Some students seem to get organization through osmosis, but many need a great deal of direct and specific guidance in order to develop their style. Simply speaking, some kids systematize more naturally than others and regular overhauls make a big difference for the “organizationally challenged”.
Here’s a rundown of how I often begin sessions with students who are still developing their systems. This quick overhaul can be done with any age, elementary through grad school. It’s good to do this at least once a week until it becomes habit. Note that I do this with a student, not for them, intentionally supporting them less and less as they become more and more independent over the weeks.
The Quick Overhaul:
- Bring everything home: Backpack, books, folders, papers, gum wrappers, pencils, etc.. You can just dump the locker or desk into a big bag.
- Turn off distractions (phones, tv, etc.) and honor this time.
- Pull every single thing out onto a table or the floor.
- Have trash and recycling containers within reach.
- Start with sorting everything into piles: Papers, books, folders, supplies, etc. Discard trash in the meantime.
- Now go through piles, item by item. Get every paper into the proper place, making sure their name is on it. Don’t keep useless papers. Develop the habit of asking “why is this important?” If it’s not, get rid of it. If it might be, throw it in an “Archive” box, just in case. If it needs to be done or turned in, flag it with a post-it note, label what it is and when it needs to be turned in.
- Repack the backpack with everything but the materials that still need to be done. Leave those on their desk/work area, typically in a pile organized by the order they want to do the work (their “queue”).
Note: Out of sight out of mind- I teach students to flag everything important with a bright post-it so it’s more likely to be “in mind”. If they use a large planner, I often have them put these papers right into the planner since they bring it everywhere (hopefully). The planner serves as a “queue” of sorts too.
Feel free to copy/paste, modify, print, post or otherwise use this list in any way you see fit. And I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below. Do you do overhauls? What works for your students?
Challenge: Do this consistently for 8 weeks and let me know how it goes.