How We Do Workboxes

I learned about workboxes several years ago and have been using the method for 3 years now. The workbox system was created by Sue Patrick. The system is especially helpful for visual children, and highly distractible children. You can read about it here. The concept is that the student will be able to see the days work in front of them and see it disappear as they complete it. The original idea is to use 12 shoeboxes and each box gets a subject or task. With five children I don’t have room for 12 shoeboxes. So we use a file box. And of course the boxes coordinate with the kids colors. This is the Karate Kid’s box. My 3 year old and 4 year old each have a box but it doesn’t get changed out except every now and then. When they want to do school they open it up.


This has really helped keep me organized. If it’s in there box then we don’t forget to do it. My kids hate when I say, “Oh you are suppose to do this…” when they think that they were finished with school. So if it’s in the box they have to do it.

Inside each box are 12 file folders. In each file folder is work for one subject. Not all my students have 12 files worth of work. The 1st and 2nd grader only have 6-9. My 4th grader is the only one that has 12. Some of the files are fun things like a maze or critical thinking pages. The Karate Kid has one file that says take a 10 minute break. At the front of the box is an empty hanging folder where they put there completed pages for the day.

Most of the folders are permanent, like handwriting is always file 1, math is in file folder 2. Workbooks stay in there folders even after the work is done. I have a preset do 2 pages or do 1 page and everyday it’s the same. Sticky notes attached to the front of a workbook work great for new instructions or for making changes to the normal instructions. For things that I print out or make copies of I have put them in a folder and take them out as needed to fill boxes.


I do not use a scheduling strip. I printed one out once and have all the cards for it but I just haven’t gotten to putting that step together for the three kids that do workboxes.

I have filled the boxes a couple of different ways this year. At the beginning of the year I filled boxes every night. This got very tedious. Now I plan 2 weeks at a time. I take enough loose pages from the folders for 2 weeks and place them inside the hanging folder but behind the file folder. The first days work goes in the file folder. The rest of the work for the next 2 weeks goes behind the file folder just inside the hanging folder. When I check the kids out at the end of the day I refill the folders. Or I fill them the next morning when they are reading to me. But when I plan for the 2 weeks I fill out my daily lesson plan sheets at that one planning session for the next 2 weeks.

We don’t sit down and work from 1 to twelve every day. Each student starts school with Mom at a different time. I work with each one on the things that they need help with such as their reading and math lesson. When they are done with their work with me they have a different place to be like their 30 minutes of computer time or time to play with the littlest one. And then my next student comes to work on their first few files. At another time of day they come back and sit down to do the folders they can do by themselves.

To keep track of what they have in their box each day I created a planner page for me. Because we don’t sit down and work till it’s done sometimes things get forgotten. But if it’s written down on my planner page then it usually doesn’t get forgotten. At the end of the day they have to sit with me and “check out” of school. I grab my page and check through their box to make sure they’ve gotten everything done.

You can download my daily workbox planner pages for 3 students here.

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