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Organization of Materials
Sharon Longert

Some children come to school without the organizational skills needed for academic success. Some may be disorganized to the point of not having necessary materials, losing materials, being unable to find completed assignments, or being unable to follow the steps of an assignment in the order given. As educators we must remember that instructing those students how to organize their materials is a necessity.

Here are a few suggestions for those students who need very specific instructions and strategies:

  • Act as a model for organization. Put materials away before handing others out, have a place for all materials, maintain an organized desk, and follow a schedule for the day.
  • Verbalize organization techniques: “I’m going to put my reading notebook on the shelf and then I will get ready for math.”
  • Speak to the student and explain what he/she is doing that is impeding academic success. Explain what is needed for specific tasks/activities.
  • Communicate with parents/guardians to share information about areas of improvement and activities that can reinforce organizational skills at home.
  • Evaluate the appropriateness of the tasks to determine if they are too easy or too difficult, and if the length of time scheduled is sufficient for completion.
  • Assess the quality and clarity of the directions, explanations, and instructions given to the students.
  • Encourage the student to question directions, explanations, and instructions that are not understood.
  • Provide all of the students with verbal reminders of necessary materials for each activity.
  • Provide storage space for materials that are not currently in use.
  • Minimize the materials needed for a specific activity. Provide only those materials that are necessary.
  • Require that the student replace damaged or lost property.
  • Provide “used materials,” not new materials if they are misplaced or misused.
  • Provide a larger desk or table at which to work.
  • Provide structure by giving specific directions, routines for tasks, and time limits. Closely supervise the student in order to monitor the quality of work.
  • Provide a color-coded organizational system for notebooks and folders.
  • Teach students to prioritize assignments according to importance or length.

Remember to reinforce their progress with either tangible or intangible rewards. Tangible rewards include classroom privileges, passing out materials, or a few minutes free time. The intangible rewards are praise, handshakes, high-fives, or thumbs-up signs.

With specific instructions and directions students can become organized so that they can demonstrate academic success. Try these techniques and let me know how they work for you.

McCarney, S., The Attention Deficit Disorders Intervention Manual, Hawthorne, 1989.


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