As kids get older, organization becomes ever more important! While it is a critical skill for all ages, kids and young adults are often just learning to develop and strengthen their skills as more responsibilities are added on in their lives. When you think about it, kids and young adults can have a lot to juggle between school, homework, friends, family, and activities. This often means that the level of organization skills can make the difference between things running smoothly and just chaos! Simply put, strong organizational skills set the stage for success for all learners.
What is organization? Organization is an efficient and orderly approach to tasks and keeping materials in order. Skills for organization are greatly related to the ability to plan, as one must have a plan for exactly how to organize! One of the key elements in learning organization is to have a place for everything ahead of time. This includes having binders or folders for each class in a notebook, having a hamper to put dirty clothes, and everything in between. Setting up systems for organization can lead to huge improvements, such as having a specific strategy for organizing binders or cleaning a room. It’s important to note, though, that organization takes real work even after systems have been set up! Learners must constantly re-organize and re-evaluate their systems for organization in order to stay neat and tidy in home, school, and beyond.
• Examples of Organization •
Organization is a critical skill, as it often flows over into all areas of an individual’s life. Just a few examples of what organization looks like includes:
- Keeping a neat and orderly room.
- Writing an essay with a clear beginning, middle, and end.
- Bringing required materials, such as pencils, to class.
- Having neat and tidy binders.
- Developing an organized approach to completing a project.
• Possible Signs of Challenges with Organization •
Identifying challenges with executive functioning skills can make a huge difference for kids and young adults. We all have organization ups and downs, but if some of these behaviors occur on a more regular basis, it should be an indicator to consider extra interventions and supports.
Possible signs of challenges with organization include:
- Forgetting to bring required materials, such as a pencil or correct binder, to class.
- Misplacing or losing class assignments.
- Putting class papers in a binder randomly without a sense of order.
- Having a messy desk or set of binders.
- Difficulty transitioning from one class to another.
• Interventions, Supports, and Strategies for Organization •
As a positive, organizational skills can certainly be improved and strengthened over time. Here are some activities, tasks, and ideas to help with organization needs in the classroom:
- Teach organization and other EF skills explicitly.
- Teach how to organize a binder and where materials go.
- Schedule an organization boot camp time, focused just on organization skills.
- Practice cleaning up and re-organizing as you work through a task.
- Provide a visual reminder for what students need before they enter the classroom.
- Set students up with a specialized homework folder or binder. Use this free homework binder to start.
- Have students keep an assignment calendar or homework log to track daily and long-term work.
- Consider apps for organization, like Trello or myHomework.
- Write homework in the same exact spot every day.
- Color code books and binders to match (i.e. blue for science and red for math).
- Keep extra papers in a designated spot for students who are absent or lose them.
- Keep a model notebook in a spot for students to review, as needed.
- Clearly labels materials in the classroom.
- Dedicate the last 3 minutes of every class to getting organized.
- Keep a “classroom office” stocked with extra pens, pencils, and paper for students who forget them.
- Use graphic organizers for writing assignments.
- Use an end-of-the-day reminder sheet to help students think about what materials they need. Use this free reminder checklist to start.
- Schedule a weekly 10-minute binder organization time.
- Discuss how to organize different areas and where items should be put away. Start with this free organization activity.
- Highlight positive examples of organization in the classroom.
• Strategies for Parents to Support Organization at Home •
Parents can play a huge role in supporting executive functioning skills at home. Since executive functioning skills impact all areas on a person’s life, it’s helpful for learners to practice these skills in different environments. Here are some activities parents and families can do to at home strengthen skills for organization:
- Create daily and weekly chore charts with organization and cleaning tasks.
- Reinforce cleaning up and putting materials away after completing a task.
- Create checklists for cleaning and organizing materials.
- Try to have a place for everything.
- Avoid piles and put things away right away together.
- Openly discuss plans and schedules for the week or weekend.
- Use a calendar to keep track of home or school events.
- Plan a weekly organization and cleanup time.
- Play “Where Does This Go?”. Gather materials and have the child put them back in the right spot.
- Create a designated spot just for homework with office materials, as needed.
- Make organizing more fun by listening to music while you clean together.
- Make it a game by gathering 10+ items and time the child returning them to their correct spots.
- Use a morning or afternoon checklist to remind the child of their responsibilities before/after school.
Do your learners struggle with organization quite a bit? If so, you can get started by teaching executive functioning skills explicitly right away with some units I’ve developed. I have units to target executive functioning skills for middle and high school learners and executive functioning skills for younger learners. Spending a little extra time early on can make a world of a difference!
Also, this post is part of a blog series focused just on interventions for executive functioning skills! You can also read up on interventions to help with planning.