Comment on this post to win a $20 School Box Gift Card! One comment WILL win!
I love the feeling of starting a new school year “fresh” and new. I like to start out on the right foot, and one way to ensure a great year is to begin – from the very first day – with organization. No matter what age or grade, organization is key. Students need to be prepared for EACH subject EVERY day!
So how do we better prepare our students to be organized? Teach organization! “A place for everything and everything in its place” is a saying by which I learned – and now teach – organization. Specifically, everything should have a place for storage and should be returned there when not in use. Once I adopted this mentality, the organization dilemma became quite easy to handle and maintain. Here are some guidelines:
- Desk/locker organization: In my self-contained classroom, we are very space-challenged, so I’m sensitive to the number of textbooks, workbooks, notebooks, and folders we need to squeeze into small areas. I always make sure the supplies I give them will fit in their desk and/or cubby. If necessary, store textbooks on a bookshelf. Also be wary of ‘space hogs’ like unnecessary supplies or trash lurking in the desks or lockers. Model what good organization – and bad – looks like. At the beginning of the year, I tell the students that the “Organization Fairy” visits unannounced and leaves prizes for organized desks and lockers. I also show pictures of an organized desk (complete with smiley faces) and an unorganized desk (complete with disciplinary points).
- Subject organization: Be clear on the requirements for each subject (provide a specific list of supplies that you require), and ensure that the students have a place for all papers (color coded folders work very well), including a system for sending home graded papers, and for their everyday note-taking or miscellaneous papers. This way, there are no loose papers falling out of desks or lockers. I’m constantly asking the group, “Where would be a good place for us to put this worksheet/assignment/graded test?”
- Homework organization: Insist on an assignment book for each student, and have an established place on the board for homework assignments. I tell the students, “When I write, you write” and they know to get out their assignment books when I’m headed to the homework board.
- Communication organization: If age appropriate, dedicate a folder to “take home information” and “bring to school” communication (parents need organization, too!). Additionally, set up a Reminder Board (or a section of your white/chalkboard) for daily/weekly reminders to the students. Each morning, I verbally address the items on this list so the auditory as well as the visual students know about the reminders.
- Deadline organization: I post my test/quizzes/project deadlines on the Reminder Board (see above) for the week every Monday morning. The students write these deadlines in their assignment book every Monday. I also post library book or field trip permission slip deadlines here, as well. This also prevents the I-didn’t-know-about-that-test syndrome.
Organization is a challenge for students (and adults!), so the more guidelines we give, the better organized they’ll be. Therefore, in my classroom, the mantra is: A place for everything, and everything in a place. Words to live by, literally!
Kristin M. Woolums, M. Ed., teaches fifth grade at a private school in Atlanta and works at The School Box at Southlake during the summer months.