Organization is key to academic success, but as a teacher and a mom, I know how hard it is for many kids to stayed organized and keep up with homework and other assignments. Here are some of my best teacher tips, the ones I dole out on the first day of class! Some are simple and seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many kids aren’t taught the very basics of staying on top of things!
1. GET A POCKET CALENDAR AND UPDATE IT AS SOON AS YOU KNOW OF A NEW ASSIGNMENT. I like calendars that show a week or preferably a month at a time, because kids may look at day-to-day pages, but not realize that there are only three days left until the big project is due. They should review their calendar with you daily. This just takes a second, but it will become routine for your child, which is important to maintaining this system of organization.
2. SET UP A GREAT HOMEWORK STATION IN A QUIET SPOT AT HOME. Don’t relegate your kids to the kitchen table where the family commotion, the television, and other happenings are likely to distract the student. Here are some key items to have at an organized homework center: Bulletin board with plenty of pins to post ideas, a nice big calendar (yes, another one!), and other information; a computer with internet access (which needs to have parental controls installed and to be closely monitored by you); equipment such as a ruler, calculator, markers, pencils, sharpener, pens, paper, glue, assorted art supplies, notebook dividers, blank adhesive labels, and index cards; dictionaries (foreign language as well if they are taking one); a large work surface (this doesn’t have to be expensive – it can be plywood on two sawhorses and work great!); lots of colorful plastic buckets or boxes to keep the above labeled and organized; a comfortable chair and footrest; good lighting.
3. CREATE A ROUTINE. Homework should be done at the same time and in the same place every day if possible. Try to avoid having extracurriculars disrupt the schedule too often. A snack and short play or relaxing time followed by homework works well for many kids, because it doesn’t usually run into dinner or bath time and not all members of the family may be home yet. If you start this routine early, kindergarten or first grade, by the time your child is in middle and high school, the routine will be a natural part of their daily schedule.
4. TEACH TECHNIQUES: There are many ways to study that reinforce organizational skills as well. One I stress often is making flashcards and reviewing them daily. This works for any subject or grade level. With the little ones, you can review word wall words as a game. Older kids can review on their own on the bus or while listening to a little music. Before a test, parents can call out information to the students. The simple act of making cards and storing them in a plastic baggie in their notebook is already an organizational skill that will serve them well through college!
Studying in an organized way is important to the mastery of material. As such, stressing daily review (through copying notes, highlighting main ideas, retelling information to you, etc), providing prompt attention or tutoring in areas that prove difficult, and getting practice in each subject area on a regular basis are all key ways to ensure homework success.