Ways to Color Code

I am so excited to talk about ways to color code in a special education/autism classroom! 

This is a topic I am super passionate about because I know how well it works.  This super amazing visual aid is supportive of not only the students in my classroom but the staff, too!  Are you ready?

Why Color Code?

Why not?!  One main reason I love color-coding my classroom is that it helps my students be more independent.  Yes, we have to focus on teaching the students the color-coding system at the beginning of the school year, but let me tell you, by month two, the classroom is pretty much running itself!  I have often been told that my classroom runs like a well-oiled machine and this is why! Who doesn’t love that?  

Getting Started

Every new school year I start to color code by getting a pack or two of AstroBrights paper.  I use this particular pack because it has a lot of different colors.  I have between 11 and 15 students each year, so I need a variety of colors.  Next, I pick out the colors I want to use for my students and set aside several pieces of paper per color.  Finally, I assign each student a color and get to work!  Note:  sometimes I have students for multiple years.  To support change and flexibility, I assign them a new color each year. 

  • Pro Tip:  Save all scraps of paper!  I’ll tell you why later in this post.

Now it is time to talk about the different ways to color code a classroom:

This is the pack of AstroBrights paper I use when color coding my classroom.


This is a photo of my mobile schedules and how I color code my centers. Students know which color center to go to because the center block is colored to match the center.

One way to color code a classroom is with student schedules.  When I am handing out my student schedules, I just hold one schedule up and wait for my students to notice it is theirs.  They then come and get their schedule from me.  Less prompting – more independence, love it!  I have three different types of schedules in my classroom.  My students’ mobile center schedules, their independent task box center schedules, and my classroom wall schedule.  Some of my students go home half day, so I use their color coded names to show who goes home when.  This really helped with behaviors at the beginning of the year when my first-grade students are adjusting to staying full day!

Student Desks

When I am color coding my classroom, there can be a lot of scrap paper.  I always make sure to save the scraps for later!  I use the larger scraps to make name tags for my students’ desks.  It works perfectly!  Students are more likely to find their desk out of a large group when they see their color on it.  If students need more color, colored duck tape also works on student desks!

Here is an example of how I color code my student desks.  I take their color and add a name tag over the top of their color.

Student Materials

Here is a photo of how I color code my student Chromebook.
Here is a photo of how I color code some student material boxes that I use in my classroom.

I color code all student materials in my classroom.  From pencil boxes, Chromebooks, computer bins, fidget or toy bins, and IEP boxes.  Yes, it’s a lot of little name tags but I print and laminate around 10-12 names per student at the beginning of the year so there are always enough!

Line Order and Other Behavior Systems

My line order schedule is such a great visual aid to let students know where they are supposed to line up during recess, lunch, and dismissal transitions.  I use colored numbered floor markers to also help my students understand where they wait.  Again, more name tags, but these help increase independence and decrease behaviors so much in my classroom so it is well worth it for me and my staff to prepare!  If you have a visual behavior system in your classroom, color coding is a great tool to use with it as well.

This is a photo of my line order system.


Another great way to color code a special education classroom is with colored binders or folders that hold students’ IEPs, home information, and data.  Now, I do not use this specific system in my classroom because I have fourteen students which means too many binders BUT, this is a great system to use if you only have 6-10 students!


Here are examples of how I color code my center tables using colored duck tape.
Here is an example of how I color code my centers using colored duck tape.
Here is an example of how I color code my centers using colored duck tape.

Last but CERTAINLY not least, an amazing way I color code my special education classroom is with centers!  Each of the six schedule blocks on my student mobile schedules are colored to reflect which center they will be going to.  To support this, I also put colored duck tape somewhere very visible on each center.  This has increased independence 100% in my room!  Students are no longer confused about where their next center is and where they should go.  This was such a quick and easy way to support my students and their independence in my classroom!

What are your thoughts on color-coding?  Drop your questions or comments below and I will get back to you!  Thanks for reading!



  1. Is that a fitted sheet on top of the break area? I like the look of it having a “roof” but always am unsure what to use.

    • Hi Alexis! Yes, that is exactly what it is! My bookshelf is metal so I also use a flat sheet with magnets attached. I alternate them out.

  2. Hi,

    What is that pocket chart used for? And what do your colors represent?

    • Hi Michele! The pocket chart is used for my line order. The colors with the numbers represent the numbered colored spots I keep on the floor. Students look for their name, then look to see what number they are on and line up. Hope that answers your questions!


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