As teachers, you will encounter students who struggle to stay organised in every class you take. Here are a few typical characteristics to look out for:
- Messy desks and work areas
- Can’t locate things
- Difficulty getting organised for class
- Lacking the tools they need for the day or have forgotten their homework
- Unaware of deadlines
- Trouble prioritising or planning to complete activities
- Seem unfocused and easily distracted
When talking to the students’ parents, you may also hear that their home life is in a similar state of disarray. While it can seem minor, left unchecked, these sorts of unorganised behaviours can cause frustration for the student, their parents, peers, and you the teacher. We have compiled some actionable tips to use in the classroom that will work with these students’ strengths to encourage more organised behaviour. But first, let’s take a look at some of the factors that can contribute to disorganisation in students.
What causes disorganisation in students?
Why do some students struggle more than others? While it can be easy to assume that a lack of organisation in students comes down to laziness, it can be the result of many different factors.
ADHD or Autism Spectrum Disorder
A common reason for disorganised behaviour in students is an ADHD or autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. Children with these conditions have a limited executive function, meaning they often lack the skills required to do things like keep their desks clean and their belongings tidy.
Students with poor working memory tend to fall behind in learning and other areas in the classroom. Estimated to affect 10% of all students, poor working memory means that while a student may hear a set of instructions, to clear up play equipment, wash their hands, and return to their desk, the student’s inability to remember all the instructions means they may fail to complete them.
Another factor that can lead to unorganised behaviours in the classroom is a student’s home life. If a child’s parents do all the organising for them, that child will remain dependent on others and have no need to learn these behaviours themself which would lead them to become an organised person.
How can you help?
Now that you know some of the causes of disorganised behaviours among students, let’s look at some tactics you as a teacher can implement to help kids in your class work through it and become more organised.
Encourage responsibility for bringing materials to school
Review with the student the materials they will need to bring with them every day. If they forget, simply loan them what they will need for the day but consider taking some form of ‘deposit’ from them until they are returned. Have a box of spare pencils on hand so that they can quietly get one if needed.
Help them organise their work area
You may provide them with a container or pencil case with items such as pencils, pens, highlighters, rubbers, glue sticks, calculator, and scissors which are to remain on their desk at school for use in class time only. Include a set of post-it notes for them to use so that they can create checklists of steps they will need to complete in order. This will take some modelling, but it is a great strategy as they remove a post-it note after each step is completed.
They could be simple steps such as:
- Name on the top
- Read and highlight the questions
- Get workbook and write headings and date
- Write in answers
- Proofread and edit answers
- Hand in work for marking
Eliminate the clutter from around your students’ desks so that no distracting toys etc. are allowed on them (this is often a good rule for the entire class to follow). You could also consider having whole class versions of popular resources like times tables charts laminated and stuck to the wall to help eliminate clutter even further. There are many brilliant, themed ones available at the Mathematics Shed.
Show students what organisation looks like
Model for them exactly how they should organise their desk, even if it means drawing a diagram for them to refer to. Make sure that your own desk is an example to them, or seat them next to an organised student who can be a role model for them.
It is essential to be able to support these students in the classroom as in many cases this struggle will create stresses and conflicts that can easily be remedied with a little intervention.
If you are interested in finding out more about Autism, Poor Working Memory, and ADHD as well as the strategies that can be used with impacted students, I encourage you to investigate the many courses on ClassCover Learn.