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?   

organize their school papers

Most students have 14-18 different folder and notebooks. That would be like having 14-18 different email accounts to manage every day…it’s very overwhelming for students!

There are many logical reasons why students have a hard time keeping their book bags and lockers in order. 

First, 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 constantly 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 different work sites.

Secondly, 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.

Finally, 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 simply get away from school.

The last thing on the students mind 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 “I’m 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, homework gets shoved in the bag…and lost forever. 

How to Stop the Cycle

I have discovered three simple steps that have helped thousands of students organize their school papers easily:  

  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.)

  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 trash and toss it on their way out of the building.  The book bag should be cleaned 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. 

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 cannot be overstated!


susan krugerSusan Kruger, M.Ed. is the founder ofStudySkills.com ,  best-selling author ofSOAR® Study Skills: A Simple & Efficient System for Getting Better Grades in Less Time.  Susan is an expert in helping students organize their school papers.