If you're a teacher or parent, then you know firsthand the challenges of teaching a child to be organized. Sometimes it feels like keeping track of class notes, schedules and forms to be signed is a full-time job. Parents get tired of scrambling the night before a project is due, and teachers get tired of requests for extensions or the tears that come from yet another failed assignment. In many cases, students simply lack the organizational skills necessary to succeed in the classroom. But organizational skills aren't just about remembering deadlines. By teaching a child organization when they are young, teachers and parents set that child up to succeed as they grow. Organizational skills can have a direct impact on a young adult's ability to succeed in college and the workplace.
Importance of Teaching Kids Organizational Skills
What a lot of parents might not realize is organizational skills are about more than just clean backpacks and color-coded folders. Teaching children the importance of organizational skills can have a significant and long-lasting impact on a child's ability to succeed throughout their academic career. Organizational skills are essential to a child's ability to interpret and retain information. These skills also the key to advancing academically.
What benefits do children receive from learning how to be organized?
1. Improved Educational Experience
Teaching a child to be organized is one of the best ways to set them up for academic success. When students have a way to keep track of assignment due dates and class notes, they are prepared to study and complete projects on time and according to their teacher's expectations. This typically leads to higher grades and better retention of information.
When children are younger, their teachers and parents play a significant role in teaching organizational skills. This is why some teachers require parents to review and sign a student's planner regularly. Others may require students to keep binders that are separated into specific sections and are regularly subject to checks. But, over time, the goal is to use these experiences to teach students how to monitor their own goals and deadlines independently so they can succeed later on. Organization plays a huge role in a young adult's success in college, and it will be vital to success in their chosen career field too.
3. Critical Thinking Skills
Staying organized requires a methodical way of thinking through things that doesn't come naturally to some students. When a student receives directions for a project or assignment, they first have to think about what is being asked of them, and then they need to come up with a game plan for how to accomplish it. A child who has solid organizational skills may be able to go through this one-two step process without even realize they are doing it. But a child who struggles with organization may require help to train their brain to think this way.
4. Ability to Follow Directions
When children are little, organization requires a lot of directions. At home, it means that parents have to say specific things like, "Hang up your coat in the closet," rather than just, "Get your coat off the floor." At school, it means that teachers have to lay out their specific expectations for each project, stressing deadlines and the detailed contents of an assignment.
The goal is that, over time, children will learn to follow directions rather than rushing through and completing an assignment incorrectly. Although some children catch on to this more quickly than others, stressing organizational skills helps children practice following directions. Following directions in a calm, organized fashion has implications that reach far beyond the classroom. When a child's brain understands how to interpret and follow instructions from a parent or teacher, they are also preparing to follow instructions from a boss or supervisor later on.
5. Literacy and Cognitive Ability
The ability to follow directions and solve problems is essential to a child's brain development. It may not seem like it, but teaching a child to pick up their blocks or put their freshly laundered clothes away can help build their brain and prepare them for more challenging academic opportunities as they grow.
A child who learns the critical thinking skills that come with organization is better prepared to apply those skills to recalling information and learning to read. That's not to say that a disorganized child can't read — they certainly can. But being organized can help them to excel in reading at a quicker pace. When a child learns to read, they learn how to match sounds with the letters they see before them on a page. To do this, they have to reach back into the filing cabinet in their brain to pull out what they've already learned about letters and the sounds that go with them. This requires them to shuffle through their mental filing system to eliminate letters and sounds that don't match as they search for the ones that do.
Impact of These Skills on Education
Organizational skills have a life-long impact on an individual's personality and their success in the adult world. But the benefits of organizational skills for students go beyond just good grades.
1. Academic Success
When a child learns to organize their assignments and plan for success, they are more likely to excel throughout their academic career. Besides having better grades, they are also more likely to retain the information they've learned because they are doing the assignments designed to reinforce the concepts being taught in the classroom. On the other hand, weak organization skills are linked to a student's inability to make and follow through with plans, understand and complete assignments and, ultimately, excel in school. This can result in lower grades and disinterest in pursuing advanced educational opportunities later on.
One of the biggest reasons that students drop out of college
without finishing a degree is financial concerns. Students who struggle academically before starting college are likely to continue to struggle academically once they get there. Over time, this may lead them to question their ability to finish their degree and whether it's worth the cost.
A student's self-esteem and their ability to perform academically is significantly impacted by their ability to stay organized. A disorganized student forgets assignments. They fail to study for tests. They misplace instructions for projects and books for reading assignments. Their grades drop, and they receive negative attention from their teachers and parents in the forms of lectures, poor grades and missing out on fun while they redo assignments.
Over time, what may have started as a lack of organization can turn into a student's belief that they aren't "good" at school or aren't smart enough to get good grades. A student may decide to give up trying in school. Even if they finish high school, they may be less motivated to succeed in college or a job.
On the other hand, a student who learns to be organized is set up to believe they can succeed. They know where to find their class notes so they can effectively study for tests. They have a detailed outline of project guidelines when they need it. And they can quickly find information about homework due dates. They retain more information and are prepared to succeed outside of the classroom.
Lack of ability to plan and stay organized is also a factor in a young adult's ability to pay for higher education. When students start college but don't finish, they often come away with debt they've incurred during their time in school. Depending on what school they attend, just one year of college can cost $30,000
— more if housing costs are involved. Unfortunately, since they didn't complete a degree, they struggle to obtain a job that will pay what they need to pay off their debt.
Organizational skills don't guarantee that a student will graduate or that they won't have as much debt, but these skills can go a long way toward preparing a student to finish what they start and find a job with a salary that can cover their expenses.
How to Teach Kids Organization Skills
The importance of organizational skills in education — and in life — can't be disputed. The cost of a $5 planner over a decade is certainly much more forgiving than the cost of student loans. But, whether you're a parent or teacher, figuring out the best way to help a child practice organization can be challenging. Where do you start?
1. Keep It Simple
A 5-year-old isn't going to grasp a complex system of notebooks, folders and 10-step assignments. But they can understand routine — at home and in the classroom. Teachers can help students stay on track by following a general schedule each day. Yes, this will vary, but maintaining some structure in the classroom helps students establish a schedule and remember what's expected of them. At home, chores such as cleaning up toys, putting away socks in their drawer and helping set the table are good ways to teach them about methodically following directions and focusing on a task. Establishing an after-school routine for going over assignments and completing homework promptly can also be helpful.
2. Model Organization
The best way to teach a child organization is to model organization for them. This doesn't mean their home or classroom should be spotless, but there should be designated places for everything, and children should assist with cleaning up and putting things back where they belong. At home, children should know where their backpack, shoes, coat and toys go. Encourage them to be responsible for these items. Sure, parents will always have to assist with searching for a lost tennis shoe or worksheet, but setting the expectation early teaches children responsibility for their belongings.
3. Create a Backpack Communication System
A child's backpack is a notorious black hole when it comes to homework assignments. Parents and teachers can help children prevent this by implementing a system of folders to carry assignments to and from school. In earlier grades, students may only require one folder. As students grow older and tackle more subjects intensively, they will likely need several folders to maintain detailed notes and guidelines for projects and tests. When teachers and parents communicate about what's being sent back and forth in the backpack, they can prompt children to remember what's inside, cutting down on unsigned permission slips, missed notes about upcoming events and other items that tend to be lost in backpacks.
4. Use Printed Planners
Teachers who encourage a system for keeping track of class notes and assignments are also teaching their students how to organize their materials in a way that makes them easily accessible when they need them later. Organizational tools such as school planners go a long way in helping students get the most out of their academic experience. Noting assignment due dates, dates for upcoming tests and instructions for projects helps students keep track of their work and maintain clear knowledge of their teacher's expectations.
Electronics have changed the way we do just about everything, but when it comes to teaching a child to be organized, there's no substitute for a paper planner
. In fact, traditional printed planners are foundational for a child's development. When a child writes assignments down by hand, they improve their overall cognitive ability, as well as reduce the chance that they'll forget their assignment later. Paper planners aren't subject to crashing or being unavailable if a computer system somewhere goes down.
And, perhaps best of all, writing things down is proven to help children and adults alike remember them later. One study found that students who took notes with pen and paper
were more likely to remember the information than those who took notes using a laptop. When students write things down in a paper planner, they increase their chances of remembering their assignments and completing them correctly — and on time.
Teaching Organizational Skills with Planners
With more than 30 years of experience creating academic planners
, Success By Design knows firsthand the importance of teaching kids organizational skills. We're committed to producing high-quality, affordable products that will help children of all ages succeed in school and beyond. Our range of products includes planners for students of all ages, from elementary school through high school. We also offer a variety of inserts, including hall pass logs and character inserts. You can design our custom covers with your school's logo or mascot for a personalized planner your school will love.
Looking for the tools you need to get students organized and on track? Contact us today.