Getting Organized for Back-to-School

The summer is nearly over and it’s time to go back to school! The transition will be easier for some students than for others. Does your child forget to bring the right books and supplies home or to school? Is her desk, locker, backpack, or notebook always in disarray? Does she often forget deadlines and scheduled activities? If you answered yes to any of these questions, your child may need some help with organization. Many of our tutors have experience in getting students organized, but you can also try these tips on your own.

First off, if your child has ADHD or something similar, it’s important to remember that punishment will not change disorganized behaviors that are related to brain pathology. Only strategies for disorganized students can help with this. It’s confusing to teachers and parents when students with ADHD are inconsistent in their ability to organize because it may seem like the child is just “sloppy” or “lazy.” If a child handles one task in an organized way, it’s tempting to believe he could always be organized if he wanted to, but that’s not necessarily the case. Without further ado, here are some strategies you can use to help your child get organized.

Color Codingorganized
Color coding is a quick and easy way to stay organized for the whole year, and can be especially great for visual learners. One way you can do this is to use yellow for all geography book covers, notebook dividers, and files, and use red for everything related to history class, and so on. If your child is in middle school or above and needs to adjust to having different classes on different days, it may be more helpful to use a different color for each day. You can buy small binder clips in each color, and attach them to everything the child needs for those days, including books, binders and folders. That way, your child can quickly scan her locker between classes or at the end of the day and grab everything she needs.

Filing
A traditional three-ring binder always has the potential to work well, but many students struggle with loose paper. If your child always seems to have stray papers floating around her bag or locker, consider an accordion-style file. That way, she can just slide her papers in and retrieve them quickly later, and she can even tuck folders inside, too, so that everything is in one place. It’s also a great idea to combine this strategy with color coding. This will make it even easier for your child to find and store papers at a glance, and ensure that all of her work that doesn’t have to go back and forth each day can be easily located later.

organizedCalendars
Calendars offer multi-sensory learning opportunities by serving as a visual record of activities that you and your child write down and cross off, and by prompting auditory reinforcement as you talk about the day’s events. Calendars will also help your child develop other skills like accountability, because she’ll see when you will or will not be available to help with a project, and can plan accordingly and assume responsibility for herself.

Agenda Books
Agenda books are essential for student organization, especially for those in middle school or above. It can be helpful for disorganized students to use notebooks with larger-than-usual spaces in which to write, ensuring they always have room to write down assignments and reminders. With guidance, your child can learn to write down all homework deadlines and avoid last-minute cramming and unpleasant surprises. If printed instructions for assignments aren’t possible, check that the child has written down the entire assignment and seems to understand what she needs to do at home.

Reinforcementorganized
Getting organized is homework, too! At the end of each day, have your child take five minutes (or longer, if necessary) to organize her notebooks and folders. If she has any papers that she put in the wrong place in her rush to get to the bus, she should file them correctly at this time. It’s also a good idea to take out anything that she no longer needs and either throw it away or file it. A second accordion file at home to organize papers that the child may need later can be helpful for this. To help with time management, set a deadline, such as 9 p.m., for having things organized and packed up for the next day.

Encouragement
Don’t forget to emphasize the student’s accomplishments and successes along the way! It’s likely that managing her own time is a relatively new experience for your child, and like anything else they’ll need a lot of practice before they get good at it. If you can start early and let your child have some ownership of her schedule, she will be better prepared to juggle her responsibilities in school as she gets older. Your support and perseverance help make organizing a positive and effective experience for your child. 

Allison Green
Boston Tutoring Services

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