5 Tips to get your Student Organized in the New Year

Enrichment Therapies

January 12, 2018

By Elizabeth Drewelow, M. Ed.

For many students, the learning event is enjoyable, but figuring out how to process the information they receive in class and act upon it is often difficult.  Organizing one’s responsibilities and tasks is referred to as executive functioning.  Often, in elementary school, supportive structures and strategies are provided by the teacher to aid students in keeping organized and on task.  However, as students get older, they are expected to take on this responsibility themselves. 

In a lot of circumstances, it is assumed that once students get to middle school or high school, they will have mastered these skills and, therefore, should be self-sufficient.  Unfortunately, for many, this can be extremely overwhelming, as these skills really need to be taught and modeled explicitly in order to be practiced effectively.  If your student happens to be at the age in which he or she is expected to demonstrate independence in executive functioning in school, but is struggling, the following organizational systems may be helpful in building his or her confidence in this area.

-Task List/ Check List

For a student who struggles to visualize the tasks they need to complete, a simple task list or checklist may be helpful.  Modeling this for him or her by listing tasks, with the highest priority items first, may assist him or her in utilizing their work time effectively. Also, if he or she is able to cross out or check off their completed tasks, your student can feel a sense of success and confidence when working, resulting in motivation to continue. Check out this example task list: Task List

-Colored Folders and Matching Notebooks

If your student struggles to keep their materials organized for each subject or class, a colored notebook and folder system may support success.  This is a quick, easy and discreet way for him or her to sort out their papers and materials.  Also, if supplies are kept in a locker in between courses, a matching, color-coded schedule can help him or her to know which materials to grab.

-Outline or Template for Note-Taking

Students who struggle with executive functioning often dislike any form of note-taking.  Not knowing what to write can be extremely frustrating and can often result in task avoidance.  A note-taking outline or template can guide them in knowing what kind of information to record.  Providing a place for keywords, chapter highlights, and facts can help direct their writing. These can be easily copied and placed in their folder or glued into a notebook.  There are a variety of templates available online.  Here is an example that you can print! Notes Outline

-Planner or organizer

Of course, a planner is always helpful in keeping one organized.  However, an adaptation you can provide for your student is to color-code a planner according to the matching folder system.  This will aid your student in knowing exactly what is due for each course.


It is also extremely important to communicate openly with your student about what is working and what is not working for him or her. If the tool that you are trying is just causing more frustration, it’s ok to switch things up!  Sometimes a tool will work for a while, but as he or she becomes more independent, it may feel restrictive.  Talking with your student about his or her progress in the area of executive function is important in further developing organizational skills.

Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center has locations in the Iowa City, IA area and Des Moines, IA area. We provide individual speech-language therapy and tutoring as well as offering small group academic programs.  At Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center our passion is to help kids achieve effective communication skills and gain academic success.  Contact us for more information on how we can help your child succeed.


1210 Jordan Street, Suite 2A
North Liberty, IA 52317

5530 West Pkwy, Suite 300
Johnston, IA 50131

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