10 Tips to Help a Disorganized Student
Crumpled papers and cluttered backpacks are a quick way for students to lose their work and miss opportunities for credit. Helping students get organized can help them better navigate their school work and set them up for academic and personal success.
Figuring out the best way to combat disorganization takes some time. To successfully transform student habits, you have to approach them with understanding, be a model and give them tips that are easy to use and effective. Here's how to help a disorganized student eliminate clutter and stay on top of their tasks.
1. Address Disorganization Without Judgement
Understanding how to help a student get organized begins with simple communication. Approaching a student with sensitivity and presenting them with solutions will be much more effective than implying they should be doing better without clarifying the actions they should take.
Instead of criticizing the student's habits, chat through the benefits of better ones and why organization is important. A disorganized student may not be able to recognize the importance of organization until you show them, but if they feel defensive, they may not listen to what you're saying. Instead of saying, "I can't believe how messy you are," try a phrase such as, “I noticed you have trouble finding your homework sometimes, and I think I have some ways to help.”
2. Show Students What Organization Looks Like
Many disorganized students want to be able to find their homework and books quickly but don't know how to implement a system that works for them. They may think it's a complicated process or have too many objects in their space, making decluttering challenging. A student's poor organizational skills can improve if you show them what to do.
You could spend time instructing each student on how to throw away old papers, stack textbooks, store their pencils and keep folders nice and straight with a demonstration at the front of the classroom. You could also show them how you organize your desk for a practical example.
3. Eliminate Clutter and Teach Desk Organization
A pro tip is to take a picture of a student's organized desk to print out. After helping the student organize their school supplies, the photo acts as a reference if they get disorganized again later. You can tape a picture to the inside of their desk or make it the first page of a binder or folder.
If you want to help multiple students, you could print out a large picture of an empty desk, identify where to put supplies and showcase this image at the front of your classroom where your students can easily see it. When your student starts to lose papers or struggle to find their pencils, they can refer to your photo and organize their space to its former glory.
4. Use a Daily Checklist for Tasks
Checklists are great visual aids you can use to improve organization. Checklists for class items, morning routines and homework can help students remember what they need to take home or bring with them daily and help them start their mornings right. You can print out small checklists for disorganized students or create a classroom checklist you check off as you go about the day so your students can track their time with you.
5. Share Good Planning Habits
Along with checklists, planners are another useful tool to help students stay organized. When your students take the time to write down what they need at the start or end of every day, they may find it easier to stay on top of their work.
After completing homework or turning in an assignment, students can cross it off their schedule and focus on the next task. Many planners also have a page for notes where your students can write additional reminders for themselves or jot down goals.
6. Model Organization in the Classroom
As an instructor, you must model what you're trying to teach students. If the classroom is messy or you have trouble finding papers through stacks of sheets on your desks, it may be hard for children to accept your advice. You want to be a model for good organizational behavior, so you should clear your space, throw away papers and ensure you have organized student seating.
7. Label and Color Code Student Papers
Color coding is a great organizational system you can use to keep the classroom productive and model successful tips for your students. On top of making papers easier to find for yourself, students may have an easier time tracking down a specific assignment if they can look for bright colors or labels. You could encourage students to use a different color folder for each class or topic, so they can quickly find homework and worksheets without rummaging through stacks of papers.
8. Collaborate With Parents
Helping a disorganized child doesn't have to start and stop in the classroom. After establishing a relationship and the best form of contact, you can discuss with parents the skills you're working on in class. Work together to discover ways you can both implement tips and tricks for the student in an effortless manner. A parent may be able to tell you what works well for their child, and you can discuss what behaviors you're seeing when parents aren't around.
9. Stick to a Daily Classroom Routine
Students who follow a schedule will have to remain organized to be on time. If your students stay in your classroom for the entire day, you can post a class schedule on the wall so students can track what will happen next in their day.
If students leave your classroom throughout the day to attend music, art and gym classes or receive instruction on particular subjects from other teachers, you can print out schedules for each student's desk to help them remember what they need.
10. Introduce Memory Aids
Memory aids are a fun way to help students stay organized and give them tools for remembering facts or assignments later in their academic careers. If you remember the order of operations as PEMDAS or have a fun saying for the order of the planets in our solar system, you know how effective these tools are.
Along with an acronym such as TAT (throw away trash) or CATS (carry assignments to school), you could encourage them to set timers or write in their planners to remember specific tasks.
- SBD, Inc.