By David Andrade
I just saw a Tweet asking for tips on helping students to get organized, so I decided to write some tips up. I am a very organized person (type A personality and was an engineer for ten years) and I used to teach organizational skills to other employees at one of my jobs. There are a ton of different organizational methods out there, but it is actually pretty easy to be organized and stay that way using some free tools.
I use a variety of tools to keep myself organized and share them with other teachers and with my students. I have some links below to other articles I’ve written that are similar in nature, so please read those too.
The first thing that is important is to decide what tools you are more comfortable with: paper or electronic. If a student/teacher doesn’t have a smartphone or easy access to a computer, it is harder to use some of the electronic versions. However, one solution is to use the electronic versions at home/office and print out things for mobile. I used to do that before I got my first PDA. I would print a task list and calendar in Word and keep it updated and then print it out when I had to use it away from a computer. I used to also use a Franklin Covey planner before my PDA days.
The trick to being organized is to always use your system and not deviate from it. If you are using a smartphone, then always use that, don’t use paper too. Take 5 min each morning, lunch, afternoon, and evening to get organized, check your schedule and task list, and make plans for the next time period. Keep your task list and schedule up to date and check it before making plans. Prioritize your task list based on what is most important or needed done 1st. Use a calendar or prompts or reminders to make sure you get things done on time.
Electronic organizing tools can be helpful because they can remind you of due dates, meetings, etc. through text messages, emails, and on-screen alerts. They can also link notes, web sites, and more together so it’s easier to find things.
Here is how I stay organized:
1. I have a Palm Pre+ running on Verizon so I can access all of the tools I use at any time. That means I’m always able to take notes, create a task or calendar event, and review all of my stuff any time, anyplace. I can access all of my emails, my Google Calendar, Google Task List, and Evernote from it. I can also access all of my files via Dropbox. (and all of this is accessible from any computer and always in sync).
2. I use iGoogle to keep everything in one place on my computer. My calendar, Tasks, email, and Evernote notes are all available to me on one page on my computer. This means I can see everything very easily and keep myself up to date. I also have events in Google Calendar set up to send me a text message reminder.
(here’s an article I wrote about using iGoogle to stay organized. )
3. I use Evernote to take notes, organize notes, organize info and web clippings, and as a lesson planning tool. I have access to this from any computer and from my Palm Pre+. I organize notes into notebooks and also have tags, making them easier to find when I need them.
4. I even have an app for my phone that will alert me when I am near a place that I have a task for (via GPS).
I tell my students about all of these, and I also share some great tools specifically for students, like Trackclass, Shoshiku, and Dweeber that can help them get organized with their classes, schedule, and notes.
Paper Planning Resources (not free)
Franklin Covey – great paper planning systems, but a little pricey for students.
Day Timer paper planners
DIY Planner – make and print your own planner pages
Planner Pads – paper planners
Day Runner – paper planners
Student Planner USA – some nice ones on here (and not expensive)
You can also create and print out your own calendars and task lists. There are a huge number of sites that have these, and MS Word has templates for it.
There are also some great student planners that you can customize for your school, adding in school calendar and schedules. They also have some great reference pages in the back, including math, English, science, study tips, college planning and more references. Here’s one we’ve used: Premier Agendas for College Ed. There are a variety out there, and I don’t endorse any specific one.
Electronic Planning Resources (free)
iGoogle (and other Google Tools)
Student Planner Software (all free) (lots of good ones here to share with your students)
And of course, Discovery Education has a calendar and other tools to organize your classes and assignments when using Discovery Education.
Get Organized Now – great site with great tips and resources
Julie Morgenstern – professional organizer with some great tips and resources
The big thing to remember is that you have to use your system consistently and you have to take a time to plan out your day. You have to prioritize things and realize that free time and sleep sometimes have to take a back seat to priorities. However, if you plan things well and do things each day, you can avoid the sudden backlog and all-nighters that many students end up experiencing.
Basic Steps for being organized:
1. Plan Ahead (every day)
2. Make a ToDo (or task) list
3. Put things in your calendar (and check your calendar during your planning)
4. Students: write down your assignments and due dates in organizer
5. Students: study/work on homework a little each day to stay ahead
6. Stick to your schedule and commitments
7. Reward yourself with some free time.
Teachers and students can benefit greatly form being organized. You are more efficient, get things done on time, don’t forget things, and generally have less stress.