I’m going to wrap up our back to school preparation blog posts with one of my favorite topics; organization! Even as a student one of my favorite activities was getting new folders, notebooks and pens for class. I started off each school year with a brand new planner (usually provided by the school, which it doesn’t seem like is being done anymore??) with great intentions of using it to organize my assignments, plan activities and keep track of to do lists. For some students, organizing everything they have to do is a daunting tasks. Their difficulty could have something to do with executive functioning ability, or the level of expectations that students have to work with. Generally the part of the brain that helps us plan and organize our lives does not reach maturity until 25 years of age, making it a real challenge for younger students to keep it together. So! As the loving adults in their lives, it is our job not only to help, but to model appropriate organizational behaviors.
Helping students successfully use a school planner begins to show them how to manage their time, and prioritize tasks. I believe that beginning to shift responsibility of keeping track of when assignments are due, and when sports practices are etc. in elementary school helps make transitioning into middle school, then into high school smoother. Introducing students to scheduling and allowing them to have a hand in planning out their time begins to prepare their minds for greater expectations that come with the following grade. Some students are overwhelmed with a large planner; too many pages, too large to carry around, to intimidating seeing a whole month or school year planned out. For younger students I suggest using a one sheet planner worksheet like these: Student Planner 1 or Student Planner 2. These can be amended to include the entire month for students who are comfortable with that, sample here: Student Planner 3.
Using a one week, or even a one month planning worksheet gives everyone a fresh clean start every few days. I’ve found this helps keep students motivated to keep up with the planner. This planning sheet can be tacked to a bulletin board (at home or in school). For students who tend to miss place things, or just to maintain your sanity, I suggest using a three ring binder to keep these worksheets in, or stapling them into a notebook. Electronic document keeping is also awesome. Google doc’s allows for several people to view the student planner and edit it, you’ll always know where it is and will be able to update it from your computer or even smart phone.
Involve your student in creating their student planner. Sit down together and look at assignments that are due at the beginning of each week. This time helps hold them accountable for their responsibilities, guiding them to eventually be able to do these tasks on their own. I recommend having a designated time to work on planning at home and in the classroom, it usually works best is this time is at the beginning of the week. Set your student up for success with this task, and understand that they are going to need reminders and guidance as they build on the organizational skills they already have.