Education is about more than just learning the rules of language and mathematics. It is more than digesting facts and data about the world around us and its history. From kindergarten through twelfth grade, school is about learning habits that will lead to a successful life. Among those skills, one of the most important is good organizational skills.
A foundation of good organization skills will help children learn more effectively, retain information better, and promote higher grades all the while building transferable skills that will support success beyond their school years.
The Importance of Staying Organized in School
Good organizational habits in school will help create order so that students can focus on learning instead of stress and chaos. Organization is both physical, with filing systems and sticky notes, and mental with objectives, schedules, and priorities. You can keep your child focused on learning throughout the school year by focusing on both the physical and mental aspects of organization.
Define Clear Objectives
The first step in organizing schoolwork is to clearly define the learning objectives. The human mind is a lot like a filing cabinet. It organizes certain types of memories like data and facts categorically. By identifying the objectives of the learning program, you can effectively tell the mind where to store this information. This can make memory recall easier, leading to better retention of information and more success in learning.
Prioritize Important Activities
Throughout the day, students engage in several different activities. Some of those activities like practicing spelling words or solving math problems are important tasks to achieve learning goals. Other activities like searching through lockers or notebooks for assignments are less important and possibly even wasteful. Good organizational habits will help your child spend more time on important learning activities and less time on wasteful activities that detract from learning.
Scheduling Creates Structure and Organization
Structure is a set of healthy boundaries that help our brains identify what types of activities and behaviors are appropriate or inappropriate for a situation. In the classroom, structure is necessary to keep minds focused on learning. Creating a schedule of learning activities so that students know what to expect and when to expect it will ease the transition between activities and keep the momentum moving forward.
Organization Lowers Stress Levels and Promotes Learning
Neuroscientists have studied the effects of stress on the human brain and one of the most interesting things they have discovered is directly related to learning. Affective Filter is a term used by neuroscientists to describe an emotional state caused by stress in which a student is not responsive to learning or storing new information. Good organizational skills are more than just tidying up the classroom. It has a scientific purpose to promote learning by removing the disorder that creates stress.
Actionable Steps for Organizing School Work
The great thing about organization is that it is an ongoing process. If you missed the boat at the beginning of the school year or fell off track halfway through, you can always start where you are and work on improving your organization.
Plan Ahead Every Week
Start each school week by intentionally creating a plan of attack for all assignments or projects. You can take a bird’s eye view of the week and schedule in time to work on specific assignments or subjects so that you do not run out of time to accomplish important assignments. Planning helps eliminate the stress and poor workmanship that comes from cramming and pulling all-nighters.
Planning will help you decide which project to tackle first. If your schedule is overwhelming, try sorting out easy tasks that will take five minutes or less and doing those first. Checking off several easy items will boost your motivation to continue with the rest of the list while also trimming that list down to a more manageable size.
Out of the remaining work on your child’s schedule, evaluate personal feelings. If there is one subject or project that is dreaded, complete that one first. Simply do not allow procrastination on certain subjects or certain projects. Procrastination breeds stress and anxiety which affects all aspects of learning.
Use Time Effectively
Working hard and being productive are not necessarily the same thing. In learning, it is far more important to be effective than it is to just work hard. Modern school curricula are designed to promote effective learning by breaking subjects up into manageable periods and alternating classroom study with physical exercise and artistic stimulation.
Work on assignments in short blocks of time, not exceeding 60 minutes. Frequent breaks to rest the mind are good for learning. Breaks not only provide a mental rest from the learning subject but also help fight boredom and maintain attentiveness.
To understand more on how you use time effectively by organizing homework and others, watch this video:
Keep a stash of water and healthy snacks available during study time. By curbing hunger and quenching thirst, you can limit your child’s distractions from learning. While frequent breaks are important, being able to be completely focused during work times is much more important.
Front-load your tasks so that all of the heavy or big assignments are completed first. It is easy to lose track of time and we are generally most productive at the beginning so tackling the big things first will make sure that your child does not run out of time to complete his or her homework.
Establish a Dedicated Study Space
Choose a clean, tidy and uncluttered space to work in. Remember that physical surroundings impact mental performance. If a space is cluttered, the mind will be anxious and less able to learn. The space should be well-lit, quiet and ergonomic to limit distractions. A dining room table or at a desk in the bedroom are generally suitable workspaces. Try to avoid working on the floor or laying on a bed where your child might spend more time fidgeting to get comfortable and less time focusing on the assignments.
A study environment should emulate a test environment. Studies have shown that our minds are better able to recall information when the learning environment mirrors the testing environment. Factors like background noise from music or tv can affect how easily your brain can recall information.
One of the coolest things that happen when you use a dedicated study space is that your brain begins to associate that environment with studying. Each time that you enter your study space at the specified time each day, your brain will already be ready to start studying because that space has been associated with good study habits.
Any activity that does not directly support learning or that is not directly related to the assignment at hand, is a distraction. Wasting time scrolling Facebook or answering a text message might seem like a quick thing that only takes a few seconds. But each time that the phone is picked up and the learning process is interrupted, it takes additional time to refocus and get back to learning. All of the additional seconds add up to wasted time. Students who spend excessive amounts of time completing homework each night are probably guilty of wasting more time than they are working.
Stock a Study Kit with all of the Essentials
Hunting down the right tools is half the battle when doing an assignment. Keep the focus in the right area by providing a well-stocked study kit complete with basic office supplies like pens, paper, and erasers.
If you want a leg up on the motivation factor, try incorporating fun or colorful school supplies. Bright colors are mentally stimulating and are readily available in a variety of supplies like post-it notes, pens, markers, and folders.
Create a Well-Organized Filing System
Another big time-waster is hunting down paperwork to complete assignments. A good filing system, particularly a visual system like this wall storage pocket chart:
Both of the above options also include free door hangers, such that you're not cluttering valuable desk real-estate, and files can conveniently hang behind your door.
Visual wall filing systems can be used to keep important papers out in plain sight and logically organized. Try using the folders to separate assignments by subject or to arrange by difficulty.
Another visual organization method is a wall chart created from multi-colored post-it notes. Large projects can be easily broken down into smaller tasks. A post-it note chart can help organize all of the pieces and parts of the project in one visual method which can help carry your motivation through the completion of the project.
Start a List of Questions
Learning is hard work and to our detriment, we humans, tend to make any excuse to avoid doing hard or difficult things. All it takes is getting stuck on a question or not understanding an idea to derail an entire study session. Help your child practice diligence by teaching them to write their questions down and keep going. The hard questions can be re-visited again at the end of the lesson or another time when help is available from a teacher or parent. The important thing is that students learn to maintain control and not to quit or be distracted by difficult questions.
As the parent, teach your child to rely on their problem-solving skills first by making yourself less accessible. Instead of giving your child full access to ask questions whenever they get stuck, teach them the list method and provide a specific time when you will assist them with their study questions.
Exercise to Energize the Mind
Another common struggle during study sessions is just attentiveness. It is difficult, if not impossible, to learn new material if the mind is not fully engaged. Frequent breaks are a good first step to maintaining attentiveness. But a quick burst of physical exercise that raises the heart rate and gets blood moving can boost energy levels needed for learning. A quick brisk walk or a couple of sets of jumping jacks is all it takes. Children of all ages will benefit from a little bit of movement during study breaks, but younger children often have a lot of extra energy to burn so it makes a big difference for them.
It is no secret that physical activity is good for your health and that its effects are cumulative so even five minutes during study breaks can add up to a whole extra workout. But what you may not know is that short bursts of physical activity can also lower stress levels which makes it easier to learn new things. Exercise also increases blood flow to the brain and increases alertness and memory.
Be Your Child’s Accountability Partner
As a parent, one of the most important jobs that you have to help your child through school is to hold them accountable. Be the one to make sure that your child is using these study tips. Be the one to make sure that your child is devoting enough time to studying each day. And be the one to make sure that your child continues to follow the same habits and use the same study space throughout the entire school year.
Accountability will not only help your child build good study habits and earn good grades. It develops strong character traits like trust and responsibility. A simple task like enforcing study rules and making sure that your child sticks to them today can translate into how successful he or she is at keeping a job or staying in a committed relationship.
Why Study Skills are Important
Good study skills are more important than just earning good grades and successfully completing grade levels. Study skills are habits that are formed young when the brain is still developing and set the tone for how an individual will perform throughout their life. New habits can always be formed, but as we grow older and become set in our ways it becomes much more difficult to break bad habits and replace them with good ones.
Builds Character and Teaches Responsibility
A child who has learned how to study effectively and maintain consistent routines will develop positive character traits that will carry them throughout their entire lives. Being able to make and keep commitments is important for any long-term, functional relationship. No matter whether it is a job or a romantic relationship, learning to stick to routines at a young age is important.
Teaches Effective Problem-Solving Skills
Learning to study independently, particularly if encouraged to work independently and not rely on parents or teachers to provide answers will help the child develop essential problem-solving skills that will help him or her function in daily adult life.
Promotes a Culture of Learning
In a fast-paced, ever-changing world it is important to stay on top of what is hot and new. The most successful employees in business know this and make life-long commitments to learning. But learning isn’t easy for everyone. By teaching your child good study habits inside and outside of the classroom, you can help make sure that they develop a love of learning and always seek out opportunities to learn new skills.
Teaches Project Management Skills
Two skills that every employer wants to see in job candidates is the ability to use sound judgment to prioritize work and the ability to meet deadlines. These skills are developed at a young age, in school, through the development of good study habits. Every day teachers dole out assignments with varying degrees of difficulty and time commitments required. After a full day of classes, the average student has collected a variety of assignments that need to be completed during available study time.
To avoid spending hours and hours tirelessly working on homework, students must learn the skills needed to study effectively. The very same skills that are learned during middle school and high school to prioritize and complete assignments on time will transfer into career skills.
How an Organized Classroom Can Help
Developing good study habits are so much more important than just getting through school. They are the foundation for career skills like time management and problem-solving skills. Good study habits are also the beginning of developing good character traits like trustworthiness and responsibility. But more importantly, good study skills are just good organizational skills applied to learning inside and outside of the classroom.
Staying organized in school has several benefits that help children succeed in school in the short term and in adulthood in the long term. The mental space tends to mirror the physical space so a tidy and organized classroom or study space will create a calm and focused mind for learning. In much the same way, chaos and clutter in the surroundings will create stress and anxiety in the mind that will impair learning.
Create visual organization in the classroom by using color-coded systems, charts, and labeled storage. Implementing organizational strategies in the classroom can benefit all students by creating an orderly environment. A Wall Storage Pocket Chart can help with organizing homework for all of the students in a class.