Learn More by Keeping It Neat
Looking for a way to help your child keep track of her schoolwork? These tips for building systems and routines really make the grade.
We sometimes forget that our children juggle time and projects as much as we do. As early as second grade, children are expected to hand in homework without reminders and to keep track of their belongings. Planning and organization are hard for any child, but especially so for kids with ADHD. By working with your child to build systems and routines, you can help him go from clutter to control.
Tools for Teachers
> Hand out a detailed syllabus. During the first week of school, outline the sequence of topics and textbook chapters that will be studied during the semester, along with due dates for projects and tests. Even if the dates change, students are able to plan for them.
> Work with students to make a binder that mirrors the syllabus. Ask students to label dividers by chapter or units to be covered, and to create a divider for reference material for each unit. Use the binder’s front pocket for assigned homework, and the back pocket for completed homework.
> Be flexible about organizing. Many children with ADHD are visual processors, so key to that strength. Organize school materials on open shelves that are labeled. Kids with ADHD find things by seeing a picture in their mind, rather than by remembering the name of a folder in a file.
> Use color coding to help students get organized. Teachers of different subjects should meet and choose a color for each subject — green for history, red for math. All handouts and assignments should be printed out in the subject color, so the student can easily organize his papers by class. Or, within the same class, use one color for reference sheets that need to be kept (periodic table, formula sheets, paragraph guidelines, syllabus), another color for daily assignments, and a third for tests or quizzes.
> Post assignments in a prominent and permanent place in the classroom, as well as on the school website. This allows students to access information if they missed it when presented. Provide assignments for the week, when possible, so that students can be aware of expectations and manage their time accordingly.
> When a student is absent or sick, put her name on handouts and other materials and post them in a designated spot, so she can easily find them when she returns.
> Accentuate the positive. Give bonus points or some reward for improved organization skills, and reward your disorganized students when, upon request, they are able to quickly locate a certain book or paper in their desks.
> Schedule regular cleanup times. Set up times for students to clean out their lockers — at least once a month or, preferably, weekly. Help students get rid of non-essential papers, and indicate the papers that need to be saved for the midterm and final.
Pointers for Parents
> Set up an “everywhere binder.” This is a loose leaf binder containing a hole-punched planner and a zippered pouch for pencils, markers, highlighters, and extra paper. The binder goes to every class with your child, so he has what he needs.
> Designate a place for completed homework. It could be put into a clear plastic protector clipped on the outside of the class binder or into a separate homework folder. Use Post-it notes to indicate the exact location for completed homework. Your child has not finished his homework until he has put it in its special place.
> Keep the homework table uncluttered. Students with ADHD should work on an uncluttered desk or clean tabletop. Keep a basket or box on the floor next to the desk/table, so that papers and books are accessible and visible. Place a computer on a separate desk or table.
> Complete a large monthly white board calendar of your child’s activities. Use a different color for school, extracurricular activities, family, friends, community, and fill in the calendar with commitments for each. For school, list tests and project due dates. This will help the child organize her time as she sees her commitments and tries to meet the deadlines.
> Divide your child’s room into activity areas — sleeping, studying, dressing, doing homework. Decide which items go in each area. Sort items within an area and label containers or shelves. Helping your child get organized at home helps him practice his organization skills and prevents him from losing materials.
> Organize items where they are used. If your child likes to draw in a particular place in the house, have him store his drawing equipment in a container in that room.