Helping Students
Karen Sanders


Helping Students

Guidelines for facilitating organization

  1. Be clear about the supplies your students need and the way you want those materials organized. “Communicating with parents at the beginning of the year” contains ideas about supplies and a link to a sample syllabus that describes notebook organization.
  2. Use class time to help students organize those supplies. Allowing students twenty minutes to label dividers and organize handouts at the beginning of the year will save everyone countless hours of searching for assignments down the road.
  3. Don’t make assumptions about your students’ organizational knowledge. If you want the homework assignments to go behind the homework divider, say so. Also, make sure that every handout is clearly labeled. Each should have a title and a clear indicator of the binder section to which it belongs.
  4. Keep a model notebook in the classroom that students can reference when organizing their own notes.
  5. If you want handouts placed in a binder, three-hole punch them. Your school’s photocopier may do this for you. If not, let an administrator know that you believe organization is an important study skill, and ask if there is money in the budget to purchase a hole puncher for your classroom or department.
  1. Make sure students are committed to keeping their materials organized. You can do this in a variety of ways, including:
    1. Celebrating those who demonstrate excellent organization. Give out stickers, make a positive phone call home, award a few extra points, or have the principal shake students’ hand and compliment them on the excellent work.
    2. Grading students on their organization of class materials. (You can use this sample rubric as a template.) You may have to figure out what types of grades your students care about. I found that many of my students were unmotivated by a 20-point notebook grade, until I made those 20 points part of an exam score.
    3. Emphasizing that mastering organization facilitates mastery in other areas. You are not asking them to organize their materials for the sake of “being organized.” Organization serves a much larger purpose. Point out that learning the material is easier when students know where to find the handouts on which that material is located. Remind them that demonstrating understanding is simpler when they can locate the work they need to turn in.

I have found that most students are fairly adept at maintaining a system once they have established it. I have also found that many like the sense of control they have over their materials once the system is in place. Teach them organizational skills now, and it will serve them well later — in your class and in other settings down the road.