- Organization affects learning in four key ways.
- Weak organization skills affect kids’ ability to store and retrieve information for learning.
- Math can be particularly hard to learn for kids with weak organization skills.
If your child has organization issues, opening her backpack can be a frightening experience. Crumpled assignments and tests, school announcements from two months ago, her missing house key—it’s a mess! Many people think of organization skills as the ability to keep things in order. But people also use those skills to keep their thoughts in order so they can retrieve information and use it effectively.
Kids who have weak organization skills struggle with handling information in an effective and logical way. They often have difficulty setting priorities, making plans, sticking to a task and getting things done. These skills become increasingly important as your child moves through different grade levels. Here are four ways kids use organization skills to learn.
1. Organization and Following Directions
Following through on directions requires kids to do two things: focus on what needs to be done and come up with a game plan to do it. Both of these require mental organization and planning.
Kids with strong organization skills can often follow directions without even thinking about it. They can plan steps to get something done. But if your child has weak organization skills, she may not be able to see the progression of steps contained in directions or even know where to start.
2. Organization and Learning to Read
Kids use organization skills in subtle ways when first learning to read. Imagine that kids have a mental filing system where they store the uppercase and lowercase version of a letter together with the sound (or sounds) that letter makes. Learning phonics requires connecting sounds to letters. Whenever they see a letter, they can pull out the sound that goes with it from their mental filing system.
The filing system becomes more complicated when kids start recognizing sight words (common words kids memorize by how they look) and need to match them to images of what they stand for. If your child struggles with organization, she may have trouble retrieving the necessary information to connect letters to sounds and groups of letters to the things they stand for.
3. Organization and Literacy Learning
Literacy, which is the combination of reading, writing and grammar skills, requires a number of organization strategies. For kids to read books and write, they have to keep track of many things at once: characters and their relationships, plot, sequences of events, supporting details and the main idea. Nonfiction requires keeping track of subject-specific vocabulary.
If your child struggles with organization she may not be able to gather all that information and organize it. And if she has to stop and look up words while reading, she may not be able to pick up where she left off.
4. Organization and Learning Math
Kids have to use organization skills to learn math because it’s a very organized subject. There are rules and procedures to follow all along the way. Math also involves organizing information based on relationships, such as sorting things into groups by size, color or shape. As math gets more abstract, many kids with organization issues have trouble keeping up because they can’t create their own categories for sorting the information.
Organization skills are also needed to solve word problems using clue words (such as fewer than to mean subtraction) to help sort through information. If your child has organization issues, being able to store and retrieve rules and facts can be challenging.
The Good News: There Are Ways to Help
Your child’s lack of organization might make learning harder for her, but there are strategies that can help. You could try doing a backpack makeover and using checklists and other tools to help her get organized. You can also talk to your child’s teachers about accommodations that could help your child stay organized and improve planning skills.
- Organization skills allow kids to come up with a plan and follow through to get work done.
- Tools like checklists and planners can help kids get more organized.
- Weak organization skills can make learning harder, but not impossible.
A follow up on my first video on morning routines.
Remember that most of the stress in the morning stems from the fact that we are trying to manage few routines at the same time. (ours and our kids’)
(my first video on morning routine can be found here: https://youtu.be/LY2XYWFANbo )
Mr. Mizrahi is an Executive Function coach, a learning specialist and a teacher in New York City.
by Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M., ACAC (source)
Have you ever noticed that staying organized — or getting started on a project and seeing it through to completion — are all in a day’s work for some people, but for others, they don’t know where to begin?
Well, that might be due to executive functions and how well they are working — or not working. Executive functions are the cognitive skills that give us the ability to focus, plan, and act in a goal-directed manner — and current research shows that these functions are responsible for how effective we are at managing ourselves. Basically, these functions are the CEOs of our brains.
For the most part, we don’t need to consciously access these skills for day-to-day habits or routines. However, when we face new challenges or stressors that is when the CEO must take charge. And when it is not managing effectively, that’s when we forget things, can’t get organized, can’t get started, lose track of time, and lose our stream of thought. It’s behavior that makes some children look unmotivated, uncaring, and, well, unintelligent — while nothing could be further from the truth. By and large, these children are really suffering from a neurologically based difficulty, which results from incomplete or immature development of their frontal/prefrontal cortex of their brains. It’s not that these kids won’t perform, it’s that they can’t on their own … yet.
So how can we help? There are two distinct approaches. First, modify the environment. Help structure your child’s work- space, modify his work, and provide more prompts. Second, model actions and behaviors and join in with him as he works on his skills. Don’t be concerned that you may enable your child. Before he is ready to be independent, he needs to develop the necessary skills. Once the skills are developed, you will be able to gradually lessen your active involvement with your child.
It is important to recognize that weaknesses in executive functions are real and neurologically based. There is no shortage of strategies and devices to help children — and adults — improve their executive functioning. Children need modeling. The skills they need to be organized and manage their time effectively are not difficult, but they are not necessarily intuitive. Providing support and guidance, either directly or with outside support, will go a long way in helping your child be and feel successful. Here are some tips for your child to organize school materials and remember important information:
• Think of an agenda book or day planner as your calendar for your whole life, not just school.
• Write all of your school assignments, after-school activities, and social plans here.
• Use a large paper clip to mark the page you need to be on for quicker entry.
Binders and notebooks
• Use different colors for each subject binder and notebook.
• For each subject, you will have two three-ring binders. One will be the everyday binder, and the second will be the reserve binder, where all of your papers will be moved to after tests. This allows you to straighten out and empty excess papers so you can focus on the current work. (Note: Check with each subject teacher before removing papers from your binder.)
• Both binders for each subject should be the same color (blue for math, green for science, etc.) and have the same labeled dividers.
• Keep one master reference binder with dividers for each subject. Here, you can keep any material that you might need to use in years to come, such as math formulas, social studies facts or periodic tables.
• Perhaps two of your subjects can be combined into one larger binder or notebook for less to carry.
• Be sure to label everything! Big bumper stickers work great. Have fun, and be creative!
Consider a multi-pocket folder to keep with you all day. It can hold the day’s hand- outs, work to be turned in, and your agenda book. This is an excellent tool for the overall organization of papers to go to and from school. It should be cleaned out each week, by transferring the appropriate papers to either binders or the recycle bin. (An excellent sturdy folder can be found at Nick’s Folders for $3.50. Not an affiliate.)
• Clean out your locker and/or workspace every week, to lessen the chance of losing papers.
• Consider small trays to keep extra pens, pencils, tissues, erasers, etc.
• Keep a dry-erase board or small notepad for writing reminders.
• Try to keep your backpack on the hook, so there is more room to store items.
• Keep an extra pen and pencil inside at all times.
• Look in your assignment book and check your locker’s dry-erase board before packing up for the day.
• When you get home, empty the entire bag near your workspace and sort the contents for homework and notes for parents. • Pack it up before you go to sleep at night, which will decrease the odds of forgetting things.
• A kitchen timer is great for keeping you on task and allowing for time-limited breaks.Set it for various intervals to see if you are on task and on track. What works for you? Set a start time or break time on your computer or cellphone alarm for a discreet nudge. Set an alarm for the time you want to go to sleep as a reminder to pack up, brush teeth, etc.
• Keep a dry-erase board or a small pad of paper by your workspace and use it to jot down things on your mind, so they can be done later and not distract you now. Write out your homework plan for the day — what you will do and in what order? It’s a great feeling to cross items off! Use it to plan out long-term projects or for math problems and other quick temporary notes.
A structure is any device that reminds you, visually, of something important. They work because they interrupt your ordinary mind flow and grab your attention. Some of the best structures come from your intuition and may not seem to make sense at first. Be creative — experiment with different ways to jolt your memory! Here are some examples:
• Wear a rubber band on your wrist when you want to remember to do something, such as breathe deeply, speak powerfully, sit up straight, or take home your violin.
• Put a chair by your door to remind yourself to take along important items tomorrow.
• Send yourself an e-mail, text or voice mail to request that a certain task be done.
• Have some friends over once a month. This can be a structure for cleaning your room or keeping up relationships with friends.
• Devise an intentionally fabricated deadline on the day you start a project — such as scheduling a time to show a friend or family member your completed project.
• Schedule study time with one friend a week for two months to get you to study a particular subject.
• Counting is helpful to make you aware of your behavior. For instance, count how often you participate in class and work on increasing the number each day. Counting does not require you to do anything other than notice, but noting every time you do something heightens your awareness.
• A special slogan on your key chain can be a structure to remember to smile or be positive.
• A toy lion on your desk can remind you to be ferocious in pursuit of a goal.
• Put your keys in the refrigerator so you remember your lunch.
• Make a sign around your work area: “Don’t give in to the impulse!”
• Create a screen saver with one-line, motivational statements.
• A coach is one of the best structures. Text or e-mail your coach every day when a certain task is done.
• “To do” lists are not meant as nag lists — just a place to hold important things. Be creative where you put your notes; try to have it somewhere in your field of vision on a regular basis: the refrigerator, your desk, next to your bed. Try to develop a consistent habit of where you write and keep important notes.
Written by Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M., ACAC © 2013 http://www.PTSCoaching.com