Have you ever completed a project, but couldn’t submit it on time because you forgot to put it in your backpack? Arrived at school only to find out you had a quiz in math that you didn’t study for? Submitted an assignment, but got points taken off for not having the rubric requirements?
If you have ever answered yes to any of these scenarios, then we need to talk! Organization is one of the most important skills to have in school, but it does not always come easily to students. Many students need to work hard to keep themselves organized, which is why in Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall's Skills and Academic Support classes, we focus a large portion of our time on organization tasks to better support our students. Organization will not only help students in the classroom but will also help students gain more confidence as they become more independent learners.
Let’s look at some strategies I’ve modeled and used with my students!
Have a Designated Folder or Binder For Each Class
This is so important to the day-to-day organization for students! Hands down, the number one reason my students do not turn in work is because it has been misplaced. I generally will find students math homework in English folders and science papers stuffed inside backpacks. With the majority of my students, we typically will do a bag dump bi-weekly. We pull all worksheets that are loose in their backpacks and find their proper home. Having specific folders or binders for each subject provides easy access to notes, homework pages, and general reference sheets that student will obtain from class. In addition to binders and folders, it is also helpful for students to have a specific location to store technological devices, writing utensils, and other supplies they may need during the school day.
At CH-CH, we rely heavily on using Google Drive and submitting work online. In addition to making sure backpacks, binders and folders are organized, we also go through student’s Google Docs, making sure they have a folder that can be identified for each class. In some cases, we take it one step further and add additional folders inside specific content folders.
Tip: Download a current & missing work organizer.
Use a Planner
Using a planner, electronically or on paper, is KEY to being successful with homework organization. Even though CH-CH uses a website where homework assignments are posted, it is not always the best way for our students to remember what they need to do. The great thing about planners is that students can organize them in a way that works best for them. Planners don’t always have to be bound together. Many of my students utilize homework planners that we print out weekly, which they can tuck into a binder sleeve or put in a homework folder.
Create a Workspace and Routine
Students should have a designated place to get work done both at home and school. In the fall, I do an activity with my students where I have them draw out their current workspace. We review each workspace as a class and determine if it’s helpful or in need of a little tweaking, in order to be more effective. Sharing these with classmates is also helpful to see ideas that they hadn’t thought of, but may work for them too. Using a checklist that stays on their desk is helpful to ensure students have the materials they need in order to get work done successfully.
A routine is also important for students to manage time efficiently. Alongside homework, students have various co-curricular activities and requirements they need to plan around. Delegating specific time whether at school or home is helpful for students, especially those who tend to wait until the last minute to do work. I’ve found that with some of my students, using a paper planner with specific time blocks works best, particularly when they are feeling a bit overwhelmed with their weekly obligations. At the beginning of the week, we block out manageable chunks of time that will allow them to complete specific assignments daily.
Task Analysis and “Break It Down” Sheets
My favorite organizer is the “Break It Down” sheets I use with students to help them plan out long-term assignments. When using this worksheet, students write down the assignment at the top and use the rubric to break it down into smaller pieces, providing as a timeline for when they will complete each step. At the bottom of the page, students estimate how long the entire assignment will take. Throughout the assignment, they keep track of the time it took to finish each step. Once the assignment is ready to be turned in, students then calculate the actual time it took to complete it. Keeping track of timing helps prepare for the next assignment and gives each student a better idea of how long each step specifically takes them.
Being organized is not something that happens overnight, nor should it. It takes trial and error to see what organizational strategies will work best for you. Hopefully, the tips discussed above have been helpful or sparked some ideas for you to get started. Organization is an invaluable tool that will not only help in the classroom but will boost your confidence as you become an independent learner.