Wednesday, July 2, 2014

"Ketchup and Pickle" Folders

Classroom management is so important. If your classroom is not well-managed, then little learning can take place. It doesn't matter how fun or engaging you are if you don't have specific procedures and routines in place. Things will tend to get out of control, and learning time diminshes.

One of the great questions of classroom management is this: "I'm done! Now what do I do?"

In the past, I've said, "Just read a book!" Now, I LOVE me some independent reading time, but it's often hard to concentrate for some students when ther are other activities going on.

The last couple of years, I've had the ketchup bottle and the pickle on my board. Beside the ketchup, I wrote "catch up on late work," and beside the pickle, I wrote a few options (Boggle, blog, write, etc.) - but that just didn't cut it. Most of the kids who needed to catch up on work had lost it. The ideas I had for pickle were okay, but not really differentiated to meet student needs.

Here is my answer to that dilemma. This is, obviously, my Ketchup and Pickle Folders crate.

What's a Ketchup folder?
It's a fun name for an unfinished work folder. When a student has work that isn't finished by the end of the class period (or whatever designated time), they put it in their "Ketchup" folder because they need to "catch up" on it when they have a little extra time later. It's so punny that I love it! :)

*You as the teacher will never put work in the Ketchup folder. That's for the student to do.

So what's a Pickle folder?
The "Pickle" folder is the one that involves YOU, the teacher. Whenever a student has finished all of his work and everything has been turned in on time (that means the Ketchup folder is empty), he can come pick up his Pickle folder! There will be several activities inside this folder - that you have put in it - that he can choose from - or PICK(le) from - that is still relevant to his learning.

I am starting the year off with the same activities in everyone's Pickle folder. Once I get to know them a little better, I will start to differentiate what goes in their Pickle folders. Some will need math or reading remediation. Some will need an extension in those same subjects. It just depends on what the students need. There will be times you can throw the same activity in for everyone (I'm thinking holidays especially), but you may want to hae a few choices for that activity so it allows for self-differentiation.

Each of the file hangers has a number on it. Inside each file hanger is a red pocket folder with a "Ketchup" label and a green pocket folder with a "Pickle" label on it. Easy!

Since I don't have a color printer, I just printed out the sign in black and white and colored in the ketchup bottle and the pickle with markers. I trimmed half an inch off each side, posted it on yellow cardstock, and laminated it. If you want it, I've included it here. If you want to make a prettier sign, then go for it! :)

How do you manage those early finishers? How do students in your class keep up with work they've not finished yet? Share your ideas in the comments!


PS - I spoke with a colleague about the folders. We discussed that it is difficult to grade everything, and anything that comes in from the Pickle folder should have something done to it besides given a checkmark or a smiley face because the kids want validation that it's important. Such a good point!

We discussed doing student-led conferences, or even just a portfolio, where students choose their best Pickle work to put in their portfolios to show their parents. The portfolios can go home once a quarter if you don't do student-led conferences. This way, the student is in charge of determining what good work looks like. We think that's a good motivator for the students.

If there is an assignment from the Pickle folder that you do want to grade, absolutely go ahead and do so! Otherwise, let kids decorate a folder for their portfolio, and be sure to build in time for them to go through their finished Pickle work and choose some work to move into their portfolios. The rest of the work can just go home in their regular weekly communication folder. (With that checkmark or smiley face, of course!)


  1. This is one terrific idea. I love the differentiation piece!

  2. Hi Dallas
    I am a student at a University I am doing my dissertation about using Instagram in classroom, I'd like to do an interview about this topic by email, do you mind?


Thank you for taking time to comment. We love feedback!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.