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The Basics of Organization

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We’re a few weeks into the school year and we want to make sure everyone is on track! We’ve talked about routines and how students grow substantially when they implement them into their lives; our next topic is organization. Just like with routines, it’s crucial to develop an organizational system that’s simple and easy to follow.

We see students at the beginning of the school year with one binder per class with five dividers in each binder, in addition to notebooks and folders color-coded for every single subject. While these materials will look put-together at the beginning of the year, they quickly become scrap-paper vessels where assignments get lost. Here is what we suggest instead.

1. Binders – two large (at least 1 ½ inch) binders, one for AM classes and one for PM classes

The dual binder system makes transitions easy for your student – instead of running to their locker after every class, this system only requires a locker visit during lunch. Since most electives don’t require a binder, each binder will hold content for around 3 subjects. When choosing binders, we strongly recommend avoiding trapper keepers (binders that zip up). Trapper keepers make it much easier for students to shove papers into their binder without actually organizing.

2. Inside the binders: dividers, pencil bag, and paper

Each binder should contain two dividers per class: one for assessments and one for classwork. Keep a pencil bag in the front of each binder stocked with writing utensils. Fill the back of the binder for note taking or scratch paper. Check each teacher’s syllabus to see if any classes require additional materials (like graph paper) so you can include those as well.

3. Homework Folder

In addition to the binders, we recommend that your student keep a single homework folder (make sure it has two pockets). The folder should be labeled “To Do” on one side (for assignments that need to be completed) and “Turn In” on the other. Instead of saying “Completed,” we like to use “Turn In” so students don’t forget that last important step! Your student should carry their homework folder to each class, turning in completed assignments by the end of each class period and placing new assignments in the “To Do” section.

To avoid late assignments, make it a habit to ask your student if they’ve turned in everything when you pick them up from school. And during Academic Time at home, everything in that pocket should be completed.

Pro tip: To help your student organize their materials throughout their week, keep a three hole punch at home. By using this on all worksheets they receive, your student won’t have papers falling out of their binders; everything will remain organized in the designated dividers. During organizational time (and whenever possible), secure all papers into the binders. Students may be prone to shoving papers into a binder’s inside cover pockets, so having a three hole punch and clipping papers neatly into the binder every day will help immensely with their organization. This prevents epic searches for lost materials!

Maintaining Organization: Once binders are set up, it’s important to sort through them at least twice a week: once at the beginning and once mid-week (like Sunday and Wednesday). It should take less than 5 minutes each time if your student is doing it consistently, and it will save them so much time later if they’re not having to dig through piles of paper.