File Folders for Special Education

Let’s look at 3 important ways that you can incorporate file folders for special education students into your school day. (pssst…I promise these ideas will only make your life easier as a special education or autism teacher!)

1. Use File Folders Activities for Independent Work Stations in Special Education

The first and simplest way to incorporate file folder activities into your autism or special education classroom is to use them in an independent work station.

What is an Independent Work Station in Special Education?

If you aren’t incorporating an independent work station into your daily class schedule, you are absolutely missing out! Having an independent work area can be one of the most positive parts of your routine in a special education room.  It is a time in which students must complete work on their own without an adult helping them or prompting them. Independent work stations are often filled with shoe box tasks, paper tasks or laminated tasks like file folders. Sometimes I would even put toys in my independent work station! You can check out 3 tips for setting up independent work stations HERE.

Here are a few reasons I loved using an independent work station:

It helps prepare students to work on a task independently.

This prepares them for a job one day and also gives them more confidence in their ability to do things by themself.

It helps free up time for you as the teacher to work with a small group of students.

This becomes the perfect time to collect data on IEP goals or teach a math or reading lesson to a small group of students.

It’s an easy routine for students.

As I said above, once you practice this routine at the beginning of the school year-this part of your day will be super simple each week. You can change out the materials in your independent work station daily or weekly or even based on student needs.

Guess what?

I even have a monthly file folder subscription that costs the same as a cup of coffee so you will never have to search for file folders to use each month again. You don’t have to spend your Sundays searching for the perfect activities on Pinterest anymore. Once you are a member of the monthly file folder subscription for special education, you get brand new file folders to download on the first of each month (24 to be exact)! This helps alleviate stressful planning because you can use them in independent work stations, small groups or for independent work. Just print, glue, laminate and prep with velcro (or even better – ask a paraprofessional or parent volunteer to help with this part!).

The best part about file folders is that once they are prepped and ready to go, then you have them to use forever – year after year!

monthly file folders for special education

2. Use File Folder Activities for Small Group Instruction in Special Education

Do you pull small groups of students during the day to teach new skills? File folders are great to use during this time.

You can use file folders for :

counting and number recognition

basic concepts

beginning sounds

CVC Words

calendar skills

shapes (FREE)

… and so many other skills!

3. Use File Folder Activities to Put a Focus on Life Skills

Finally, the third way that I would recommend using file folders in special education it to help teach and practice essential life skills. I am talking about things like brushing teeth, tying shoes, making a PB&J and using the restroom independently.

Try incorporating step-by-step visual instructions or prompts to guide students through these activities in a file folder that the student can easily carry along with them.

FREE Printable File Folder Activities for Special Education

Grab these FREE file folder activities below!

errorless counting file folders special education

FREE Life Skills File Folder Activities

As a special education teacher with an autism classroom, you know that teaching life skills is essential for your students’ future success. I have 6 FREE file folders that focus on different life skills for you.

Life skills file folders for special education | Adapting for Autism

These 6 file folders are the perfect addition to your special education or autism classroom because they focus on:


the dollar up strategy

shopping from a list (great for preparing for community-based instruction trips)

sequence of how-to steps for bathroom procedures

safety signs

sorting by category (sort the items that you would find in a toy store, grocery store or clothing store.)

Simply enter your name and email address below to grab these free file folders that focus on life skills:


Do you use file folders in your special education classroom?

3 Ways to Use File Folder Activities in Special Education
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