How to Help Kids Be More Organized

Here are a few tips and ideas you can use for students who are having trouble with organization skills in your classroom:

  1. Use colored folders; one for each subject.  If math folders are green, every time the student gets a math paper, have them color the corner of the paper green, or put a green dot or star in the corner of the paper.  Green coded papers always go in the green folder.  If spiral notebooks are used, they can be color coded also.  Use a different color for each subject, class, etc.  Color coding helps things get in the right place and stay there.
  2. If folders are confusing to a student, use a three ring binder with colored tabs.  For some students it is easier to insert missing papers, back assignments, etc. in a binder than in a spiral notebook or folder.  The only time papers should be removed is when they are given to the teacher or taken home.  Encourage students to hand in completed assignments immediately; make sure there is an “IN” and “OUT” box clearly labeled in your room.
  3. Have the student clean/organize his/her desk or locker once a week.  Put all papers into three piles: to be filed into folders, to take home, or to throw out (recycle).  Teach them to handle papers only once -- put them where they belong the first time.
  4. Use an assignment notebook or homework sheet.  Teach the student to prioritize assignments.  Some students may need weekly or monthly calendars to understand the concept of time.  Make sure you list all assignments on a chart or on the board every day to help the student self-monitor what needs to be done and when.
  5. List assignments and approximate length of time needed to complete each assignment.  This also helps to prioritize assignments and time.
  6. Give the student a “Things To Do Today” pad.  Teach student how to write reminders to him/herself.  Help with verbal and written reminders during the day.
  7. Use a peer to help monitor assignments, help put things in correct folders, remind of deadlines, etc.
  8. For students who have trouble remembering to do homework, allow students to call home and leave a message on the answering machine (if available).  Be sure the subject and pages are indicated, and the date due is applicable.
  9. Let the student check out an extra set of textbooks to have at home.  If possible, let the student highlight in those books, or use highlighting tape (it can be used and removed from books without leaving a residue.  (Available at The Learning Shop or through School Specialty catalog)
  10. Use Post-it notes!  Have the student write down each assignment as it is given and place it on his/her desk.  When the assignment is complete, the Post-it note can be thrown away.  If it’s not done, the Post-it note can be put into an assignment notebook.
  11. Provide study carrels or “office space” for those students who need a distraction-free environment to work in.  Kids can even design their own from large cardboard boxes.  Provide the student with a larger workspace, such as a table or extra desk.
  12. Incorporate organization skills into the curriculum by using outlines, story maps, graph paper for math problems, etc.
  13. Make sure the student FIRST puts a heading on each paper with subject, name, date and assignment.  When making worksheets, put lines on the pages for this information.
  14. Have your own classroom (including your desk and bookshelves) organized to provide a model for organization, and to allow students to easily find things in the room when they need them. If possible, have individual, labeled areas for students to keep their things, especially if lockers are not provided. Assign the student organizational responsibilities such as straightening books, shelves, writing assignments on the board.
  15. Provide plastic bags or containers for small supplies such as crayons, paper clips, extra pencils, erasers, etc.  Larger containers can be used for materials not being used at the particular time.
  16. Involve parents in having a specific time and quiet, organized space for students to do homework.  Try to make sure all of the supplies needed are available, and make sure breaks are taken every 10-30 minutes, depending on the age of the student.  Parents may want to do reading or paperwork at the same time to model good “study” habits.  Parents can help make learning a lifestyle by taking the child to the library, quizzing him/her on spelling words, reviewing a science chapter, and discussing what he/she is learning in each class.
  17. Whenever a long term project is assigned, break it down into stages (the shorter the task the better); write deadlines on a large calendar in the room or at home; have a container for all parts of the project so they don’t get lost before completion.  A certain amount of time should be set aside daily, nightly or weekly to work on the project.

If you would like more ideas, or have some to add to the list, please feel free to contact me at

Sue Cusick, Teacher Consultant, LSSES