Striver Behavior: Let’s Get Organized

Doing well in school has everything to do with your ability to manage tasks. There is a direct correlation between academic success and organization. For TeenSHARP approved tips for getting organized, read on!

Organization. For some, it soothes their type A, anal personalities, and for others it is a cumbersome, overwhelming, and taxing task. For those of you in the first group, this post will just provide you with a few extra tips and tricks. For those of you in the second group, I hope this post serves as a practical and easy guide for relieving the stress you may feel.

If you are having trouble getting and staying organized, there are a couple important points that I want you to keep in mind. First, organization is a process of problem solving. Before reading any farther, I want you to pull out a pen and paper, then jot down the answers to these questions:

  1. Clarify your disorganization problem: when, and in what classes specifically are you disorganized?
  2. Are there mini problems that exist within this problem? For example, are you disorganized because you often rush? Are you disorganized because you don’t have enough folders to organize your papers?
  3. What happens as a result of your disorganization?
  4. Are there any solutions that you can think of on your own?

Okay, now that you’ve done that, we can get started. Keep you answers to the above questions in mind as you read.


How to Organize Your Material for Each Class

First, learn about the structure of the class. Below are a list of questions that will help you determine how to organize your work for each class:

  • Does the teacher provide note taking handouts, or will you have to take your own notes?
    • If your teacher will provide note taking sheets, make sure to hole punch them and add them to a binder. If you have to create your own notes, fill your binder with loose leaf
  • How will the class be taught? Are there units, or chapters?
    • Sometimes, it may be helpful to have divider tabs labeled per unit/chapter, and sometimes having a single tab labeled ‘notes’ will suffice
  • Once a unit/chapter is complete, will you need to bring the notes for that unit/chapter to class?
    • If the answer is no, file the notes, handouts, and assignments for that unit/chapter in accordion folder or file cabinet.
    • If the answer is yes, make sure that everything is dated and labeled.

Here are two important questions that you should ask your teacher directly. Oftentimes, your best resource is your teacher:

  • What would be the best way to organized my notes and assignments for this class? Some teachers will tell you that it’s enough to organize everything chronologically by unit, and others will say to separate and label your notes, handouts, and assignments.
  • Would it be best that I take notes in a notebook or on looseleaf? If a teacher tells you that it is up to you, go with loose leaf. Loose leaf allows you to reshuffle and compare notes, which is important when it is time to study for a test. It also allows you to add and edit notes by adding and removing pages. In history classes, or other classes in which reading is required, loose leaf allows you to compare and compile class notes with the notes you take at home

Once you understand how your class is structured, you can then purchase the appropriate supplies.


School Supplies for Organization:

  1. Folders: Folders are simple and convenient. They are perfect for holding homework assignments, and for elective courses, or courses in which you won’t receive many handouts. I would suggest purchasing homework folders that coordinate with your binders so that you do not have to transport heavy, bulky folders between school and home.
  2. Binders: Binder are essential to any high school student, especially one who is enrolled in rigorous courses. Binders allow space for you to store a high volume of notes. Also, you can add dividers, which make things a little bit easier to find than they would be in a simple two pocket folder
  3. Accordion Folders: Accordion folders allow you to store and collect the materials that you collect over the year. Sometimes you have too many papers to fit in a binder let alone a folder. I found this to be particularly true in history classes. In terms of time, think folders for short term and/or elective classes, binders for marking period lengths and for core classes, and accordion folders for long term storage.

* Use folders for materials that are homework, binders for materials two weeks old or older, and accordion folders for older materials that can’t fit in your binder

  1. Dividers: Dividers are used to separate your homework, from your in class notes, from your essays etc. The way that you label your dividers should fit the class
  2. Notebooks: I would only suggest notebooks for classes like English, and perhaps electives, or if the teacher believes that a notebook will be the better option. You need to be able to rearrange your notes and compile  them during test time, and loose leaf papers make that an easier process
  3. Loose Leaf Paper
    1. Benefits of Loose Leaf:
      1. No wasted paper left in your notebook at the end of the year
      2. Easier to separate and organize notes per unit
      3. Easy to make copies of notes and upload online or for a friend
  4. Reinforcement stickers: Reinforcement stickers prevent the holes in your loose leaf from from ripping and eventually falling out of your binder
  5. Sticky Notes: Sticky notes can be used to mark important pages in your notes so that they are easy to find later
  6. Highlighters: Along with dating and titling all of your notes, highlighting important people, places, vocabulary, and events makes it easier to flip through your notes to find important information. I would even suggest using highlighters to color code certain kinds of information.


How to Organize Your Locker and/or Backpack

Here are some important questions to ask before we move further:

  • Do you have a block schedule, or a period schedule?
  • Do you have a locker?
  • If you do have a locker, is your locker close to your classes, or is it far away?

If you have a block schedule, you are in luck, because your backpack does not necessarily have to be full. However, you will have to remember to switch out your materials every morning. Perhaps labeling your binders “A Day” and “B Day” or something like that will help you not to forget what to swap out

If you have a period schedule, things get a little tricky. I would highly suggest switching your materials in your bag at least once a day.

If you have a locker, use this space to lesson your daily load. If possible, have a folder coordinated to each binder so that you only have to carry your homework and note paper to class. However, in most classes you will need your binder.

If you do not have a locker, try to consolidate as much as you can. If the class is not cumulative, then have an accordion folder at home where you can store notes from the previous marking periods, that way, your binders don’t get too full, meaning that you will have less to carry. The same idea applies if your locker is far from your classes. If you notice that your locker is far from your classes, I would suggest asking your guidance counselor if your locker can be moved to a more convenient location.

How to Organize your Work Space at Home

If you work at a kitchen, dining room, or coffee table, your backpack IS your desk. In your backpack, the largest items should be closest to your back, and lightweight items should be towards the front of your bag. Treat your pockets like drawers, meaning keep stationary like pens, pencils, highlighters, and sticky notes in the pockets. Unless you use a pencil case, don’t drop your writing utensils in the bottom of the large section in your bag. They will fall under your books and binders making them hard to find.

If your work at your own desk, keep the space as clear as possible. Only dictionaries, extra supplies, and perhaps the accordion folders should be on/in your desk. Set a date to clean your desk at the end of every marking period.

Buy a special accordion folder or keep a file drawer for your 8th-12th grade years. This folder will contain print copies of report cards, transcripts, year long projects, awards, and other documentation that you would like to refer to for college applications

TeenSHARP students: You should have a binder, organized in chronological order and with a section for notes for your TeenSHARP materials. DO NOT throw away teensharp notes and handouts at the end of the year. If you would like to consolidate, ask a staff member what to keep and what should be stored for future reference. The materials that we give you in TeenSHARP are unique in that they will be relevant throughout your high school career. Having Teensharp binders for you 9, 10, 11, 12 grade years will help you keep track of all that you have learned. Remember, what you are learning is not just to help you move from high school level to college level, these are personal and life skills, so I wouldn’t rush to dispose of materials, at least until you have your college acceptances.

Lastly, keep a log of the books and articles you’ve read. In addition to filing away report cards and awards, filling this information will help you keep track of your growth, which you can reflect on for college applications. You can make a chart on a word document, open a excel sheet, or make an account on in order to keep track of what you read


Other Notes and Advice

  • While the colorful 4 for 1 dollar folders are tempting, they should not be a mainstay. Those are best for short term use. By the end of a month or two, you will begin to notice little kinks and tears on these folders. They also can’t withstand too many papers. By durable school supplies that will last you for at least one year. Depending on how well you take care of your binders, they can last for 2 or even 3 academic years. The investment in quality supplies will be worth it. I myself bought mostly the 5-star brand.
  • Have a pencil case or pocket in your bag where you keep at least one pen, pencil and highlighter
  • Talk to your teacher about organization. Explain to them that you do not want to lose any important papers from class, and that you want to know what method of organization will work best for their class.
  • Create a routine.  Use Sunday nights to make sure everything from the past week is filed away. Do not leave papers in notebooks or textbooks where you may lose them or they may tear
  • Use project sleeves for really important papers that you may refer to quite often, this may include your syllabus/class calendar. Or in a class like chemistry, a printed copy of the table of elements, or in Calculus and Physics, important formulas may be sheets you should protect with a project cover so that they do not become wrinkled and frayed around the edges
  • Don’t use binder pockets. It is a great temptation, but if anything must be in your binder pockets, let it be permission slips, syllabi, or papers like that. Anything else a temptation to be disorganized
  • Don’t rush between classes. Rushing will cause you to throw loose papers in your bag when the bell rings. The extra 30 seconds it would take to put everything away is not worth losing assignments.
  • Stay on top of it! Make organization the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do before bed. Set a time on your phone to get organized. Once it is incorporated into your regimen, you won’t have to summon the willpower, you’ll just have to follow the schedule and it will become a habit.