Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How to make File Folder Books

I was collaborating with my friend Kim last year about some projects we could present at our "Writing and the Visual Arts" workshop at ECEC.

We needed some good non fiction ideas and this file folder book fit the bill.

I first came across file folder journals in an article in Jan/Feb 2011 Cloth, Paper, Scissors by Heidi Skovski and Karin Winter.  It perked my interest and I could envision great applications in the classroom.

This is the Owl example we presented at ECEC.

This is the Polar Bear version Grade 3 is currently working on.

Instead of writing a report the kids have made these books and inside we have tags, pockets, index cards, bookmarks, etc, etc. on which they have put facts, vocabulary, statistics, poems, and paragraphs.

It is a great way to get the students excited about compiling a research file.


- letter file folders
- glue stick
- tacky glue
- paint, we used tempera
- cardstock and manila tag cut into tags, bookmarks, inchies
- pictures of polar bears
- googly eyes, craft foam, fun fur
- stamps, embellishments
- safety pin
- clothespin
- paper scraps
- ribbon


Now I pre-folded the books for the Grade 3's ahead of time.  With higher grades they could start at the beginning.

Open folder and refold the center matching up the tabs.  File folders are folded off centre.

Open up the folder.  Fold up the bottom 7cm or 2.75 ".  The tabs should line up.

In bookbinding we talk about mountain folds and valley folds.  Make the center fold a mountain.
Now fold each side in half, valley fold towards that center fold.  Don't worry about the tabs here, just the main part of the folder.
If you stand it up it should look like this.  The file folder book is accordion folded.

 Now you need to secure that pocket section.  Open up the pocket fold.  Put some glue on the 3 folds at the bottom.   Click on this picture to see larger.

Now I'm a sewer so I sewed the 2 ends but all you need is some tacky glue.  The ends take a bit more abuse than the inner pockets so you want them quite secure.

Your file folder book is now ready to go.  Before I started working with the students I created a page with photos and titles that they would use.  I photocopied one for each child.  If we had more time I would have had them find their own pictures.
I also printed out some titles for their books in a variety of fonts.  Again because we did not get a prior computer class ahead of time I had to provide this for them.

We decided on our color scheme and then I had the kids paint the inner pockets and pages with tempera paint.  When this was dry I had them paint the back. (2 colors, 1/2 a folder each).
Paint a clothespin at this time as well.
For the front cover we cut some scraps of paper and glued them on for the ground.  I then had them trace around a shape for the front of the bear out of newspaper.
They each had a fun fur circle for the head.
They then glued on 2 googly eyes and punched a nose out of craft foam with a hole punch.  I had the supplies set out at different stations around the classroom.
They painted their titles with watery tempera puck.
They let it dry (5 minutes of flapping) and then cut the words out and glued on their title.  They then glued on a few snowflake embellishments.

For the inchie the chose a colored square.  Made a thumbprint with white paint.
When it has dried add black sharpie and white gel pen to make a polar bear.
Clip to the front of your book with the clothespin.  The clothespin can clip the file folder book closed when it's not on display.
Before class I cut lots of tags, bookmarks and index type cards.
I had the kids punch a hole at the top of all of them.  Some are to hang from the safety pin and some get tied with ribbon and put in the pocket.  I went around and pined each safety pin in place for the kids.  If you are worried about the sharp pin point you can cut it off.
The kids will spend tomorrow's LA class filling out all their info on these tags.  Add embellishments, stamps, wheels, little clotheslines, whatever you have on hand to fill up that folder.  The more variety the better.

Finally on the back cover we stenciled on a polar bear using the same method from this post.
The kids spent a busy afternoon preparing their books.  There was lots of excitement and energy in the room.

Here is the inside of the owl one.
Here is the back.
I'm sure you are thinking about all the possibilities with this project.   See you soon.


  1. Brilliant idea, must try this with my son over half term next week - a good alternative to keeping a written holiday journal, thanks for the inspiration!

  2. That's neat! Kind of like a lapbook, except more artistic than most lapbooks I've seen. Very cool.

  3. My girls are so excited to try this! We homeschool and do a lot of lapbooking. The is was more fun for my artist girls. Just wish I would of thought of it first. Great Job, love your site.

  4. Love all your projects, but I must ask how many students do you have? I have 700+ at my school and can't imagine undertaking all the prep work required for this project.

  5. Hey artteacher,
    These file folder books were done by a Grade 3 class of 25. I work with 280 kids. The folding of the books can be prepped by kids Grade 4 and up quite easily, just do all gluing no sewing.

  6. That's very cool.Kind of like a lapbook, except more artistic than most lapbooks I've seen.

  7. i am seriously so excited about these folder books. i love the other books you showed recently too. we are starting a homeschool science unit on the moon so i'm going to use one of these ideas for that. can't wait to get started!!

  8. LOVE...love...LOVE this!!! Thank you so much for sharing. I have pinned you...and several other ideas to incorporate. About to start a unit on Westward Ho and can't W-A-I-T to transform this idea into schooners and oxen and lewis and clark!!!! From the bottom of my heart, thankyouthankyouthankYOU!

  9. I tried these and it has been one of my favorite projects. I blogged about our results-thanks for the inspiration!

  10. These are so lovely. Came over from the blog listed above. I've just started blogging about teaching art. Can't wait to try incorporating file folders into our sketchbooks!
    Thanks for sharing.

  11. Just wanted to let you know I used this file folder book idea for a recent project, I linked back to this post from my blogpost. Thank you! Love this.

  12. Love this! I have an art background, and I'm currently getting my elementary education degree, and I think this is an excellent idea for allowing students to demonstrate their learning in an individualized, creative way. Oh, the possibilities!

  13. This is marvelous. Thank you. I recently had a bag full of used file folders given to me. Now I know what to do with them. :)