Tips for Teaching Children How to Get Organized When Doing School and Homework

By Dr. Raymond Huntington

Organization is not a natural skill for many children, but one that makes it so much easier to do well in school, whether in person, remote or a hybrid model. Students who are organized have many advantages over those who are not: 

  • They experience less stress.
  • They’re less likely to forget tasks and to-dos.
  • They’re better able to focus when it comes time to do work and meet deadlines.

School time/homework time is about learning and not getting situated and locating things. 

Children who are skilled at keeping their school binders and desks tidy have a leg up, but it’s also essential to have a solid organizational system in place for tackling homework (and daily school work). Here are a few tips on how to help children get and stay organized in all facets of their school lives: 

  • Develop a filing system for the desk at home. Desk trays, a small filing cabinet, folders and/or an accordion file can help children keep important papers at home, especially if they are doing a few days of remote school each week. And even for those who are attending school fully in person, it’s smart to have an at-home filing system for graded homework, study guides, syllabi, etc.
  • Don’t forget the digital filing system. Even before remote school became the norm for many students, lots of teachers are doing more and more via Google Docs and other digital learning platforms. The upside: less paper. However, it’s just as easy for children to misplace important digital documents, so they need to get organized with how they keep track of essential information so they can easily access it when they need it.
  • Support good routines for school work and homework. Structure and routines teach children the importance of being responsible and taking pride and ownership in their work, and most importantly, fuel school success. Routines for remote school as well as homework/independent work time encourage children to become more self-sufficient and task-oriented.
  • Teach children how to master the skill of prioritization. Prioritization helps children work efficiently and minimize procrastination. Here’s what that should look like:
    • Start with a master to-do list of all immediate tasks/assignments/homework and other things on the horizon (e.g. bigger projects or exams).
    • Every day, divide school work/homework into a few categories: for today, due tomorrow, due this week, due next week/coming up.
    • Every day, create a high-priority to-do list. When doing remote school, that list might include the for today items as school work and the due tomorrow items as homework.
    • Rank all other to-dos in order of importance. Children can then look over everything else on their lists and rank it from most to least important. Preparing for a test on Friday is more pressing than preparing for a project due next Tuesday, but the project still might require a little time—just not as much as test prep.
    • Rank everything from hardest to easiest. This might come naturally to some, but it’s a valuable exercise for others who struggle with “spinning their wheels” at homework time. Some might prefer knocking out shorter, easier work first before digging into more challenging studying. Others might want to focus on the most difficult things first and save the more rote tasks for last.
  • Show them how to break down big projects and assignments into smaller tasks. Prioritization is critical for creating daily work schedules, but it’s a good idea for children to create workback schedules for larger, more intensive projects. A detailed schedule can help keep children on track. Here’s an example for a research project with a February 15 deadline (and note the extra padding…students could certainly work faster): 
Choose topic January 10
Research compiled January 14
Create an outline  January 17 
Finish any additional research  January 19 
First draft  January 22 
Review and revise January 24 
Second draft January 25 
Have parent/peer review/edit  January 27 
Revise, third draft  January 29 
Get teacher feedback  February 6 
Revise February 9 
Fourth draft  February 11 
Final review and proof February 13 
Submit February 14 

 

With school being remote or partly remote for many children, organization is more important than ever—especially with information coming at children in so many different ways. Encourage your child to establish reliable organizational systems and practices that will help him or her thrive in school and life. And if you need help, call Huntington at 1-800 CAN LEARN. We’ll work with your child to develop habits and practices that are easy to stick to and certain to yield success.

 

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