Organization can lead
to scholastic success
By Andrea Downing Peck
WHILE AN OCCASIONAL bout with disorganization won’t doom a student, a pattern of forgotten
homework assignments, lost study guides and misplaced class notes may set students up for failure.
“Missing an assignment and getting a zero can
have a huge negative impact on a student’s grade,”
says Ana Homayoun, founder of Green Ivy
Educational Consulting in San Francisco and Los
Altos, California. “Getting poor grades because of
missed assignments can [also] really affect a student’s academic confidence and self-esteem.”
Today’s students are more time crunched than
ever, with 57 percent of all middle and high schoolers participating in an after-school activity almost
every day of the week, according to a 2004 study by
Public Agenda, a nonpartisan opinion research
organization reporting on public policy issues.
Donna Goldberg, co-author of The Organized
Student: Teaching Children the Skills for Success in
School and Beyond, says strong organizational and
time-management skills remain building blocks to
academic success, even in classrooms filled with laptops, interactive whiteboards and other high-tech
“The need to be organized has grown year after
year,” says Goldberg, a Costco member who founded
The Organized Student (
com), a New York–based consulting firm, in 1990.
“We have far too much information rushing in. In
order to be successful, you have to have a system of
dealing with it.”
Time is of the essence
Goldberg advises, as an overview, to look at
time management. She says that may require parents to closely monitor what their children are doing
when on the computer. Most of her students admit
to receiving at least 20 instant messages a night,
which she calculates results in two minutes of lost
time per message as children transition between
what they were doing, reading and answering each
message, and returning to their work.
“They are losing hours a night that they don’t
even realize,” she notes. “That’s a problem.”
Developing a system
Goldberg says the next step in becoming an
organized student is creating a system to manage
the flow of worksheets, packets and handouts to and
from school. She recommends students use an
accordion file with a section devoted to each subject
to carry all their current work.
“How papers flow back and forth to school,
what system a child decides to use, isn’t as important
as having them practice it over and over again,” says
Goldberg. “Getting organized isn’t a one-day event.”
For organization at home, Goldberg suggests
students place completed work in an open file box.
All handouts, notes, quizzes and tests pertaining to
that subject would be organized and placed in a
labeled file folder once the unit was completed.
When creating organizational systems,
Goldberg says, parents need to “think like a student,” which means keeping the process quick and
time management tips
Space. Parents should work with their children to
create a study place in the home that is consistent, organized and inviting. A common mistake is to encourage children to do
homework in their room. Instead, have them do homework at the dining room
table or, even better, a clean desk space outside their room.
Time. Set aside a consistent block of time for homework without distractions,
after school or after dinner. If your child is hard-pressed to finish homework each
night, monitor how much time is spent instant messaging, texting and on
Facebook or MySpace.
Plan. Encourage use of a daily planner. Have your student set a plan of action
before tackling homework each night.
Organize. Create a system to track paper flow to and from school. Binders
should contain see-through pocket folders and dividers so assignments do not
become out of sight, out of mind.
Get help. Know when to turn to a professional. If your child’s disorganization
is becoming a source of family tension and bickering or is affecting his or her
grades, consider seeking help from an expert.—ADP