When starting a new school year, educators know how important it is to be prepared and begin relationships with students on the right foot. We greet, we meet, and we are sweet. However, setting students up for success during the school year has components we may not always have in mind.
Organization is a very important aspect of student success. It may not seem like a primary skill, but students without are put in a position to be less successful academically. Research shows that there is a correlation between organization and student achievements in school. However, organization involves more than physical material placement. To support students in their academic journey, we must also teach students how to organize their thoughts, learning and direction following. There are several ways to keep students organized throughout the school year. Implementing these strategies may just be the extra push students need to begin the year with their best foot forward.
1. Before the Bustle
Teachers have much to prepare for before students arrive in their classrooms. One worthwhile preparation is to organize our thinking. What will our first day look like and sound like? What are the most important things to do, and which things aren’t as imperative? One aspect that needs consideration is how supplies will be organized. Below are several things teachers can do to streamline the process.
- Print labels for students to use for their subject supplies and include their student number on the label. For example, print “Readers Workshop” labels for both their folder and notebook, with the student number below. Premade labels save time and model organization for students right off the bat.
- Have community supplies in table tubs or other containers in places that provide easy access for students. Each tub could contain pencils, highlighters, dry erase markers, scissors and other materials that are often used by all but belong to none.
2. Labelling for Later
When prepared teachers encounter their first day with students, they make sure a system is in place for supply labelling. This may look different for young students compared to those in higher grade levels, but labelling is an incredibly important ingredient in our recipe for student organizational success.
- Name tags with student numbers can be premade and placed at each student’s work area. This identifies individual space. Labels with student names and numbers can also be placed on pencil boxes. In these boxes, students can keep their personal supplies. That way, students practice ownership and responsibility for their own materials apart from shared supplies. If labels are not made, students can write their names and subjects on each supply, but this is much more time consuming.
- Young learners may not be able to easily label supplies, so it may be a good idea to label things yourself after Back-to-School Night. This does take some time, but it may be quicker and simpler than trying to do it all on the first day.
- Older students are more capable of putting labels on their own supplies, with your guidance. It is helpful for future situations for all students to have placed labels in the same place, etc.
- Keeping same subject materials together is helpful for locating learning. So, put subject notebooks inside subject folders with handouts and other same subject pages.
- Assignment and recorded learning needs to be organized too. Sticky note bookmarks are very helpful in showing which page students are to use next. This makes sure students don’t use random pages each day, making locating lesson responses difficult.
3. Plan and Prepare
Student binders should be labelled and taken back and forth to school each day. These binders can include homework, school handouts, communications between teachers and parents, and student planners. Depending on their purpose, binders and planners can look different. Assignments could be written daily, upcoming important dates can be recorded, goals can be set, progress can be charted, and more. Check out this planner template (Doodle Planner Link)! Not only does it provide space for various uses, but it is all in one bundle, supporting students in their work for staying organized.
- Younger students may not use planners, or if used, serve to record what was done in class each day. Intermediate students could record the focus of each subject for that day or record daily learning statements for reflection. These simple sentences are a great way to prepare students to answer the age-old question, “What did you learn today?” Older students may record homework assignments to complete that evening, or upcoming tests, including planned study times for best preparation.
- When using planners, remember they have a helpful purpose, but should not take the place of valuable learning time. These tools should be utilized for five minutes or less each day in the classroom.
- Check out these great student planners and binders! They will love the fun doodle theme. Plus, it comes with yearly calendar updates!
4. Model Mastery
As the school year begins, teachers must not forget that their example is incredibly important and sets the bar for students. This is true for behavior, academic prowess and also organization. Model organization on your own desk. If students see their teacher’s messy pile of papers, they are likely to be okay with the mess upon their table tops.
- Keep the classroom tidy and ensure that students take pride in their shared space. Assign jobs for students in regard to cleaning and organizing or allow students to straighten up around the room as they notice the need.
5. Run Routines and Talk Transitions
Classroom procedures and expectations are always on the list for first week necessities, but organizational routines should also be on that page. Each routine must be taught, including a procedure for supply preparedness. Teachers should always list supplies needed for the subject to come and instruct students on how that should look and sound.
- At the conclusion of one subject and moving into another, remind students where their completed work should go. If it is kept for later, subject folders should be in use. If it is going home, a simple strategy is to have them put it under their pencil boxes until the end of the day. Putting work in mailboxes at the conclusion of each lesson can cause traffic jams that steal valuable instruction time.
6. Supply Space
Different systems work better for different teachers, but it is always important to set up expectations for supply storage. Teachers must teach the importance of putting supplies away to create organized learning spaces. There are many options for this which may include seatback pockets, book tubs, student drawers, hanging files and more. Whatever system is used, it must be fully understood and modeled for students in order to successful.
7. Notice and Note
No matter how prepared a teacher may be, issues with organization could arise unexpectedly. Take note of which students need organizational support and provide it as needed. Students could also help one another in their effort to keep everyone best prepared for organizational success.
8. Quarterly Clean-Outs
Spring cleaning simply is not enough for students in the classroom. At least once every quarter, consider guiding students in a deep clean. If desks are used, have students pull everything out, pitch old papers and put those still being used in the appropriate folders. Those with seatback pockets, drawers and hanging files may benefit from the same process.
– If students have cubbies or lockers, getting rid of trash, papers and more will help students get back on track organizationally. Locker clean outs are especially important before long breaks. Make sure no food is left inside to keep ants from welcoming students back after breaks. Again, partner support is a great option as well.
9. Home Hustle
At times teachers are the one of few, or the only, adult that supports students in personal growth. Organization is a life skill that also applies to life outside the classroom. Teaching students how to prepare for each school day is a valuable part of personal organization.
- Planning for successful school days is an important practice as well. This includes getting a good night’s sleep, fully charging student devices, responding to weather forecasts (bringing coats in the winter, jackets for a breeze, etc.) and waking up in time to catch the bus. Teachers must educate about these organizational life skills as well.
Practice Makes Perfect
This saying isn’t completely correct, but its intention is timeless. We must provide opportunities for students to practice our procedures and show off their organizational skills. Practicing regularly, and as needed, sets students up for success. Remind students that everyone can be organized, even if it doesn’t come naturally. Stay positive and make sure they understand the purpose.
At the end of the day, teachers only have so much time and so much energy. Working smarter, not harder includes organizational habits. Setting up the expectations at the beginning of the year is helpful and the upkeep throughout the year is imperative. To help the value of this truly sink in for students, lead them to the connections the skill has in the real world. Organized people have a better chance for success in all areas of their lives. So, teachers are wise to keep this in mind while providing the best education possible for all students; those organizationally inclined, and those that need a little push in that direction.