6 ways to help your high school student be organised for school

For some students, going to high school can be a big change from primary school, particularly with the structure of how the school day will run. Therefore, it is important that your student is well prepared for what to expect from high school if they are just entering, if they are changing schools or even if it’s just the start of a new school year.

Ensuring that your student is appropriately organised can help them to feel comfortable with this change and help them to develop important life skills that will increase their independence.

Below are 6 ways to work with your high school student to ensure they are organised for 2018:

Setting expectations

High school can be very different from primary school. For some students, the transition to high school may be quite smooth, but for others it can be daunting and increase anxiety levels. Most schools will complete transition days that allow new students to be slowly introduced to the school, get a feel for the new environment and to begin getting to know their peers and teachers.

As a parent, to support your student with this transition, having a discussion and setting the expectations of high school will help to settle them in to this new routine and new environment more smoothly. Some points you may want to discuss with them include:

  • Different subjects may have different teachers – high school teachers usually specialise in teaching different subjects, so they may notice that their teacher for maths might not be the same as their teacher for English.
  • Different teachers also have different rules, expectations and ways of doing things – some teachers may be more lenient than others, expect more from their students and generally do or teach things in a different manner than another teacher your student may have. It may be a good idea to discuss these with the teacher so your student knows what to expect from each teacher.
  • Students move classrooms for different subjects – not all subjects will be held in the same room. They will be required to move classrooms depending on the subject and the teacher. The teacher won’t always come to them.
  • Discuss the importance of being organised – they will need different supplies for different subjects and may need to carry books for different subjects with them to ensure they are not late to class.
  • Homework – high school students are generally given more homework than those in primary school and the workload can increase each year. It is important to set expectations at home around completing homework to ensure they are keeping on top of their learning.

Review their school timetable with them

High schools will generally give each student a copy of their timetable to follow. Take some time to sit down with your student to review which subjects they will complete each semester.

Some talking points may include:

  • What subjects are they will be doing this semester?
  • What supplies they will need for each subject? Refer to point 5.
  • Where each class is held in the school? Review a map of the school or complete a school tour to assist. This can be extremely helpful for students new to a school.
  • Do they need to carry supplies for two subjects at a time to ensure efficiency?
  • What time each class starts and ends and where they need to be next?
  • When are their recess and lunch breaks and what time does school finish?

Introduce them to, and encourage them to use different organisational tools.

Staying organised and knowing what to expect can be difficult for some people to remember. Using organisational tools, such as those listed below can make all the difference in being able to remember things that need to be done, important events, time management and planning.

  • Timers can help set expectations – how long they need to study for or how long breaks are. Discussing the use of a timer with your student may assist with their participation and attention both at home and at school. Your student’s teachers may be able to implement this strategy in class if it works for your student.
  • Use a diary or planner – a simple, yet effective way to keep on top of homework, due dates, assignments and special events (both at home and at school – such as birthdays, holidays and excursions). Showing them how to use a diary, planner or smartphone to track these can be a significant step in increasing their independence and allowing them to be responsible for their own learning.
  • Brain breaksin conjunction with the use of a timer, brain breaks can be important in ensuring that your student can maintain their focus on school subjects and homework. A brain break allows your student to stop what they are doing and do something else for a short period of time. Some things they may like doing for a brain break include: going for a short walk (getting some fresh air), getting a drink of water or eating a small snack.
  • Highlighters to exaggerate the most important points, or make certain tasks or events stand out in a diary or planner.
  • Labels – can make gathering supplies required for each subject quicker and less stressful.

Establish good habits and routines

Good organisation starts with good routines and habits. Encourage your student to follow a morning routine each day and help them prepare for the day ahead. Other important points to think about include:

  • How much time do they need to get ready for school in the morning?
  • What steps need to be followed in the morning? Do they need a list to follow to complete these successfully? – e.g. eating breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth, making and packing lunch etc.
  • What do they need for school each day?
  • Have they completed and packed their homework from the night before?
  • Will your student be making their own lunch?
  • Ensure they know how they will get to school if this changes. E.g. bus, car etc.

Providing the right supplies

Schools will generally provide a book list of writing books, stationery and textbooks required for each subject each year. Go through the book list with you student and show them what items they will need and make a list for them to keep on them for the specific books and stationery that they will need for each subject.

Labelling each of these with your student’s name, home class, and subject can increase your student’s efficiency when at school, keeps things neat and ordered and reduces the risk of losing things. You may wish to colour code the items so each subject has it’s own colour and your student can quickly identify all the text books and stationery needed for the next lesson.

How to organise their locker

Lockers come in all shapes and sizes, so it is important to show or discuss with your student the different ways they may use the space that have been given in the most convenient way that works for them. There is no one way to organise this space, however it may be beneficial to:

  • Set individual spaces for your student’s school bag, lunch box, books and stationery.
  • Keep books with the spine facing toward your student and have these labelled so they can see straight away what they need to grab.
  • Schedule regular clean outs as lots of loose papers, left over food or broken stationery can easily get pushed to the back and forgotten about. This takes up unnecessary room and can make it more difficult to find what you need.

Who can I speak to for help with organisation skills?

If your student will be going through this transition this year or next year and you are concerned about their current organisation skills, raise your concerns with your student’s occupational therapist, or give Talking Matters a call to organise an assessment and therapy sessions to help achieve this goal.

An occupational therapist can assist your student to develop strategies that work for them to help them increase their ability to organise themselves and their belongings to ensure they can be as independent as possible.

The download section of our website also has more ideas, information and activities to help your student develop a range of skills. Check our Pinterest page for loads more activities and ideas. Check the Talking Matters website for other useful resources. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter so you don’t miss out on information we share to help young people reach their potential.

Blog written by Olivia Hutchings, Occupational Therapist

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