Organization is an executive skill necessary for success in school and in life. “Organization is the abiity to use a systematic approach for achieving goals; the ability to arrange or place things according to a system.” Difficulties in this skill can cause academic struggles as well as challenges with everyday tasks. However, early attention, direct instruction of strategies, feedback and frequent reassurance can help children develop this skill and become more independent.
Academic difficulties related to poor organization may result in a child having trouble generating ideas independently, starting and completing work, determining the steps and their sequence for a project or task, difficulty keeping rack of materials and belongings, managing several tasks at a time and comprehending the time necessary to complete a task. A child may also turn in late or incomplete assignments or complete homework, but fail to bring it to school or submit it to a teacher.
The Craig School incorporates teaching and implementing organizational skills throughout the curriculum. The school’s customized organizational system is an integral part of the instructional program. The system aids in managing current and future task demands as well as giving the student the ability to impose order on work requirements and personal belongings to ensure optimum learning and functioning.
The following are components of the organizational system taught at Craig.
Note-taking and Planning. Middle school students are taught the Landmark method of note-taking from text. The two-column approach helps students organize what they read into the main ideas and supporting details. This approach strengthens their understanding and memory of the content. Middle school students are also introduced to the Google calendar which helps them to plan and prioritize academic tasks, events and activities. With guidance students learn to break larger projects into manageable chunks which helps them complete long-term projects on time. The note-taking and planning system begins n 6th grade with the modeling of strategies and progresses toward students practicing the skills independently by the end of their middle school years.
Checklists. The checklist is a list of requirements detailing all the components of a task which a student must check off when completed. The checklist helps the student reflect on each part of the task in order to prevent incomplete or inadequately executed work. The checklists are also used after each class to ensure that the proper homework materials are assembled, that assignments are legibly written and that all belongings are collected and stowed before the student leaves the class. The checklists help drive memory and encourage independence.
Reference Sheets. The reference sheet is a subject-specific visual guide used by students to follow the processes and strategies taught in the classroom. The reference sheets are displayed during class so students can follow directly the progression of a lesson without constantly relying on a teacher for explanation. The sheets are stored in the student’s binder for easy access and may also be referenced when completing assignments at home. As the case with the checklists, the reference sheets encourage independent learning.
Graphic Organizers. Inspiration, is a software program, that students first learn to use in language arts class, but then use throughout the curriculum. The program offers students organizational support in writing by providing a visual scheme for displaying main ideas and supporting details and converting these “graphic organizers” into a traditional outline format. By helping with the organizational mechanics of writing, students may focus more easily on developing creative ideas and writing fluency.
Binder System. Students have two organizational binders with sections color-coded for subject. Each subject section is subdivided with tab headings for the following: class work, notes, vocabulary, reference sheets, homework, projects and tests. Students file their materials in the binders for easy access by themselves as well as parents and teachers. Once a unit is completed, all the materials relating to that unit are stored in a portfolio in the classroom throughout the year. The binder also contains a specially designed assignment pad and the point sheets for each week.
Timers. Timers in each classroom help students monitor and manage time by seeing how much time is left to complete an assignment or task. A short time at the beginning and at the end of each class is designated for checking homework and the parent’s signature, for outlining class expectations, preparing and gathering materials, saving work on the computer, filing papers in binders and writing down assignments. Students who struggle with organization frequently lack an “internal clock” so that external timers help them manage time constraints.
Organizational Friday. Every Friday, class time is set aside to organize binders, backpacks and lockers. Teachers and peer leaders help students file papers, recycle or throw away garbage and bring home outdated or unnecessary items.