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5 Organizing Tips for Students

by Marcella Moran, LMHC

Kids are off to school. Brand new binders, folders, and notebooks including a hefty supply of pens, pencils and paper, can be found in the pristine looking backpack.  For most kids, the annual proclamations having taken place, “… this school year is going to even batter than the last.  Grades will improve, study habits will be better and organization will be at its best.”  

Fast forward to December.  Some kids have met their expectations and their school year is better than the last. Others have found that even though they had the best intentions to have a better year than last,  it seems that they were never able to perform better in school. Why does this happen?  These kids never had the right strategies in place to become more successful in school.  Here are some strategies to ensure for a much more organized system for kids:

  • Filebox for those exploding binders and folders.  Does your child’s folders and binders look like a year long pile of stored crumbled papers?  Buy a portable file box without a top for easy access.  Insert hanging file folders for each subject.  Once every few weeks, your child should go through his folders and remove papers that are from past topics or just doesn’t need anymore. DO NOT throw these papers out but store them til midterms and final.
  • School agendas.  Every student needs some sort of agenda.   Too often I’ve heard students say, “Oh I have a good memory , I don’t have to write it down.”   Yes they DO have to write it down.  Suggest that they give their memory a “rest” and not have it work doubly hard to remember the homework. It could be a school issued one, a notebook, a smart phone, just some tool that your child feels comfortable using, You cannot rely on the schools website for all assignments as your child might dictate is fine. When teachers make last minute changes to the homework, many times these changes do not make it to the website.
  • Backpack.  Do not use a backpack with many pockets.  Many pockets mean many lost items.  For the kids who always seem to shove papers into the backpack, Staples sell folders specifically designed for these children.
  • Reminders.  There are many different ways of setting up reminders.  If your child is tech savy, have her use an app on her phone for reminders.  Post it calendars are great tools for reminders for the kids who are more tactile and visual. Another great reminder technique for the kids who are more visual and tactile, is to write down every task (homework) on a separate post it.  Display the post its at eye level to give a clear view to your child what tasks she needs to accomplish that day.  When the task is completed, your child should remove the corresponding post it and throw it away.  Job well done.
  • Assessing the organizing style.  For a multitude of reason I won’t get into right now, kids don’t always know which organizing strategies work best for them.  The first thing I do when I meet a new client, is assess their organizing style.  Many times, parents are suggesting to their children, organizing strategies that worked for them as a student.  How many times has your child said, “ Mom, I’m not you!  That doesn’t work for me!”.   Your child may have a different organizing style than you so the strategies you are suggesting may only work for your style.  I have found great success in organizing children once their style has been established.  The three organizing styles I found to be the most prominent are Visual (have to see everything in front of them, respond to color,  does not like visual overload),  Comfy/Cozy ( have to feel good about everything, sensitive to others, has to spread out all work, may like to work in area close to mom) and Sequential  ( the tech savvy child may fall into this, has piles of papers on desk but can pull out what he needs, usually good in math and remembering dates, has what I call and “organized” mess).  

Being organized is an ongoing process that one perfects as you move along the school year.  My best advice to parents is to listen to what your child is telling you.  If something is not working for the child, give them supporting suggestions.  If you get an email from a teacher stating that your 9th grader is missing 3 homework assignments, don’t go on the attack.   As frustrated and angry you might feel, these are two emotions that will prevent your child from coming to you in the future when they  are having an issue with school. Remain calm, and approach your child with the email.  Acknowledge that you are sensitive to how difficult it is to get organized and how frustrating it can be for them.  Suggest helping them get an organizing system in place that meet THEIR needs.  Showing your child that you are supportive and not angry, will make for a less stressful school year.