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File Folder Games: The Best “Old” Tool In an Educator’s Arsenal!

By Barbara Capps

What’s so amazing about a file folder game? Two aspects addicted me to this incredible teaching tool. First, the file folder game board enables the engagement of independently thinking students. Secondly, the ease of storage allows for student independence and educator organization.

Any educator who aspires to become an amazing one, must also seek to be an amazing organizer, too. This is part of what attracts me to file folder games.

File Folder Games A file folder game can be created or purchased to reinforce or review a distinct skill embedded in any and every standard no matter what the subject. The tab of the file folder is labeled with the exact skill while the title of the game can be creatively cutesy and written on the entire front of the folder when closed. Inside, when one opens the file folder game, there are usually four types of games: trail games, sorting game, match game, and the laminated wipe-off reuse game. There are as many places to find how to make or where to purchase these file folder games on the internet as there are games to play. That was the attraction for me on behalf of my learners.

The convenience of file folder games also adds to the students’ able to independently walk to a their colorful classroom’s storage bin, pull out, and return the game without bothering the teacher. You could have written directions on the board for certain students to play certain games. I actually used colorful dynamo, or other tapes to make a chart that stayed permanently on my board showing which teams or students played which games during each subject’s time slot. End of the day prep I could easily leave the names and change out the games titles.

My personal favorite is the trail (or race track) game. In Social Studies the question cards can be created by typing your textbook’s own chapter questions on cards. Or, you could make the cards multiple choice. When I did this I enjoyed inserting at least one or two absurd choices just to hear the giggles around the room and be affirmed the class was on task. For this game, while the questions would be a stack of cards, the answers would be on a sheet of paper in a plastic sleeve. All neatly tucked in the folder. Student #1 selects a question card and tries to answer it. Student #2 affirms, or not, the student’s answer using the sheet. If she is correct, she then rolls the dice, and moves along the trail. Student #3 was watching, listening, and learning while waiting their turn. The answer sheet rotates to a different student each time.

Another reason I clung to file folder game through my decades was the ease with which I could add to them. When the administration would switch me from third to fourth grade or sixth down to fifth grade, more games were easily sandwiched between others with no evidence to the students that the one I may have assigned them to play was not on grade level, but was the ‘just right’ fit for their need.

How it Works

Every teacher has a four-drawer filing cabinet, but no one gets in it except the teacher. File folder games can be placed in colorful crate boxes inside hanging folders (or not) where students can be trained to retrieve and replace them at the right times and in the correct place. Now that’s my kind of tool. Students could even choose which of the many games that I had evolved into putting out if I only assigned a “Math” game. With file folder games, they are thin and all the same standard size, either letter or legal as well as third cut or fifth cut tabs. Once you discover file folder games, those messy shelves of different odd shaped store box games will soon go by the way side.

File folder games, while allowing the students complete independence, provide students with engaging review and reinforcement for comprehending and retaining everything the teacher wants them to practice in every subject. Or, as I have come to say, “If there’s a standard, I’ve got the game”. In fact, that’s how I organize them within the bins. There’s the obvious, spelling , vocabulary, grammar, definitions, but how about these? Math multiplication facts practice, historical concepts, Science: learning the periodical table. Just think of ways to play a game with two sets of cards, the question and the answer, and you’ve got engaged, independent urber learners during “walk-throughs”.

Happy file folder game making! Tell me about your favorites or ask me about mine!