Teaching Organization to Your Middle School Student

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I am right smack in the middle of middle school years with two of my children. I’m excited that I finally have children old enough to leave at home for a time, and I am no longer afraid of being arrested when I leave them in the car outside of Wal-Mart. However, I have found that just because they are a smidgen older now, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are any wiser. {Can I get an amen?}

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Recently while teaching a class at our co-op, I was attempting to collect an assignment. I discovered that several students were able to quickly produce it from their nicely put together notebook, while a few had to dig through piles of papers they had stuffed in their text book and a couple of them couldn’t find it at all. As all moms and teachers are inclined to do, I gave them lecture about the importance of being organized. Since lectures rarely emit change, I knew my words did nothing more than get me labeled as “that” teacher.

Later though, as I was trying to grade a paper that had been wadded up at one point, I had an epiphany. We expect our children to be organized and have it all together. Yet, if we don’t give them the proper tools and teach them how to organize their school or even their life, how can we truly expect them to be successful?

7 Ways to Set Your Middle School Students Up for Organizational Success

  • Give them a place to keep their stuff

Your students need a place to keep all their school work. Ideally this would all be kept in one place. Maybe they have a desk, table, or a bookshelf. At our house each of my children have a bin for their individual books and notebooks as well as a shelf where we keep the textbooks and videos we use.

  • Give them a calendar

Our middle school students are more than capable of taking over their daily or even weekly schedule. Let them be responsible every week for putting in their assignments and adding their commitments. This will give them an idea of what they need to accomplish and a realistic goal of what they can feasibly get done within the week. Don’t forget to schedule all church activities, sports practices games, volunteer commitments, club meetings and chores. After a few weeks of doing this, they will be able to determine on their own if they have time to hang out with their friends or watch that movie they wanted to see.

Need a simple weekly planner try this one

  • Give them a system for keeping up with their school work

This can be done with a notebook for every subject or even a file folder system, but at our house I like it all nice and tidy in one three ring binder. Every year I purchase a not so cheap big binder for every kid and we set it up by printing out a nice front cover with their name on it, and we put in tabs for each subject. Throughout the year we hole punch our work and store it behind the folders. I love the pocket folders with tabs, this allows me to add work to their folders and it’s a great place to store graded work. Their calendar is kept at the front of the notebook so that it all stays in one place.

  • Give them a well equipped study area

Kids have procrastination down to an art. My kids can spend 30 minutes looking for just the right pencil or pen. Make sure they have enough sharpened pencils, crayons, colored pencils, scissors, paper and whatever else they may need so that they can get right to work. We keep a desk caddy in our school area with all of our supplies. I also have a zippered pencil case in their student binders with pencils, pens and a pair of scissors. I try to take the no excuse approach to getting started with school.

  • Teach them to prepare and look ahead

This is a perfect way to use their calendar. Each night before they go to bed, have them look at what is on their calendar for the next day. Do they have somewhere to be first thing in the morning? Have them ask themselves what they can be doing tonight to set themselves up for success the following day. I do this with my family every Saturday night. Let’s figure out what we are wearing to church, what we need to take, and what lunch will be when we get home. This takes the stress out of the rush of Sunday mornings. If we can get our children in the habit of doing this every night before bed they will begin to see the value of being prepared.

  • Make them responsible for their own schedule and planning

Do they have a youth activity coming up? Did they plan ahead to make sure that they had transportation? Do they have a big school project that they need to prepare for? Did they make a list of needed supplies and plan enough time to purchase them? Don’t bail them out every time they fail to plan. Once you have given them the tools to be successful and shown them how to use them, give them the responsibility as well. If it means missing out a few times or getting a poor grade, they will quickly learn the power of planning.

  • Help them get organized for outside activities

Spend some time thinking through all the places that your child goes throughout the week. Do they participate in a co-op and use a backpack? Do they play sports? Help them get organized by giving them a place to store all the items they need. Stock their backpack, bags or purses with things they need to be successful. If you have a student that is always forgetting something, laminate a note card with a list of what they need and put it on a ring in their bag. Have a designated place where their items always go so that there are no excuses for why they can’t find something.

If you have a child who is a perpetual hot mess, give them the tools they need to be the best they can be and don’t forget to check in on them. Learning to be organized takes time and accountability. We want them to have the tools they need to be successful once they leave home and venture into the real world.

How are you helping your middle schoolers learn to be organized?


Angela is mother of 4 and wife to her aspiring wanna be ninja warrior husband. She blogs at Schooling With Grace where you will find lots of encouragement, real life homeschooling and a whole lot of grace for those of us that just can’t seem to get it together. Outside of homeschooling and loving on her family, she enjoys nights out with friends, real conversations and getting caught up in a good book.

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