This vlog is based on this email:
First, you are the best! Love all the help you provide EF-challenged kids!
Question on your simple schoolwork system: How do you tell high school kids to manage carrying all of these separate folders/comp books? Most times they can’t go to locker til lunch and may have 3-4 classes to prepare for — that’s kind of why the zipped 3-ring binder is helpful — but the ONLY reason! 🙂
Most schools these days do not let kids carry around their backpacks (safety reasons). I’m afraid my freshman will leave his science stuff in math and then move on to Spanish. Any suggestions you have would be great! Thank you. — Nicole
Here are my tips as explained in the vlog:
- Consider AM PM setup
- Color coding
- Type of folder
- Zip binder, remove rings
- Moleskins or composition books
- Help student practice walking through the process MANY times
- When to do it “for” them?
- Baby steps, persistence
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Hey, what’s up, parents and teachers? It’s me Seth with SethPerler.com, I hope you’re having a great day. It is spring. Spring break is upon us. This is the time of ‘The Dip,’ a lot of things are falling apart; this is our final push for the year. We’re getting into what I call ‘Hail Mary’ time, and this is a difficult time. Good luck with this time of the year in terms of helping your students, helping support your students to navigate this final stretch Today I’m going to talk with you, you know those students that you’re working with whether your a parent or a teacher, and they just forget stuff all the time. They leave it in the wrong classroom, they lose stuff all the time, they spent all this time working on homework but it never got turned in and they got a 0 on it, those types of students. I’m going to talk today a little bit about that type of student and I’m going to read an email from a mom named Nicole to answer a question that she has about one of these students. So by the end of this video you’re going to have about eight ideas to help these students. I’m going to go rather quickly, but you’ll have some concrete ideas on how to help these students. I’ve helped a lot of students really figure out ways to manage their stuff in a way that they can handle it and that they don’t feel overwhelmed, and I’m going to go over some of those elements for you. Here is how the email goes:
“First, you’re the best. I love all the help you provide executive function challenged kids. Question on your simple schoolwork system. How do you tell high school kids to manage carrying all of these separate folders and composition books?” So basically they’re saying, ‘what do you tell them to do in terms of carrying all this stuff?’ Most of the times they can’t go to their locker until lunch and they may have three to four classes to prepare for, and that’s kind of why the zip binders are helpful, but the only reason, and they put a smiley face because they know that I’m not big on three-ring binders. But the zipped one, because of that zipper on it, it helps them contain their stuff. “Most schools these days do not let kids carry around their backpacks for safety reasons. I’m afraid my freshman will leave his science stuff math and then move on to Spanish, etc. Any suggestions you have would be great. Thank you, Nicole.”
All right, so I have eight ideas that I’m going to go over here.
Number one: First of all, one thing that works for a lot of students has to have an AM and PM binder, or an AM and PM accordion folder, or an AM and PM zip binder or bag or backpack. Now, it may seem like overkill but you don’t want these AM and PM things to be two giant things. You want them both to be a slim-downed version. If you’re familiar with my work, you know that I really am very minimalist, very essentialist. I want my students to really have the minimum that they need. The more stuff they have, the more stuff they have to manage. Not only in school, but also in life. Their ‘stuff,’ like their email inboxes. So we want to slim down the stuff. We want them to have less stuff, we want them have what they really need to manage. So the first tip is that you can do an AM and PM version. You can tailor that and you guys can figure that out on your own, I’m not going to go into more depth on that.
Number two: Next, color-coding is so so so important. I don’t want my students to be thinking, math, for example. I want them to be thinking ‘yellow. Okay, so maybe these two would be math, or maybe read is science,’ or whatever it is, but I want visually things to be very color-coded. I want my students to get their stuff in the right place, it’s a huge problem. Color-coding is one tip to help do that, and I really take this seriously. These kids are often very visual, they’re not often reading the words but they’re seeing the color. So use that.
Number three: Next, labels have got to be huge and clear and obnoxious. If you have the type of student who leaves something in one class or leaves something at home, or whatever, you want to have clear labels. I can’t tell you how many times when I was a school teacher that I saw somebody leave a folder on the floor and two minutes later it’d be kicked all the way down the hall. Papers will be all over. That kid is never going to get their stuff back in a meaningful way. And if their name was not on it, it’s never coming back. If their name is on it, it’s a lot harder for people to kick around something on the floor that has a human being’s name on it. It looks more meaningful. So it’s more likely, I’m not guaranteeing, anything to get picked up and also to get back to the student. So somebody picks us up and they go, “Oh that is Seth Perler’s folder,” then the one of the teachers or parent in the hall or one of the kids to be like, “oh we’ll get that back to Seth.” Or if you put the name of the teacher like here it says ‘Miss Smith’ for example on the folder. They might not know who that is, but it can go back to Miss Smith the math teacher, and clearly, this is math. So Seth knows not to put science or social studies or language arts in this folder because it says math. You can even go so far as to put if it’s an A day or if it’s sixth period. You can go crazy and get all the details on here. I call that front-loading. You can go and get detailed with trigonometry. You can have a big giant ‘M’ or a big giant ‘MATH’. I do recommend putting your name on the front and the back. At the very least get your name on the back also. But you want big giant obnoxious labels, you can make it cool, you can make it graffiti, you can make it art, I don’t care. But get at the very least, get a big clear clear clear label on it because I have had so many students be like, “oh, yeah. I lost my planner,” and they’ve used it for 3 months but now it’s gone and they have to start a new one. Or, they’ve lost a folder with lots of work in it. Just get the clear labels. Have I made myself clear on that one so far? So that was tip number three.
Number four: Next is the type of folder. So I generally recommend the cheap 50 cent folders. Now you’re going to want to buy two or three of these because they do fall apart, but who cares. You get two or three of them for the year, you label them all so that they’re done so you can just throw recycle the one and get the new one. I generally recommend these. I don’t like the plastic folders because for kids that are messier, they can go like this and everything can fly out of the plastic one. I like a cheap paper folder like this. Now, I do have some students that just use these simple manila folders and that’s it. So some of my students and I’m like “Look, can you just get it in here? Can we at least use these?” Now if your student is not using a zip binder or backpack or something, it’s more likely to fall out of this so you want to consider every detail. With some students I just, “Can you get it into this folder”. I use these for some students, I’ll use an accordion folder for a student who is not as motivated to use a folder. Are they going to really pull out an accordion, set it on their desk, flip back the front of the accordion and go through to get it? Some of my students do that, but not many. Or can you do the three-ring binder? That’s very few of my students that can successfully use a 3-ring binder to manage their stuff. So it’s not actually doing the job it’s intended to do, but it may work. Now as far as the zip binder that you are mentioning. I have had students break out or cut out the rings themselves and just used it, but you could probably find something else that zips. But that is not a bad idea at all. If you have an AM and a PM, small zip thing or something that is enclosed that can keep, you know, if they have three folders for the morning and three for the afternoon. Maybe the three in the morning are yellow with another color, maybe the three of the afternoon or blue with another color, whatever you want to do. But if you can find a container like that or two, that might make things easier. So again, the type of folder. You got your pocket folders, you got your manila folders, you got accordions, your 3-ring binders, and then your zip binders.
Number five: Next, I’m going to talk about what you mentioned. This is number five. You mentioned the composition notebooks, right? So if they have six composition notebooks, one for each class, that might be a lot to manage. Here is a trick that you can do. You can have the front part of the composition notebook for one class, and they can flip it over and you can have the other side. Let’s say behind this sticky note for another class. You can also do this to divide it, or you can creatively divide it so that this is actually two notebooks. That’s probably enough room for one semester for a lot of classes. So this can actually be two in one. Another thing that I love is moleskins. I love them because it feels like an art book now. Let me show you the size comparison. Here is your composition notebook. And here is a moleskin, they are so small. So to have one moleskin per class, and again you can do art all over them and decorate it and put their label with their name so that it gets back to them. But it’s also it just it’s so small. These are so easy to carry that you can even fit them inside of a folder like this. They’re so small. There is another perspective of how small they are. So think about the moleskins, they’re kind of pricey for what they are, but whatever. If it does the job, who cares?
Number six: You have to help them walk through the process of managing their papers in a folder many many many times. If your relationship with your child is such that they will allow you to help them do this on a regular basis, even daily for six weeks or so, that’s going to help the habit. To expect them to just do this then manage it and really be good at it, it’s not going to happen overnight it takes time. But at least if you’re doing the SNO, the Sunday night overhaul that I teach, if you’re doing that at least once a week and overhaul on the folder, get rid of everything they don’t need. If they still need to do something, pull it out so that it gets done and everything that just needs to be stored can go in here, but they need practice over and over and over walking through the process of managing the papers. Really their folders never should be very thick. They really should never need any more than 10 or 20 papers in here at any given time for most classes, unless the teacher is forcing them to hold on to the papers for some reason. Some teachers like to do binder checks and stuff like that, or folder checks or whatever. But really what they need in here is their current work. Some families that I work with, what happens is the parents will take everything out and archival for the kid until the teacher does the binder check, that way the kids only has to keep in here the things that are more current so that they can actually manage what needs to be managed and they can build the skill of managing the things in a rational way.
Number seven: When to do it for them. Look, a lot of times I will organize this for them. I will see what doesn’t have their name on it, have them put their name on it. I will straighten out the papers, I’ll put it in a good order for them. I will remove things that are at the wrong subject and put them in the right for them. A lot of times I will do a lot of that for them (at times). So if my student is working on a paper, they’re working on their homework, or they’re working on really the learning stuff, the learning part of their classes, their homework. Then I often times will take this off their plate. Okay, and then at other times I will sit down with them be like “Let’s overhaul all your folders now,” and I’ll go through it in a really detailed way on a night when there isn’t as much to do as far as their homework is concerned. So there’s a time and a place when to do it for them. In your mind the question you always want to ask yourself is, “Am I enabling them? And am I giving them more of the learned helplessness experiences (which we don’t want), or am I empowering them in and having them focus on what they need to focus on?” So you kind of always want to be balancing that question in your head.
Number eight: And my last one is baby steps and persistence. Look, like I said before it’s not going to happen overnight. You have to persistently help support your child to build these structures. I know they’re resistant. I know I get it. That is the number one problem that my students deal with is resistance in so many different forms. That is the number one thing you’re going to deal with is that resistance. How do we help them to do things like building this skill of organization, for example. Things that are good for their life, for their own future, for their own well-being. How do we help them build those skills when there is so much resistance? That’s the question here, right? But the final tip is baby steps and persistence. Just keep pushing on. Baby steps are everything. People want to see like, “oh, yeah my kid figure out this new system. Now, they’ve got it and it’s awesome.” It’s not going to happen like that. It does occasionally, but it’s extremely rare. That’s not how I get students to experience a change in their life. What I do that works is baby steps over and over and over. Let’s take the system and let’s see how we can refine it just that much more. Let’s see how we can polish your ability to use the system just that much more. Like it’s just bit by bit by bit and you have to trust me that this is what works with these types of students is these tiny steps, but persistently. Trying all the time trying to just take get them to the next level even if the next level is just a millimeter or fraction of a millimeter.
With that, again, my name is Seth Perler with SethPerler.com. If you like this, please share it with somebody right now and subscribe. You can also subscribe on YouTube. You can hit the bell if you want alerts on YouTube, but please subscribe to my blog SethPerler.com where I send out freebies and updates every week, generally on Sundays. And if you want to leave a comment on YouTube or on the blog with what have you done about this? How do you help students who are losing things and do you have any tips and tricks that you used yourself or with children that you’re working with be able to manage their stuff? Go ahead and leave that in the comments if you want and have a fantastic day. I will see you next Sunday.