Have you heard your student say “I did my homework. I just didn’t turn it in because I can’t find it,” or “I have a missing assignment because I forgot to do it (or turn it in)?”
Now, you begin to help your student search for the assignment in the sea of loose papers in their backpack. An unorganized backpack, or workspace can cause distress in your student.
According to Psychology Today, organization and controlling your own schedule and work place causes less stress than when you feel like your schedule and work area are controlling you. We know you want your student to feel less stressed and in control, but were do you start? We have five tips to help your student be more organized.
1. Label folders/notebooks, including the pockets!
Labeling each folder and/or notebook with the subject of the class it is used for will remind your student that the notebook or folder is used for that subject and that subject only. Many students do not have the subject written on each notebook or folder, and some of their materials are the same color/design. Students rush to pack up when they know they get to go to lunch or home soon. They will lift the first folder out of their bag, not take time to look at the work in the folder to find out the subject that is for, and stuff any papers they have on their desk into any pocket of the folder. Labeling the folder/notebook (on the cover) by subject will help. It also is useful to label the pockets of the folder. One side for work to complete, and one side for work to turn in. You could also label them “Home” and “Resources.”
2. Give every handout and set of notes a place.
When you tell your student to “put this in your backpack,” that is exactly what they’ll do. The only problem is that they will shove it in there to get lost and crumpled at the bottom. Labeling the pockets of folders really helps your student out in this step. Everything in a child’s backpack should have a “home.” There should be a folder for each subject (labeled), and two pockets (also labeled), and preferably prongs in the middle to hold loose papers that have been graded and returned, or notes that never needed to be turned in. Your student should also have a folder for papers that do not belong to a specific subject. These types of papers would be forms they receive from clubs, sports, extra curricular activities, and schoolwide information.
3. Use a planner/calendar.
Planners and calendars are essential in keeping track of what needs to be done, and when it needs to be done. Students are given projects, homework, tests, and many other assignments. Using a planner/calendar will give your student something to reference when they are confused on what to do, or how long they have to get it done. A good student should write something meaningful in their planner/calendar. This means that no subject should be left blank, or have the words “nothing,” “study,” or “homework” written in. Students should be specific on what they need to study, and for what reason (i.e. “study chapter 2 for math test Friday”). The student will not waste time trying to remember what they need to do, or checking each folder for homework. The To Do list will be found in one spot. You can download a free calendar on our parent resource page.
4. Block out time for each class and homework.
It is extremely helpful to designate time for specific tasks and subjects. It is really easy for all people, not just students, to crowd their schedule and put too much on their plate. It is also easy to let tasks or assignments pile up. Setting blocks of time to dedicate to finishing a task will prevent that from happening. To do this your child will need a calendar. I use the calendar on my phone for this. On the calendar, write the subject name and task. Next to that assign that task a time. If you think the task will take 15 minutes, block out 30 minutes for good measure. If it is a big project you may need to block out an hour a day until it is done. It is easier if you are specific in what the task is instead of writing “homework.” For example, under 5 PM to 5:30 PM you may write “math workbook pages 30-31, odd questions.”
5. Write down missing assignments and cross them off as you finish.
This tip is for students who need to bring up their grades. It is the time of quarter that students have started slacking. They were unorganized and forgot to do assignments, or were overwhelmed with the pile of work they let build up so they just didn’t do it. Some teachers do not take late work, however, they are more likely to make an exception if the student asks after they have taken the initiative to finish the work.
What your student will need to do is access their grades online, and get out a sheet of paper. They will need to list out all the missing assignments they have by subject. If they need anything from their teacher for the assignment they will need to put a star, or some indicator that will tell them they have to speak with their teacher. If the assignment does not have a star, they will add a “make-up work” with subject name block to their calendar. They can use the list they wrote to know what assignment needs to be done, and then cross it off when they are finished.
Organization is a hard concept for children, and even some adults, but these tips are practical, not just conceptual. These are tools to equip your student with for success in education. We hope they are useful, and give your student confidence and control in their academic endeavors.