What does organization look like to you? One young student, when asked to draw a personal definition of organization, drew something unexpected. Her picture showed a young girl holding her hands to her ears and a speech bubble from the side of the page saying, “Clean your home! Clean it, or else!” The young girl responds, “No! Ugh! I hate organization!”
It’s no surprise to most teachers that students can be disorganized. When do we talk to our students about organization? Too often, the only time we discuss organization is to point out what students are doing wrong. Their desks are too messy. There is garbage on the floor that needs to be picked up. Someone took out a book and didn’t return it. The word organization becomes associated with criticism and a failure to meet adult expectations.
Teachers often neglect to help their students see the positive sides of organization. Every successful adult knows that being organized is key to staying on top of things. But do our students know this? Most students have no clue how much time their teachers spend creating systems to organize materials, track assignments, and plan the day-to-day schedule of the classroom.
We must break this negative stigma around organization if we are going to help our students build their skills. First, we need to teach students how organization works and why it’s important. Ask students to analyze the organization of something familiar to them, such as their classroom or their desk. What do they notice? Explain to them how organizational systems are created; then have them participate in creating a system to organize their own belongings and take a photo so they have a visual reminder of how things should look.
When you notice that their things are getting a bit out of hand, refer them back to the system they created instead of just telling them to clean. Things get messy, and that’s ok. After all, organization is a process. If students can create their own strategies for organization and then develop and refine strategies as they use them throughout the year, organization will lose its negative reputation, and students will be ready to develop the organizational skills they will need as adults.
Want to learn more? Join us for a free webinar, “Executive Function and Organization,” on February 27 from 5–6 pm EST (a recording will be available afterwards).
- Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director