Keeping Up with Materials: Impact of Spatial Ordering and Memory

Staying organized for school requires a student to have strong spatial abilities as well as a strong memory. To efficiently keep track of school materials and assignments, for example, students must have an internal sense of how things should be organized. In order to follow through on school-related tasks, such as turning in homework and bringing the right books to class, students must be able to remember where these items are, as well as remember to have the items on hand when needed!

Here are some strategies to help students keep track of their own materials.

Organizing and Planning

  • Build students’ appreciation of organizational structures that can aid learning/understanding and studying/remembering.
    • Words and concepts, for example, may be organized into semantic categories in a game format. Students may group word cards into categories, such as "animals," "equipment," etc. Older students may work on organizing concepts into categories, such as "forms of government" and "characteristics of those forms of government"
    • Organization activities can also be created for spelling words (organized by shared prefixes and suffixes) and math facts (organized by math families).
    • Have students organize concepts by comparing and contrasting, e.g., dogs to lions, Christmas to Valentine’s Day, etc.
    • Have students organize the same information in different yet equally meaningful ways. For example, objects may be organized by shape, color, size, function, etc. A history chapter may be organized into different topics such as important events, people, issues, etc.  
  • Encourage students to keep their notes organized efficiently. For example, students may use binders to organize notes and assignments by time of year, topic, or unit (e.g., Volume 1: September History Notes, or Volume 1: World History – Before 1500s, Volume 2: World History 1500-1600, etc.).  
  • Always reinforce verbal directions for assignments (homework, projects, etc.) by writing information on the board or providing a handout. Make sure students have a clear understanding of the materials they will need to complete an assignment.  
  • Institute a school telephone “hotline” that students (and parents) can use to check assignments, due dates, etc. Have students work in teams to act as backup for each other, confirming homework directions, comparing lists of necessary materials, etc.  
  • Have students keep an assignment pad to record things to do for an assignment, quiz, etc. Check student lists as needed to make sure students understand the assignment and what is expected.  
  • If necessary, teach students different methods for organizing their own notebooks, materials, etc. Assign time in the classroom for "staying organized," e.g. fifteen minutes every Wednesday to reorganize desks, backpacks, and notebooks.  
  • Suggest that parents be available to help students maintain organized materials at home, e.g. going through notebooks together to discard unnecessary papers, reorganizing notes, checking off materials needed for class, etc. These types of maintenance activities should be done on a regular basis.  
  • Provide students with backpacks and notebooks with pocket organizers and secured closings to keep materials in place.  
  • Organizational devices, such as electronic watches and electronic organizers designed for children, may serve as useful tools for keeping organized.  
  • Teach students how to prompt themselves to remember materials. For example, suggest that they write reminder notes, and place them in conspicuous places, e.g., on the TV, breakfast table, bathroom mirror, or front door.