If you feel like your student is overwhelmed when it comes to organizing his materials and managing his time, take heart. Student organization is one of the most difficult challenges that face middle- and high school-age students, as well as their parents. The transition from the adult taking the lead to the student taking ownership takes time to establish. Teaching the basics gives your student the opportunity to find a system that works for their needs. Read the tips below to help your student get organized and feel successful right from the start!
3 Tips for Student Organization
1) Work and Study Space
Have an identified space that they associate with learning and studying that is (ideally) free of visual and auditory distractions. A clear work surface, adequate lighting, access to necessary supplies (including an outlet for a computer), and a comfortable atmosphere that fits their personality will help them concentrate. The space might be a permanent location, such as their room, a quiet area of the living room, or a closet that has been converted to a study area. On the flip side, a portable study space such as a wheeled cart that can hold and sort supplies or a lap desk may be better for your student. Utilize the resources your family has, reorganize them, or add something new and together create a unique workspace for your student.
2) Time Management
Encourage your student to rise and shine at about the same time each morning and have a consistent bedtime. Compiling a to-do list the night before will find them not only more productive but more in control of their time. To stay on top of things, have them set alarms, write notes on shower doors or mirrors, set up a reminder app, send an e-mail or text and copy the people who will hold them accountable to finish a task. Use a stopwatch to time activities to help them learn how much time to budget the next time around.
Daily planners can be used to sketch out how academic, extracurricular activities, and free time are to be worked into each day. They may need to experiment to find the planning tool that works best for them, be it a wall calendar, desk calendar, notebook/pocket calendar, computer, or an app on a tablet or phone. Encourage them to use color coding for similar activities to allow for quick viewing. Remind them to consult their planner often and check on, maintain, and alter their organization system when needed. Organized people are constantly tweaking their systems to adapt to new situations, and your teen should be learning do the same.
Talk about the benefits of a balanced schedule with your teen. Actively listen to what they have to say and allow them to have input. While they may be tempted to learn several new hobbies or take on a part-time job, you can offer guidance and support so they learn how to prioritize their academic and recreational pursuits.
3) School Supplies
Allow your student to select and set up their supplies so that they are invested in the process. Some students like an accordion file system better than a tabbed divider system. Others may find that heavy-gauge notebook paper with reinforced holes is more effective so that important information doesn’t fall out and get lost. Try clear slip-sleeves for papers that they need or want to keep in their notebook for the whole year. Plastic crates make filing and access to papers quick and easy; also, they can be stacked to maximize a small space. Labels, cue cards, and color coding can also be helpful filing tools. It may help to have color-coordinated folders and notebooks for each subject. Suggest separating the folder pockets into sections such as “work that needs to be done” and “work that is completed” so they can easily store and locate items. Colored dots or sticky notes can be placed on the corners of assignments to help your teen identify a particular subject or prioritize work, such as using green to mean “complete today” and red for “due next week.”
As your student becomes more independent, learning to organize and prioritize different aspects of their lives they will more efficiently use their time and as a result, may (at times) experience less stress.
Fortunately, “being organized” can look different for each person and even change over time. Help your student get organized by introducing tools and solutions that help with organization. Start small, then branch out as you both become more comfortable. Remember, be patient as they may need to experiment with different systems to find one that works for them. In the end, being organized will help them perform better academically and in the long term, in their professional and adult life.