How Can I Help My Middle School Student Get Organized?

By: Debra Eckerman Pitton, Ph.D. and Kelly Quinn

[Part of the "Q & A for Parents of Middle School Students" series]

Middle school students can often be disorganized when they first experience multiple teachers and classes that place more demands on them. The mess that can erupt from a backpack, folder or locker can hinder your child's ability to get their work done in a timely and effective way. Organizational skills may not be on the state test, but they are important for the academic development of your student. Middle school students need to develop the ability to manage the tasks given to them in school, and that includes keeping track of assignments, due dates and materials. So what can you do to help?

  1. Get your student a planner or notebook to keep track of assignments and check periodically to see that use it. Some middle schools provide a planner. If either case, be sure and review what the student has written in this assignment notebook. Are they recording assignments on a daily basis and identifying when they are due? Do they check off work as it is completed? Show them your ‘to-do' lists so they see that you have to keeping track of your work as well.

  2. Plan a calendar for homework and other assignments and tasks and set goals for accomplishing them. This is especially important when your child is involved in many activities. Mark dates when projects are due as well as the soccer games, so that you make sure your child has planned the time necessary to complete academic tasks.

  3. Get a binder to keep materials organized and a system for filing their papers. These can be free-standing file boxes, a drawer in the filing cabinet, or whatever works best for your family. If they can't find their work, or papers are turned in late, there is often a consequence. Having a specific place to keep work when it is at home is important. Do they have a folder for each class? Do they clean out papers at the end of the quarter to avoid overload? And don't overlook the school locker. Shelves can help provide additional space to store folders so that school work doesn't get lost among the coats, gym shoes and photos that are also crammed into this small space.

Keeping your student organized will help eliminate missing assignments, lost homework, and create greater student responsibility and it just might transfer into a neater bedroom!


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Weir, K. (2002). A parent's guide to school projects, papers, and presentations. Los Angeles, CA: Mars Publishing.

Debra Eckerman Pitton, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Middle Level Education at Gustaus Adolphus College in St. Peter , MN and consults with school districts across the country on issues of mentoring and middle school education.

Kelly Quinn is a senior education major at Gustaus Adolphus College and will be graduating in May, 2005 with an elementary and middle school teaching license.

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