Make Pass-Back a Breeze with Colored Table Folders

Here’s a great way to pass back artwork to students quickly and efficiently using the table folder method.  This concept could be used at any age level. Because it’s simple and visual, a student can easily help you with this task. No complex systems or fumbling through tons of artwork. Check it out!



How do you pass back artwork quickly and efficiently?

Tell us about your systems.

6 years ago

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • erica

    Love this! I started journals but it was taking too long so I had the kids use a color marker to make a dot of their table color on the front. Then all the journal passer had to do was plop all the journals with that color dot in the middle of the table and the students got their journal from the pile. I wish I had thought of it sooner, I might have got more accomplished with the journaling! I did stick with it but it was a hassle before this trick! Thanks for sharing.

    • The dot on the sketchbook is an amazing idea. I will be doing this now for sure! Anything to save a minute of prep time so kids can get to work.

  • Dnorris1

    I use table folders also.  I use colored file folders from Office Max.  They are a little sturdier and they hold up real well.  I can use the same folders year after year.  

    • I bet these would also be nice because they expand at the bottom. You could also cut off the hangers and use a sturdy hanging file folder, too. I bet you could keep sketchbooks inside along with the artwork. Thanks for the tip!

  • I tried the colored folders with my 3rd-6th grade classes last year, but I completely forgot about it this year! It worked okay, but I had a hard time containing it all. How do you make this work with larger pieces? We use a lot of 18 x 24 paper for paintings (county requirement), and I have the hardest time not only storing them, but sifting through the piles to pass them back.

    • The 12×18 just hangs out of the colored folders, and it works fine ,however, I don’t use a lot of 18×24, so I don’t have an honest answer. Maybe just a larger folder :) I would like to experiment with larger paintings for kiddos. I wonder if table space becomes an issue?

      •  Table space is definitely an issue in my room, but we make it work. I allow my younger kids (K-2) to sit under the table (two on top, two below, then they rotate). This works for drawing and painting. I was intimidated by the large size and not knowing how the little ones would use it (we all know how they like to draw small!), but when I tell them their drawing or painting has to reach all four sides of the paper, they actually do a much better job than with the smaller sized paper! My older kids sit on the floor and use available counter space.

        • I like to use the floor and counter trick with my large classes as well! Thanks for the tips!

  • Hi Jessica, I love this idea! I have a question though…What happens when you switch seating charts? Do the kids rearrange their artwork into their new color folders, or do you do that for them? In my room, each student has a folder. Folders are stacked up on each table group at the end of class. I collect them in a certain order so it only takes be about 5 seconds to pass them out the next class!

    • Actually I don’t switch seating charts- (bad teacher!) I just don’t see the kids often enough to switch it up. If you did, though, they could just carry their artwork with them when they switched and put it in the new color folder.

      • erica

        Also thought about this too. . . but after six years I have changed seating A LOT less. I never changed the seating plan this year because it took them so long to learn it! Luckily I have an easy plan for assigning seats so even if they forget I don’t. I’m with you Jessica I think I won’t ever switch this coming year. Mainly, just on an individual basis for issues. 

        • Yes, issues get seats moved really fast :) They know you mean business!

        • The Art Teacher

          I REALLY want to hear your easy plan for assigning seats!

  • I have used the same table folder system as you have but this year I invested in vinyl table pockets to store the individual student folders in. I think it will prevent some of the damage that sometimes happens between classes.

  • Artteacherk6

    I have mobiles over each table with a famous artist’s name and examples of their work. My table folder has the name of the artist on them instead of a color. I call out the artists names and one student from the table comes to collect their folder. At the end of class all folder go into a folder that has their teachers name on it!!

    • Good idea to add in the large folder. I put them in my drawers, but for a smaller space this is a great idea!

  • Abbybooth

    LOVE the idea of identifying tables by colors on the ceiling!

    • Thanks, Abby! I hope you have a chance to try it this year.

  • I went with the color coded system this year! Each class has a main folder that I have colored folders in that correspond with the tables in the room. I think this will make passing and collecting the art work much quicker! Thanks for the suggestion! :)

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