As I’ve mentioned before, I get to observe many, many classrooms in my job supervising student teachers. One of the things that’s surprised me is the direct relationship between excellent classroom management and a neat, organized classroom environment. Some teachers have stuff all over the classroom – books in piles, papers everywhere, stacks of materials on the shelves. These are invariably the teachers who struggle with control and behavior issues. Other classrooms have every inch of space carefully labeled, organized, and thought out. These are the teachers with clear procedures and expectations for children’s behavior. Obviously, the first step in getting children to be organized (an important part of executive functioning), is to be a good role model and provide an organized classroom.
Take a minute to think about your own classroom or ones you’ve seen. What are the children’s cubbies, tables, work spaces, or desks like? Too often I see crumpled papers, folders hanging out, books shoved inside any which way, broken pencils, clothes in a ball, and so on. Even when we provide good models, some children will struggle to manage the organization of their personal space and the classroom work spaces. Here are a few suggestions for teaching organizational skills:
- Visual Aids: Take a picture of what the cubby, desk, table or other space should look like. Laminate it, or tape it somewhere in the area. Encourage the child to refer to the photo to know what the expectations are for organization.
- Cleaning Time: Besides your classroom clean up times, also schedule a personal clean up time during the day (or weekly as children get more competent). Make it fun – put on music, encourage collaboration, and be sure to model cleaning up your own space during this time, too!
- Daily Inspector. Children who have trouble regulating their own behavior can often take the first steps in learning by regulating other children’s behavior. Take the child who is the absolute messiest and appoint him the Daily Inspector who will inspect all areas of the room and report what needs work. This person can also be the assigned helper to assist others in their organizational clean up.
- Positive Feedback: Remember to let children know when they are doing a good job and meeting your expectations! A pat on the back and some social recognition can go a long way in teaching children the organizational skills they need!
What other strategies have you found helpful in teaching children organizational skills? Please share in the comments below!