I’ve been helping students organize their school papers for years.
The #1 roadblock for most students is not taking tests – it’s getting organized!
Students can get “better grades in less time” when they get organized.
Too many students are:
- Drowning in a sea of papers.
- Wasting precious after-school hours searching for lost homework.
- Doing homework, but losing it before they can turn it in.
- Getting lower grades due to missing assignments.
The good news is that solutions to help students organize their school papers are rather simple.
To get there, we must first understand the root of the problem.
Why Is It Such a Challenge to Organize?
Most students have 14-18 different folders and notebooks.
That would be like having 14-18 different email accounts to manage every day.
No doubt, it would be overwhelming not just for students but for anyone to manage!
There are many logical reasons why students have a hard time keeping their book bags and lockers in order.
1) They Have Too Much “Stuff” to Organize
Most students have a separate folder and notebook for each class.
For seven classes, that adds up to 14 different folders and notebooks!
To make matters worse, students have to continually move them between classes, their locker, home, and back to school.
To put this in perspective, this would be like adults having 14 different email accounts to maintain every day…while moving across several various work sites.
2) All of That “Stuff” Looks Alike
When students look in their book bag or locker, all of their folders and notebooks look the same.
It is hard for them to find their green science notebook when all they can see are several silver spirals.
3) Students are Always in a Rush When Handling Papers
In class, teachers often pass out homework at the very end, when the bell is ringing, and students are rushing out the door.
The same is true at the end of the day when they are at their locker.
Students are rushing to get to sports practice, catch the bus, or get away from school.
The last thing on the students’ minds is how to organize their school papers.
At home, doing homework, students would rather be doing anything else!
Even when they are procrastinating, their subconscious mind is rushing them through their work.
The moment they put the last period on a paper, something snaps in their brain that says, “Done!”
They have no patience left to organize their school papers because it is a multi-step process:
They have to look in the book bag, rifle through 14 folders and notebooks, find the right one, open it up, insert the homework, close it, and put it back in the bag.
Instead, students shove homework in the bag…and it’s possibly lost or misplaced, wasting precious moments in class or when you could be studying trying to find it.
How to Stop the Cycle
I have discovered three simple steps that have helped thousands of students organize their school papers efficiently.
Let’s take a look!
Tips To Help Students Organize Their School Papers
1) Condense All Folders and Notebooks into ONE Binder
Replace two-pocket folders with binder folders.
Replace spiral notebooks with loose-leaf paper and use the folders as subject dividers.
(Caution: Only use a 1.0-1.5-inch binder.)
Now, students have only ONE item to manage, and it is easily portable.
(Elementary students who have one main teacher should have ONE folder to carry back-and-forth between home and school.)
One massive advantage of these folders, apart from having everything in one place, is that you once you label the spines for your subjects, you can find at a glance what you need from your bag or locker!
2) Minimize Trash
Book bags and lockers are trash magnets!
Encourage your child to be proactive about emptying trash.
As they leave their locker at the end of each day, they can grab the trash and toss it on their way out of the building.
Your child should clean their bookbag out every evening, which leads to the third and final step…
3) “Take Two”
This is my catch-phrase for a simple organizing routine.
When students sit down to do their homework, they take the first TWO MINUTES to organize their school papers in their binder and clean trash out of the book bag.
Taking a minute to prepare helps in so many ways.
First, it means you can finish off immediately once you finish with your homework without reluctantly forcing yourself to organize (or skipping the step entirely).
Second, taking the extra time before you start work helps alert your brain that it’s time to study and get you to focus better!
You save time and get to be more productive, using just two additional minutes of your time!
I have personally seen these three steps (especially the binder) transform hundreds of students’ lives from paper chaos to paper calm.
The difference a few simple steps can make will astonish you!
Are you going to try any of these steps out?
Let me know!
Susan Kruger, M.Ed. is the founder of StudySkills.com , best-selling author of SOAR® Study Skills: A Simple & Efficient System for Getting Better Grades in Less Time. Susan is an expert in helping students organize their school papers.
[ Updated – November 12, 2020 ]