Studies show there is a direct correlation between academic achievement and organizational skills. Yet organization and planning ahead are learned skills.
Therefore, for your child to become more organized, your student must develop a plan and practice it.
Develop a plan? Practice it? Whew. That’s asking a lot for an elementary or a middle school student. However, that’s exactly what must happen for your child to succeed.
According to our study skills specialist, Millie Hansen, M.Ed., “When developing a system for organizing/studying, make sure you encourage as much input from your child as possible so that they feel a sense of ownership in the process. Maybe even before you offer your ideas, ask the child how he/she would do things.”
The system could be as simple as different colored folders for each subject: one side for homework to do, the other side for homework completed to turn in.
What about all those other papers cluttering up the backpack and tumbling out of notebooks? Perhaps that’s when you need to set up a file cabinet or box with hanging file folders coordinated to the same subject color. This would create a place for your child to put the returned homework and quizzes for easy retrieval to review for the next test.
Millie cautions, however, that as tempting as it will be for you to put the homework in the folder or the returned quiz in the hanging file, DO NOT do any of the work for your child. Doing even the smallest thing for your child inhibits his or her ability to take control. Your child will only learn to become dependent on you.
Put the plan in writing if you must, with a light-hearted contract or agreement that you and your child sign. And there’s nothing wrong with a reward system, but after the plan is set up, resist the urge to just get in there and do it. There is a big difference between parental involvement and parental enabling.
As long as you have worked out a system with your child, and he or she is very clear about the routine and what is expected, let the child do it. Millie says this is where the parent must show restraint; allow the child to follow through on his/her own. And if they don’t? “It is not an entirely bad idea to allow your child to make a mistake, even when you see it coming. I am thinking more of the smaller tasks, like homework – not necessarily allowing your child to study the wrong material for a test or something to that degree.”
A first grader will learn ownership and pride in using her homework folder, and a sixth grader will feel very mature and successful if he has kept his returned quizzes in one place to study before the big test.
Educators believe that these organizational differences among students play a large role in determining which children get the most out of their educational experience. It has been shown that organization goes a long way in reducing stress and building self-confidence. Success at any task is largely dependent on finding a strategy that works and sticking to it. Help set your student up, and then, let them do it. After a while, it will become a successful habit.