Get Organized for School!
So long sweet summer! As students and parents gear up for the start of another school year it’s the perfect time to think about getting organized. Whether your child is entering Kindergarten or his last year of high school, it’s never too early or too late to help them be prepared. As a student, being organized means finding what you need, when you need it. It means it’s easier to get things done correctly, on time, and get desired outcomes for your goals.
The transition of moving on to the next grade can be exciting, scary, challenging, and rewarding. Every year brings on more responsibility as parents and teachers pull back from hand-holding, and let children start to take the lead with managing their daily schedule, homework, and belongings. These are all LIFE skills that students will use into adulthood.
If you are not an organized individual, the task of helping your student develop these skills may seem daunting. I created a list of some helpful points to get you and your child started on the path to academic success.
1. Create a schedule
A large part of student success has to do with consistency so create a routine by writing down a general weekly schedule. Be sure to include things like homework time, after school activities, family time, and relaxation! Even young children can benefit from a daily checklist to help them remember the tasks they need to accomplish.
2. Do five minutes of daily planning each day
This is an important task for middle and high schoolers as the homework and study load increases. As you make a list of the day’s assignments and upcoming tests, you can prioritize your time and decide what specific tasks to work on for the day. Doing daily planning will ensure that you’re always working on the most important tasks, and that you don’t leave anything out.
3. Write everything down in a planner
No one has a perfect memory, and trying to remember everything is stressful. When you write everything down, you’ll be less anxious because you won’t be relying on your brain as a storage device. In my opinion, this is a very important skill and thus I have gone into more detail with suggestions. A planner is an essential tool that helps older students to keep track of assignments and commitments. It can also help them manage their time and projects. Many students don’t have the habit of using a planner so entering and retrieving information from it can feel like a burden. These students need guidance and support in how to use this planning tool to their advantage. Here are some key points to get started:
Use the right planner. Ideal planners for students are thin, spiral-bound and have a weekly layout. Students need space to enter information about academic, extra-curricular, and family commitments.
Make it accessible. Consider storing your planner in the front pocket of a backpack and keeping it on your desk during class so you can easily jot down dates. Be sure to take your planner to school every day.
Use a binder clip for ready-access. A binder clip can mark the current page for the day or week and will save you time from searching through your planner.
Never rely on memory. Encourage students to make it a habit to write things down in their planners.
Take a few minutes each week to see which important events and deadlines are coming up over the next month. This will help to ensure that you don’t overlook any projects, tests, or other commitments. Reviewing your schedule helps you to stay on top of things and keeps you calm and in control, allowing you to adjust your daily and weekly priorities.
4. Keep one notebook and one binder for each subject
Take all your notes for one subject in one notebook. When you run out of space, start a new notebook. Label each notebook clearly, e.g. History Notebook 1, History Notebook 2. This will make it easy for you to find the information you need in the future.
Make a habit of keeping one binder for each subject and filing your assignments and printed notes according to type. File all your assignments together in sequential order, followed by your printed notes, which should also be filed together in sequential order.
Organize all notes and handouts by using notebooks with tear out pages and accordion file folders with subject tabs. You can takes notes in class, then slip the pages and any handouts into the designated slot. I recommend reserving the front section for incomplete homework so it will be easy to find. Take your accordion file folder with you to school daily.
5. Do filing once a week
Create a filing system at home to store all completed assignments, tests, and reference materials for the year. You can use a desk or cabinet drawer or a sturdy plastic file box with a lid. Label each tab with the class name. Once a week, transfer all papers from your accordion file to the home filing system chronologically. Performing this weekly task will ensure that your accordion folder doesn’t get too full or messy. It will also force you to declutter by going through all of the papers you have accumulated over the week and allow you to recycle or throw away items you no longer need.
6. Break down big tasks into smaller tasks
Breaking down big projects into smaller tasks makes them seem less overwhelming and more manageable. Assign each task a deadline so there are less chances of procrastination. You should also create your own deadline before the actual due date of a project at least 3-4 days earlier. This creates a few days’ buffer to account for unexpected delays.
7. Learn to say no
Establish boundaries for yourself. Decide how many times you’ll go out with your friends each week, how many days each week you’ll devote to extracurricular activities, and what your priorities are.
8. Create a conducive studying environment at home
With the start of a new school year, that also means homework will be assigned very soon! Do you have a designated study zone in your home? For older kids, it might be a desk space in their bedroom or in your home office. For younger kids, I recommend having a study zone in a common area of the home like the kitchen. This is another crucial step so I have shared some ideas to help create an efficient and organized study zone for your home:
Keep all supplies needed close by. For those with a desk in a bedroom, have a few items on the desk top such as pencils, pens, a stapler, a notepad and maybe a desktop file holder. Use drawer dividers to organize other supplies in a top drawer like paperclips, extra staples, tape, glue, a calculator, etc. Be sure to have a trash can and a recycle bin at arm’s reach. For younger kids whose study zone may be the kitchen table, use a plastic tote of some sort that will hold all supplies needed. You can store this in a cabinet and pull it out each day during homework time. This way the kitchen table remains free of clutter for most of the day, but will also be very functional as a study zone.
Always clear off your work space when you have completed your homework for the day. This will help you stay organized and productive! When you have proper “homes” for all of your supplies, it is a breeze to put things away. Take the few extra minutes each afternoon/evening to tidy up your space so that when you sit down to start your homework the next day, you have a clear work space, which will in turn help you be able to focus better.
Set a timer for 30 minutes and focus on your top priority task until the timer beeps. After 30 minutes of hard work, take a break for a few minutes. If you still have more homework to do, set the timer again for 30 minutes and get back to work. Another great idea for those of us with younger kids is to work in parallel with your kids. For example, while your child is reading or doing homework, you can be paying your bills, making to-do lists, or working on your own project. This way you are being productive, but you are still available to help with homework and keep your child on task if needed.
· Be sure the work area is well lit!!
· Remove distractions before you get to work. Common ones include cell phones, social media, music, books, and magazines. Put your phone in another room, turn off Internet access on your computer, and put the books and magazines somewhere else!
9. Every day, review all the new information you learned in school earlier that day
A quick review of the key concepts should only take you about 20 minutes. Doing this helps to ensure understanding, so you stay on top of the material. If you really can’t do this review on the same day, do it as soon as you can while the information is still fresh in your mind.
10. Double-check that you’ve completed all the homework that’s due the next day
Set a recurring reminder so that you’ll do this every school day in the mid-afternoon. This will prevent you from scrambling at the last minute or pulling an all-nighter just to get the assignment done.
11. Every school night, pack your backpack for the following day
Set a reminder to ensure that you do this every school night. Create a checklist for the things you need to remember to bring to school, and put the checklist somewhere accessible. This prevents the last minute scramble to get your things together and forgetting items at home. It also reduces stress at the start of the day.
School is a family affair and poor school-related organization can negatively impact the entire family. Students and families that struggle with disorganization report high levels of stress, unhappiness, poor school performance, and strains on the parent-child relationship.
Because organization is not an inherited trait, it’s important to make sure your child is developing and practicing good organizational habits regularly. Organization usually makes or breaks a student’s level of success in school, because it is one of those “cornerstone” habits that impacts almost every other area in their academic lives. There’s something deeply satisfying about witnessing the confidence that is brought forth in your child because they feel prepared and ready to learn!! Whether you put all of these suggestions to use or just a few, you will increase the likelihood of having a successful school year! Best wishes!