Keeping Kids Organized for School and Beyond

For students to attain academic success, they need to have key organizational skills. With these skills, students learn to manage their materials, time, and even critical thinking. With a few simple supplies and some patient guidance, teachers and parents can ensure their youngsters will have what it takes to meet their educational goals, as well as the goals they set later in life.

Supplies for Keeping Kids Organized

Whether you work with students in elementary school or junior or senior high school, you know they will need a system for managing the handouts, notes, schedules, charts, and assessments they will accumulate throughout the year. The purposes of those items vary a great deal and may become more intricate as the course progresses; furthermore, the purposes often determine the duration for which those items will be kept. In some cases, students will use earlier work as reference material. In other situations, the items may be sent home with the student, serving as a function in the learning process and also as a prime way to communicate with parents about class objectives and student progress.

Commonly, teachers use folders to distinguish groups of papers from one another. With standard two-pocket folders, the dichotomous applications are numerous: work to do and work that is done; keep at home and return to school; notes and assessments. For some courses, binders or accordion files may be more suitable than folders, as is especially the case when papers need to be organized by units or chapters.

Teachers can simplify the system through color coordination. Besides facilitating verbal instructions, colors tend to stimulate the brain in different ways. It is no wonder why so many people use yellow highlighters; yellow attracts attention quickly. Green tends to catch the eye's attention quickly too. Shades of blue often influence people to be calm, which is why some teachers print assignments and assessments on blue paper.

When possible, use specific colors for printouts, folders, or the dividers within binders. If that is not economically feasible, students can color the borders of these items with crayons, colored pencils, markers, or highlighters. Another option would be to label the materials in a particular color. Whether a teacher employs color coordination with all students or with a single struggling individual, it is an easy intervention to help keep kids organized.

Organizing Time and Progress

Besides having a structured method for organizing class materials, students will need to organize their time in logical, realistic ways. Daily, weekly, or monthly schedules encourage student productivity and planning. If students are going to meet their goals, they need to take the steps to reach them. As students record the important dates in an agenda or on notebook paper, they need to consider how they will budget their time. Teachers can assist them in management strategies by discussing how long the tasks should take. Plus, teachers should brainstorm with students about how to fit that needed chunk of time into their daily lives. By adhering to a schedule, students can learn habits that will help them meet their goals throughout life.

Another way to help keep kids organized is through the use of charts. Charts are visual aides for tracking progress and analyzing growth. In some situations, charts measuring the abilities of a class are displayed for all to see and discuss. Other circumstances require progress to be tracked and monitored by students individually. In any case, charts work as organizational tools that provide data to discuss. For instance, if the class is charting their organizational success, then the data can be analyzed to see if changes need to be made to the system in order for improvement.

Tips for Teaching Organizational Skills

Just because students have the materials needed to be organized does not mean they will intuitively know how to use them. In any classroom, the teacher must instruct students to develop their organizational skills. Clear instructions and demonstrations are necessary, and these require class time. As students go through the motions of sorting their materials or recording information, the teacher should direct them to verbalize each of the steps they take. This is helpful because a teacher can hear mistakes being made, which then allows for immediate clarification. Similarly, if a student does not know what to say, the inability to describe the step indicates a problem to the student and the teacher.

Keep in mind that, when students understand the purpose for categorizing, they are more likely to sort and file appropriately. Some techniques are learned quickly, especially those that are employed often like recording a schedule in an agenda. It may take an entire semester, however, for a class to reach the point in which teacher guidance is no longer necessary. Through scaffolding and modeling, teachers can help students gradually become responsible for being organized. Once students' organizational skills improve, the teacher can begin to show how those skills transcend the classroom.