Get organized

Organization can be a challenge for middle school age kids. Some kids can find their own system and run with it, while others are forever losing things. I’ve heard “but I just had it last period” many times.

So what’s the secret? Like many things in life, there is no one secret method of organization that will work for everyone. First of all, what needs to be organized? Usually it’s making sure that homework assignments get home in one piece, and get back to school.

What’s tonight’s homework?

When I was in middle school, I didn’t have a good system for homework. I started with a small spiral notebook to write down assignments. After losing that, I’d just write down the assignment in the subject’s notebook after notes. That didn’t work well. It wasn’t until I was in college that I bought a small monthly calendar notebook and wrote down assignments in a calendar. Nowadays, students are given a homework planner/agenda at the beginning of school that is a calendar. These are great, and I wish I had them when I was a student. If they work for you great, but they are bulky. If you want something smaller you can do very well by printing out a weekly calendar that shows the current week, and next week. This way students can see what’s coming up this week, and next week. You will need to print a new one out each weekend, and copy the assignments from next week to this week. Here’s one you can download: 2 week homework planner

In this day an age, all teachers should be posting homework online. I have heard some teachers who won’t put homework assignments on the website because they want students to take responsibility. I can understand that, but I think that should be in high school, not in middle school. Do yourself a favor, and make a simple webpage that links to all of your teacher’s homework pages, or make a bookmark folder that has bookmarks to all of the homework webpages. This makes it easier to open them all.

Not losing the homework on the way to class

For some kids, this is the big one. Papers just seem to get lost while walking down the hall. There are a variety of things you might want to try.

  1. Have a homework folder for each class. The left side of the folder is for homework that needs to be done. Take a blank sheet of paper and write down what tonight’s homework is, and put it in the left side of the folder. When you do the homework, put the completed homework on the right side of the folder. Make sure that your name and the class name is written on the front. If you like, you can put a marble composition book in one of the pockets, so the class notes are in there too.
  2. Use an accordion folder. This is one of those large brown folders that opens up to show many pockets. You can have one pocket for each class. Or use 2, one for homework going home, one for homework going back to class. You only have one thing to carry around, so there’s less things to lose.
  3. Use a binder for each class. You may want to include a folder in the binder. The problem with binders is that they can lose papers easily.

No matter what system you use, the important thing is to make sure that you actually use it. This means having the discipline to always put papers in the right place instead of just shoving them anywhere. Since shoving papers anywhere is what we’re trying to stop, the system has to be simple and easy enough that you can use it every time your teacher hands you some papers.

Color code folders, binders, etc. by subject. This makes it easier to make sure that all the material for math is in one place.

Digital tools

These days we have many online tools that can help us keep track of things. I’m a big fan of Evernote, though you can also use tools like Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft OneNote, and more. If it’s feasible, get a scanner and scan assignments, homework, etc. when it comes home. Or take a picture of it with your phone. Then import that into your digital filing system. Don’t forget to put it in an appropriate folder. This makes it almost impossible to lose something. There are smart phone apps that can take multiple pictures and put them together as a PDF file. If you do this with completed homework, you can email it to the teacher.

Consider using an online calendar to keep track of assignments. This makes it easier to include assignments when printing out a blank calendar for homework.

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