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Micro-Interventions for Students Who Are Chronically Disorganized

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Nov. 11, 2020, 9:52 a.m.

by Cindy Jones


My grandson, Charlie is thirteen and in 8th grade. He is a good student and generally likes school, but he has been diagnosed with ADHD and has problems with paying attention and organizational skills. The Covid 19 pandemic has made the problem much worse. Today, many students have increased frustration due to changes in school structure and instruction.


My daughter really wanted to help Charlie, but had no idea where to start. After some research, she discovered the book, That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Weekby Ana Homayoun. The author is a specialist who works with teenage boys who struggle with organizational and time management issues.


The book includes descriptions of the types of disorganized learners, how to organize student planners and notebooks, how to check the notebooks, and many other tips for interventions.

Here are some strategies that the book recommends to support your students with organizational issues:


Have students set academic and personal goals.

Teach students how to set goals. Review these goals with them on a regular basis. Organization might be a great first goal! No one feels successful when they can’t find things and the environment is messy.


Post a schedule for the routine of the day or the period.

Post this in large letters on the board or on the students’ desks. This will help students with structure.


Have students clean out their desks, notebook, and backpacks once a week.

The students are to throw away all trash in their desks and backpacks. They should then open their binders and put all papers neatly in the appropriate binder.


Show student what it looks like to be organized.

Create anchor charts that show diagrams of pictures illustrating how the desk and binders should look.


Label and color-code books, binders, and folders.

Have a specific color for each subject. The textbook can be covered in that color, as well as the matching subject binder or folder.


Have daily checklists and planners.

Put checklists on the disorganized student’s desk or locker. This will help the student to visualize what he needs to do an will remind him what to take home.

Planners are an important tool, as well. At the end of the day, or period, teach students what and where to write the assignments. Also, give them, or remind them of, important dates and deadlines.


Use memory aids.

Teach students memory tricks and acronyms. Also, give them sticky notes and rubber bands for flashcards.


Create a Buddy System.

Pair up students with another student who is organized and responsible.

It will be relatively simple to ascertain if these strategies are successful. Student notebooks will be organized and complete.

Work areas will be neater and students should appear less frustrated and able to more easily grasp new information. Grades should also improve.


Remember, without the organizational tools to thrive, our disorganized students may give up in frustration and never reach their full potential. They need our intervention.


Be sure to register for the online seminar Practical Strategies for Improving the Behavior of Attention-Seeking, Manipulative and Challenging Students presented by Cindy Jones.



Kelly Harmon and Randi Anderson

About The Authors

Kelly Harmon & Associates began in 2001 with a mission of instructional coaching and providing rich literacy resources for educators and parents. Our work incorporates research-based best practices for teaching and learning.

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