The Teacher is Talking
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The Teacher is Talking: Special Back-to-School Series–Organizational & Memory Strategies

By Leslie Lindsay

As a kid–and even as an adult–I love to be organized!  Give me a three-ring binder and some tab dividers and you might as well put me in nerd-heaven. 

Wait?!  What’s that you say?  Your child is anything BUT organized?  They have a junky room?  Backpack is over-flowing with notes, papers, Kleenex?  Ah…I see.  I have one of those, too.  I call her my oldest daughter. 

How is it that the Queen of Organization gave life to the Princess of Junk?  It baffles me, too.  But there is a little hope in the Kingdom of Clean. 

Princess Junk is entering 3rd grade.  And from what I can tell about 3rd grade, it’s the year of learning to be organized, resourceful, and independent.  That said, this post will cover all grades–early education through elementary school.


  • Teach what goes in and what stays out of the backpack each day.  Take actual photos or make your own visual reminders by either drawing or priniting out Clip Art from your Word program.
  • Have your child help load and unload the backpack

ORGANIZE IT!  ELEMENTARY SCHOOL:  Organizational skills have a fancy name–executive functioning.  That is, how one plans and carries out the things they need to do in order to function.  In the school setting, this all involves being organized and tending to the things in the classroom.  That said, there are things you can do to help your child grasp these skills:

  • Plan a visit to the school.  Point out places in your child’s classroom where things will likely be located.  The teacher will probably do this, as well.  For example, my daughter came home yesterday from her first day and told us that all of her “extra” school supplies where bagged up and placed in a special cabinet for when she runs out of them in her desk. 
  • Map out the pack.  Draw a little diagram of your child’s backpack, place labels on the interior pouches, or color-code them.  Practice slipping in notes for the teacher, placing pens/pencis.  Have a place for everything, including water bottles, lunch box, house key, identification, etc. 
  • Give a Reminder in the morning.  This can be a simple checklist or sign you make and place in a common area of the home for your child to double-check.  Lunch?  Check.  Folder?  Check. 
  • Make a list of steps for getting ready in the morning.  Use short, simple text and add photos.  You can even take photos of your child doing each step successfully.  (Also good for pre-literate kids)
  • Design a Home Work Center.  This can be a special room, or the dining room table.  This will where your child will complete homework each day.  Stock it with pens, pencils, erasers, and anything else your child may need.  Plan a homework period each day and stick to the routine.  You can be a good example and do something studious then, too like read a book or make your grocery list (or, if you’re me…work on your novel!)
  • Check your child’s planner daily.  It really should be your child’s responsibility, but you need to know, too. 
  • Have your child pack his or her own bag at night.  Avoid the morning mayhem.  Get it done early.  Make a deal with your  child: no playtime/videogames/TV till the backpack is packed for the next day.
  • Have a single binder.  A tip from a 3rd grade teacher, “Get a binder and put all of her folders in it.  It makes it so much easier to have everthing together.” 
  • Have a routine place for a) notes/permission slips parents need to read and b) papers being returned to home.  It’s a parent to-do pile for things that require signatures &/or money.  We have a nightly “table talk and toss” for all of the daily papers that come in the door.  The girls share what the worksheet is about, we listen/ask questions…and then toss into the recycling bin (or save, if necessary).

With a little prep work, you and your child can have a successful–and organized school year.  Class dismissed!!

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