There are always a few students each year who really struggle to stay organised. Maybe you notice this characteristic in your own children.  

  • messy desks and work areas 

  • can’t locate things 

  • have difficulty getting organised for class 

  • often don't have the tools they need for the day or forget homework 

  • are unaware of deadlines 

  • have trouble prioritising or planning to complete activities, and perhaps this causes them to be unfocused

Here are a few tips to help support these students and relieve them of the stresses around becoming organised. It can be a frustration for the child, parents and teacher and can often impact on instruction time, while they struggle to find supplies and books. You may often hear from their parents that their bedrooms are the same, or their schoolbags are full of all manner of rubbish and trinkets (Notes that should have been handed in weeks ago, bits of lunch and toys etc.) 

Why do some students struggle more than others?  It is often a challenge for students who have been diagnosed with ADHD, are on the Autism spectrum, have a poor working memory or simply have not been ‘trained’ at home to be an organised person - in a number of cases this is a result of the parent doing all of the organising for the child therefore encouraging a dependence on someone else to do the work for them (among just a few reasons) 

 What can you do?

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 s/he will need for the day but consider taking some form of 'deposit' from them until they are returned at the end of the day. Have a box of spare pencils on hand so that they can quietly get one if it is 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 is 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 is completed. They could be simple steps such as:  

1. Name on the top  

2. Read and highlight the questions 

 3. Get work book and write headings and date  

4. Write in answers  

5. Proofread and edit answers.  

6. Hand in work for marking. 

Eliminate the clutter from around their desks so that no distracting toys etc. are allowed on them (this is often a good class rule). Have a maths facts laminated card with hundreds chart, times tables chart and any useful terms. 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 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 and strategies that you can use with these students, I encourage you to investigate the following course on the Relief Teacher Association courses.

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