How to Use Independent Work Folders for Accountability During Literacy Centers


I’ve gotta be honest. I am NOT good about keeping track of (or grading…) papers in the classroom!

With the exception of assessments, papers tend to pile up in the “turn in” box. They often make their way into my take-home bag…and then they stay there. For days. Or weeks. OOPS!

However, my terrible habits improve when I have a more structured system for gathering and reviewing student work.

And that’s exactly what I want to share with you in this post—a simple, structured system for keeping track of students’ independent work during centers!

I’m not a huge fan of using tons of worksheets, but some centers activities do have paper products. These can be writing pieces, responses to texts, recording sheets for games, and so on.

In this post, I’ll share what I have students do with these paper products. I’ll explain how I hold students (and myself) accountable using a simple folder system!

How do you keep track of papers during literacy centers? In this post, I share a VERY simple folder strategy!

In the past, I’ve had students turn in all centers work to one “turn in” bin. This presented a few problems:

  • Because the papers weren’t dated (and sometimes they piled up), I didn’t have a good sense of how productive students were during centers on a given day (or in a given week).
  • If kids were in the middle of a piece of writing or other paper and centers time ended, they weren’t sure what to do with the unfinished work. I had them put it in a folder in their desk, but they would frequently forget about it, fail to finish it, or lose it. Not good!

I decided that I needed an alternative to that one-size-fits-all bin.

I wanted students to be able to store ongoing work in one place. I wanted to be able to easily see what they were doing during centers. And I needed a system to hold myself accountable for reviewing their centers work.

So I started using independent work folders!

How do you keep track of papers during literacy centers? In this post, I share a VERY simple folder strategy!

I labeled the folders with students’ names and had the kids carry them to each literacy center.

They kept finished work in the “red sticker” side and unfinished work in the “green sticker” side. That way, when I reviewed their folders, I could tell if they believed that something was finished and ready for me to look over.

I also decided to review students’ folders on a rotating basis, rather than all of their folders at the end of the week. You can create folder review groups that are the same as your guided reading group, do boys one day and girls another, etc.

When I review students’ independent work, I want them to know that I’ve looked it over and that they can take it home. I do this by paper-clipping together the papers that I’ve reviewed.

How do you keep track of papers during literacy centers? In this post, I share a VERY simple folder strategy!

If you don’t want to use so many paperclips, you can simply remove the work from students’ folders and place it on their desks, or in their mailboxes, etc. so that they can take it home.

So that’s it—that’s the whole system! Pretty basic and straightforward. But it’s helped me get a better sense of what kind of work students are producing during centers, as well as how often they are finishing tasks!

If you’re looking for more resources to get organized for literacy centers, check out my Kindergarten, first grade, and second grade literacy center bundles!

Happy teaching!


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6 years ago

My writing block is smaller this year, 3 days a week for 40 minutes. I was thinking I’d use center time as an extension of writing time at the writing center. Instead of working on something else, students would take out their writing folder and work on their writing or edit within their group. Have you done this?

6 years ago

I own your Writers Workshop and LOVE it by the way!

Pearline Browne
6 years ago

Excellent idea Allison!!! I will try this during this school year. Thank you.

6 years ago

Do you just look at the work that is in the independent folder or do yougrade it?

Gloria Carrillo
6 years ago

Hi Alison! I love all your ideas on literacy centers and was wondering if you had ever thought about translating them into Spanish? I teach a 2nd grade Dual Language class and our reading is in Spanish thus our literacy centers must be also. Or maybe you know where I can get some ideas such as yours bilingually?

Thank you so much,
Gloria Carrillo

6 years ago
Reply to  Alison

Please let us know as soon as you do. I just purchased the Writer{s Workshop bundle and it was life-changing!

5 years ago

When do you give students time to finish their work if they didn’t finish it?


I’m Alison, a literacy specialist. I love getting kids excited about reading and writing – and sharing teaching ideas with other teachers!

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