Why Teachers Must Invest in Teaching Kids to Be Organized

Children are not, by their own design, organized creatures. While some children seem to come by the "organizational" gene naturally, most of them must learn these skills if they are going to be organized and uncluttered. Organization is not something that is often worked into the traditional curriculum, but students need these skills to be successful in school, and in life.

Here are some ideas to help you teach organizational skills to your students.

Why Teaching Organization Is Important - Benefits of Increased Order, Decreased Clutter

When you have standards and tests to work towards, carving out time for teaching life skills like organization is not always easy. Yet these skills are vital to your child's success, not only in school, but also in life. Once learned, organizational skills impact all areas of life. Here are some benefits that your students will enjoy when you give them the time to learn organization.
  • Decreased Classroom Clutter - When students are organized, they are going to be tidier. The more tidy the classroom, the less stressful it will feel. Teaching children to be organized automatically decreased classroom clutter, which benefits everyone.
  • Less Stress - It's stressful to not know where your things are, and being disorganized means you will spend much time and energy looking for missing items. Organized students are less stressed and more ready to learn.
  • Fewer Missing Assignments - You know how frustrating it is for you as the teacher to have a student who can never find the assignment she says she did. Imagine how it feels to the student and parents? Organizational skills can put a stop to these missing assignments.
  • More Time - Clutter, missing assignments and stressed students take time away from your role as a teacher. When you can teach your students to be organized, you will decrease the amount of time you spend on these non-learning activities.
  • Better Grades - Organized students tend to have higher grades and complete more assignments than those who are disorganized.
  • Better Self-Esteem - With organization comes higher grades and more completed assignments, and with that comes higher self-esteem and confidence.
  • Better Prepared for Adult Life - You likely know an adult who is not organized. They often appear flustered and frustrated. By teaching children to be organized, you can help them be prepared to be organized adults and void the pitfalls of clutter and disorganization. These are the types of life skills that teachers need to instill in their students.
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The Link Between Organization and Math Class

Organization is something that teachers in all subject areas can focus on to encourage student success, but there is a direct connection between organizational skills and the role of the math teacher. In fact, students who have struggles in math often show this by having struggles with organization. When they can't be organized in other areas of life, students become confused and disorganized in math when working through multi-step problems. In math class, these organizational problems can manifest when students:
  • Cannot complete sequencing problems with multiple steps.
  • Become confused by multi-step problems
  • Become fixated on individual elements of a problem rather than the final goal
  • Become unable to identify relevant information and information that is not needed to solve a problem.
  • Have no ability to understand whether or not their solution is appropriate for the problem.
Also, many concepts taught in the math classroom have organization at their basic core. From writing out steps to word problems to learning visual-spatial skills, students can gain valuable organizational skills in the math classroom. For this reason, it is the role of the math teacher to spearhead this organizational instruction.

Visual-Spatial Skills Instruction

So how can the teacher – particularly math teachers - go about teaching organization? Can you have a lesson plan specifically on organization? While technically you can, and it may be valuable to do, you can also teach students to be more organized by teaching them valuable visual-spatial skills and use an applied approach to their learning. Some students are strong visual-spatial learners, while others need a little more instruction in this area.
Visual-spatial processing is "the ability to tell where objects are in space." Math relies heavily on visual-spatial processing. Even a simple math problem, like 2 + 2 = 4, requires a student to be able to perceive where numbers are on a page and how that placement affects their ability to solve the equation. Math teachers can help students excel in school and become more organized by spending some time teaching these skills. Here are some lessons based on grade level that can help.

Preschool Visual-Spatial Lesson Plans
Early Elementary Visual-Spatial Lesson Plans
Upper Elementary Visual-Spatial Lesson Plans
  • Mirror Symmetry Drawing - Symmetry is an important visual-spatial concept, and this lesson plan will teach math students in upper elementary how to draw in symmetry.
  • Geoboard Challenge - This fourth-grade lesson challenges students to create specific figures on geoboards as they develop a better understanding of the properties of shape.
  • Geoboard Activities - This collection of activities explores a number of geometric concepts using geoboards.
  • Design a Space Using Models - This lesson plan for third or fourth grade has students design a space using area models.
  • Mathematics of Cartography - A series of resources that help students understand how math and mapping are connected.
  • Stained Glass Tessellations - This math lesson plan for grades 5-6 explores tessellations while creating stained glass replicas.
Middle School Visual-Spatial Lesson Plans
High School Visual-Spatial Lesson Plans

Lesson Plans on Organization

Visual-spatial instruction is a key component of organization, but what about organization itself? Can you teach organization? The answer is yes. If you aren't sure where to start, here are some lesson plans that can help you start to teach your students how to be organized.

Teaching Organization and Students with Special Needs

Students who have special needs, especially those with attention concerns like ADHD, need a little additional help and support to be organized. Because of the challenges these students face, they may not be able to understand the basic concepts of organization the way others do. To help improve their confidence and reduce frustration in the classroom, you need to give them the skills to be more organized. Here are some tips that can help.
  • Write down all assignments - If your student has the instructions in writing, he or she can't forget the assignment. Use an assignment book that is more difficult to lose than a sheet of paper.
  • Use colors - Color-coding books and supplies by subject will help the student be prepared for class with all of the necessary supplies.
  • Invest in visual tools - Children with attention or sensory struggles need visual tools to stay on task. A picture map of the child's schedule, for example, will help them stay on task throughout the school day. A visual homework map will ensure that homework is completed as desired. The more pictures you can make for the child with special needs, the better organized they will be.
  • Help with cleaning - If a student's desk or backpack becomes disorganized, step in to help. This clutter can send the special needs student into a tailspin, and often the child has no ability to deal with the mess. Schedule regular cleanout times.
  • Clearly label everything - From the homework basket to the place for pencils, clearly label what you can in the classroom to help the disorganized special needs child stay engaged and aware.
  • Partner with parents - Partner with the child's parents to ensure you are both working together to help the child be and stay organized. This has to be a partnership, so you know that the parents will follow through with your plans at home. Enlist the parents to check assignment notebooks and ensure that the work is getting done as assigned.
  • Make it a team effort - These kids are not going to be naturally organized, so enlist the help of their peers. Make it a team effort, awarding points to the class for being clean and organized.
  • Break it down - If a project seems too large or overwhelming, help the child learn to break it down into manageable chunks.
  • Tackle one thing at a time - Kids with special needs are often easily overwhelmed. Rather than trying to tackle the entire subject of organization, deal with one problem at a time until it is addressed well.
For additional information about organization skills in the special needs classroom, visit:

Additional Resources
Are you looking for more help on teaching organization and visual-spatial understanding? Consider these resources: