Some students naturally gravitate towards organization, while others have papers erupting out of their binders, backpacks, and lockers. And because organization ability exists on a continuum, some students are right in the middle – organized in some areas, and chaotic in others. Luckily, organization is a learned skill and can be developed over time if necessary (and everyone has room for improvement, even the most organized students out there).
As this school year approaches, help your child build organizational skills in each of the four main areas: materials, space, time, and thoughts. Heather Wright, M.S. and Andrea Umbach, M.A., both members of the Mind Matters team at Southeast Psych, offer a variety of suggestions for helping kids and teens get organized, beginning with materials and space:
- Organize papers and materials: Use three-ring binders, spiral notebooks, two-pocket folders, accordion files, and/or file boxes to keep papers in order and categorized. Within a three-ring binder, kids should create organizational categories to separate papers, including completed homework, to do, current topic, past topics, reference, paper, and more. You may also need to color-code dividers and label to keep items easily organized by topic.
- Create a digital desktop: Students should organize their school computer files in order for them to be easily referenced at any time. First, create a folder on the desktop for all school-related stuff. Second, make one folder for each year of school and put them in the main folder. Third, create a separate folder for each class and add subfolders within each class folder for each individual topic.
- Create a backpack check-list: List the items that should stay in the backpack, such as pencils, erasers, highlighters, a calculator, and sticky notes. Next, list the supplies needed for each class, such as textbooks, binders, and homework. Finally, list other important items like a planner, wallet, keys, and lunch. Keep this list handy so that it can be checked each night.
- Use a “Drop-Off Station”: Help your kids get in the habit of organizing their backpack every day at a designated “Drop-Off Station” at home. Using the PACK method, kids can develop a routine for ensuring that their materials are in order. First, kids should purge, or get rid of everything that is obviously garbage. Second, they should arrange, or stack items into piles, organize, put loose papers into binders, and return everything to the backpack. Third, they should check their backpack check-list to make sure that they have everything they need for the next day. Finally, they should keep it up, which means that they must go through their backpack on a daily basis.
- Build an efficient study space: Have materials readily available, including paper, pens, pencils, scissors, highlighters, and possibly a computer and printer. You will also want to be sure that there is good lighting, that it’s comfortable, and that there is enough elbow room to work.
- Organize the bedroom: Kids should designate spaces within their room for all of their belongings. Help your child identify problem areas to fix so that it’s easier to find materials and return them to their location in the room. If your child has lots of keepsakes scattered around, create a memory box to hold all of these items.