He’s 13, in 8th grade. He loses most worksheets, project rubrics, classwork, etc!
He has a binder with sections for each class, some things make it in, and many others don’t. When they do make it home, I make copies of important stuff that he needs for fear of them being lost. He doesn’t know where the lost things go, help!
He is missing an important worksheet due tomorrow and words/definitions they did in class that he needs to study for a test.
How do we prevent him from losing so many papers? What systems work/don’t work for you? Is this something I should be punishing him for or no? It’s so frustrating!!
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Hey everybody what’s up? This is Seth with SethPerler.com. I hope you’re having a great start to the school year. I have an awesome question from Christie. She says her son is 13, he’s in eighth grade. “He loses most worksheets, project rubrics, classwork, etc. He has a binder with sections for each class, somethings make it in and many others don’t. When they do make it home, I make copies of the important stuff for the fear of them being lost. He doesn’t know where the lost things go. Help! He’s missing an important worksheet that’s due tomorrow of words, definitions, things they did in class that he needs to study for a test. How do we prevent him from losing so many papers? What systems work or don’t work for you? Is this something that I should be punishing him for or no? It’s so frustrating.”
I hear your frustration. This is a really difficult and complicated issue and there’s a lot of aspects to it. I’ll try to cover some of that and hopefully give you some guidance and solutions that might work for you. So he’s 13 and he’s in eighth grade. Obviously, next year in 9th-grade things are going to get even more intense. So taking this very seriously this year is really important, and one of the things I want to mention about that is because you’re not going to be able to make copies forever. You’re going to get even more papers next year. So one of the things that I want to mention about getting this done this year is doing the weekly overhaul. It sounds like you’re very involved and that’s awesome. The weekly overhaul on my blog I send out to everyone is covered in my mini-course, I just resent it out everybody actually, but on the weekly overhaul, what I recommend is if Sunday night’s work for you, is that every Sunday night you go over all the systems and sort of to reset like you would do on your telephone, but you’re doing a reset of the folders and the planner and everything. And on that reset night, on that Sunday night or whatever time you choose to do that with your child, you go over everything, you go through everything with a fine-tooth comb.
So when I’m working with clients, I’m doing this at least on a weekly basis. I’m going through every single pocket in the backpack. I have them bring everything home from school. I don’t want anything in the locker or in the school desk, whichever one they have depending on what age they are and what the school is like. I want everything with us so that we can go through everything with a fine-tooth comb because they don’t track details well, so they need to be supported. Especially if they’re going to get a dinged by the school for not having stuff. You really need to make sure they have it, but you also want to teach them to have that system. So anyhow part of what I would do this whole eighth grade year is do a Sunday overhaul, but it sounds like you’re already doing a lot of that. But that’s something I would keep doing the entire school year.
You want to do what’s called a gradual release of responsibility, which means that week by week, month by month, you’re getting your child to take more responsibility for the process of getting organized. Of course, your child needs to spend a lot of time just doing the homework and studying right now and probably doing makeup work, unfortunately, but as the year goes on you want them to take more of the responsibility of getting it organized. So, “he has a binder with sections for each class. Somethings make it in but many other things don’t.” If he’s not required to use binders by the school, don’t like binders that all, I like simple folders. Now for a kid like that who loses tons of stuff, I would probably just go with literally the folding folders that don’t even have pockets. One-color for each class, so a blue one, red one, green one, yellow one, orange one, whatever. And I would probably give them a zip binder that those can go in. And at this point I would just want my child to get it in that thing, just get the papers in the backpack. I’m not so concerned about the folders. When they get home you can help them reorganize the folders everyday for a while, if you can do that. I mean this kid really is starting from ground zero. They really need to be starting from a place assuming that they really don’t know how to do this and build from there. So simple, simple, simple system. I would not use a binder. It’s just too tedious for your child to use. So I would cancel the binder and get some simple folders. You could do the pocket folders, either one is fine. But simple folders. And for this kiddo. I would use a ‘Queue folder’. If you look at my blog and look up the word queue in the blog search and watch the video about the queue. The queue is just sort of a catch-all place because if I was working with your kid, I would tell them, “Look, either get the papers in the right folder or at the very least jam them into the queue and we’ll deal with them after school.” So at least if they’re not putting the wrong papers in the wrong folders or papers from the wrong class into a folder that’s not for that class, at least if it’s stray in the backpack or it’s in the queue you can reorganize it. So I’d probably start with that.
I also talked a lot about minimalism. I would not keep stuff that does not need to be kept. If you’re making copies of important stuff that’s one thing, and I would have an archive. I talk a lot about an archive, but I would not keep anything that does not need to be kept. I would trash it if it’s completed work and it’s been graded and the teachers put in the Gradebook, done. Get rid of it. If you’re afraid they’ll need it to study for a test, 99% of the time they don’t because the teacher will give a study guide. So that’s the big misconception a lot of times. If they really do that’s one issue, but mostly I want them to have 5 to 10 papers in any given folder at any given time. I wanted to be pretty current work. I don’t want them to have a bunch of old stuff in there. So I would help with that.
“He said he doesn’t know where the lost things go.” He probably really doesn’t know where they go. “He’s missing an important worksheet due tomorrow.” I would be advocating for him, emailing the teacher. A lot of teachers will put this stuff online so that you can get it. So I’d be scouring the teacher’s websites. I’d be emailing them like heck. I wouldn’t be emailing them long emails. I’d email short bullet emails. “We need support. We need help. My kid is struggling with executive function, please support us. Can you please help us with copies. our kid just loses them.” Every year I get it a kid or two who I start working with and I start going through the backpack, and I start pulling everything out, and I noticed there are some papers where there’s like three copies of the exact same thing and none of them are done. And I say, “Why do you have three copies of this?” And they say, “Oh well I lost one so I asked the teacher for another one, then asked for another one.” So that’s these kids. That’s the kiddo you have. And so those teachers that are making all those copies, they’re really nice to do that. But if they can email it to you, that’s a lot easier. If your child can take a picture of it or the teacher can take a picture of it, that’s a lot easier also. And if the teacher already keeps it online on their site, that’s the best because then everything gets covered and that there is no problem.
“So how do we prevent him from losing so many papers?” I would say use the queue. Do daily overhauls for now. For probably the first 8 weeks of school, I would do a daily overhaul with or without him. I’d reorganize. Sometimes I would do it with him, but sometimes I would just do it for him. He does not have the skill. It’s not going to magically appear. So as far as punishing him, the word punishment, I wouldn’t punish him because it’s not going to change the behavior. Is it a ‘can’t or won’t it?’ It sounds like he can’t. He does not have the executive function skills to do what he is being asked to do. So punishing him is not going to change that behavior. Now consequences, there’s a time and a place for a natural appropriate consequence that’s going to make a connection between what’s going on here. It might heighten his awareness and change the behavior. So try it, you know, I had a mom recently saying that she threatened to go into her middle schools’ School in the classroom to deal with it, in front of everybody, if he didn’t do certain things and you know, that’s an appropriate consequence. It’s like I said, she was so fed up. She’s going to go in there and regardless of how embarrassing it is for him, she’s going to get what needs to be gotten. And that has affected this kid, not that that’s going to work for everybody. But you have to really think is that an appropriate thing? You’re not doing it out of anger, you’re drinking out of this frustration obviously, but not at anger towards your child. You’re trying to support your child. If you come at it from that frame and you like, “Look, I’m going to do this. If you don’t do X, Y, and Z this needs to happen.” It might help, but it sounds like this kiddo really does need to build the system. So simple folder system, a simple queue system, really being on top of them every day for a couple of months. So I hope that helps a little bit, and it’s a really complicated issue and I wish I could be hands-on with the kiddos so that I could help you but that’s you know, I just can’t. But check out my course, that course video on the queue, and that might help too. Okay, good luck. Take care.