Middle School, in my opinion, is a make or break time in education. It is the time when kids are going to decide if they are going to do well in school or give up completely. The key is helping them to be successful students….if they are successful they have a better chance of enjoying school.
There are a few ways to help your child become successful but one of the most important places to start is organization. If your child is disorganized it becomes difficult and frustrating for them to locate the materials they need and they will soon just give up resulting in missed work and being unprepared for tests.
Start with your child’s backpack. It should be just large enough to fit all they need and keep it organized and have various pockets to keep smaller items separate and organized. Too large of a backpack will leave too much room to have stuff just floating around and too small will result in your child just shoving things in to fit.
It is easier to keep organized if you minimize what they carry each day to and from school. Unless a teacher specifically requests it there is no reason to have a separate binder for each class. My students put two classes in one binder and separate the classes with a folder.
The inside front cover of the section for each of my classes has the course syllabus/class outline then a table of contents page. My students have a section for vocabulary, a section for their “do now” work and an “everything else” section. Each student is required to keep every piece of work for the class in their binder for at least an entire semester then they clean it out and put the first semester’s work into a folder. Every time a new piece of work in put into the binder it is numbered and written into the table of contents. This allows the students to find anything they need quickly. An example of an entry might be:
32Chp 5 notes10/20/05
33Colonies worksheet (chp 5)10/21/05
Getting your child’s binder organized in the beginning is actually simple…keeping it that way is another story. Make a routine of having your child organize their binders and clean out their backpacks once a week. A 3-hole punch is a great investment as there will be times that they forget to punch the holes at school and just shove their papers in wherever they find space.
An important organization tool is a student planner. Most schools now give those to students free at the beginning of the year if your child does not get one I suggest buying a planner that allows for daily entries and has enough room for them to write comments for each class. Planners are probably the most effective tool, but the least used. It is a great way for you to be aware of what your child is doing in class and most importantly students who write in their planners daily are less likely to forget homework and upcoming tests. You should check their planners daily at first to be sure they are using it then weekly once the planner entries become routine. A planner entry should include any work done in class, all homework and due dates, and any upcoming projects, test or events.
The biggest thing to remember in all of this is that your middle school student needs to take responsibility for keeping up with their work. Help them set things up, remind them to keep things organized but do not do it for them. This is the time for them to start learning to take care of themselves a bit more. Keeping organized is a skill that will carry your child through school into the workforce.