Organizing Student Work

An Organized Student is a Happy Student

Organized student workingWhich makes you a happy parent!

This post originally appeared in Dr. Linda’s syndicated newspaper column on September 4th, 2014 at the start of the school year. Getting students organized is beneficial anytime. Helping kids get organized, especially if they have ADHD, will help improve grades and make for a happier school year for both your young student and you!

Dear Dr. Linda:

A couple years ago you wrote a column about organizing student work, especially all that paper they bring home from school. You explained a system for helping kids organize this mess. I didn’t pay much attention at the time because my kids were little. One of them wasn’t even in school yet. But now that they’re older, what a disaster. I just found a paper about a school event I would have gone to but never saw the announcement. Could you please write about your paper organization again?

Thank you. Trish

Dear Trish,

I certainly sympathize with you and am happy to explain my paper organizing system again. It’s not so bad during the first couple months of the school year, but by mid-year, all that paper can be overwhelming. And what’s worse, lost assignments, notes from teachers, misplaced instructions for science projects and so forth can affect a child’s grades.

So start by buying a 3-hole punch if you don’t already have one. It’s one of the most important items to buy for helping with school organization. While you’re in the school supply section of the store, let each child pick out two or three brightly colored fun 2 or 3 inch 3-ring binders to keep at home.

These “home binders” will be used to organize all those papers that they don’t need to have with them in school. Also, pick up a set of dividers for each binder and a package of reinforcements. They’ll come in handy. You may want to buy some dividers with pockets for items you can’t punch.  I also like to buy a zippered storage divider for all the stuff needed to maintain each binder, like a small stapler, scotch tape, pens, the package of reinforcements, etc.

You’ll want one binder for fall term and another for spring if their school is on a two-term school year. If it’s a three-term year, then three binders for each child.

You’ve already seen that your kids bring home piles and piles of papers from school. These papers need to be organized. Some are necessary for the next test and some are notices about next week’s cupcake sale . . . or oops, last week’s sale

Every night or at least once a week, go through the papers with your kids, tossing the unnecessary sheets into the paper recycling bin and hole punching the others.

When the kids don’t have time each night to sort their papers, use a brightly-colored paper tray or basket, without a cover or lid, for each child to put papers in. Then on the weekend, the kids can put their papers into their binders. Some paper can already be thrown out or put in the recycle bin.

Begin by punching holes in the papers. Put dividers in a binder, sorting the papers by subjects such as spelling, science, reading, field trips, etc. Label the binders by dates, for example, Fall, 2014 and Spring, 2015. Help the children create a system that works for them. Each child can have a different system. Of course the binders need to be different so the kids don’t mix up whose binder belongs to whom.

Make a table of contents for each binder including the date for a test, a field trip or the bake sale. When that test or event is over, cross it off the table of contents and throw away the paper. Be sure, however, to save papers that need to be referred to again for tests.

Keep the binders on a shelf to be referred to for tests, science projects, book reports, fund-raising activities and field trips.

The teachers will let your children know what they want in the binder they use for school. It’s all those other papers that need to be filed away in the “home” binder that will help the kids stay organized and Mom feel less frazzled.

By the way, if any of your children has ADHD, this system is a big help. 

Happy filing,

Dr. Linda Silbert

P.S. Looking for resources to help your children in school? You can pick up one of my  complimentary learning games or a “How to Study” ebook at

Do you have any ideas for organizing your student’s work? I know some parents use Evernote or Google Docs. Please share your organizational tips in the comments below.

Phonics Centered — Consistent with Orton-Gillingham — Multisensory