Do The Paper Shuffle! Organizing to Create a Personal Learning Library

I think we have filled three recycling bins with all the graded and completed assignments that have come home this school year. Luckily, my kids are little (and I still go through their backpacks!) so we haven’t had to wade through the paperwork to figure out what’s important and what’s not. A lot of older students, though, aren’t sure what to do with all the school papers that come home; it ends up getting shoved in the bottom of a backpack or jammed into a binder. Some of that paperwork might actually be useful: a completed study guide can sometimes be used on an open-note exam, or graded quiz questions may show up on an end of unit exam.

Some of that paperwork, though, may be totally useless and better off in the recycling bin rather than their backpack. But, how it the world do you figure out what’s important and what’s not? Here’s one way to sort through all that paper to create a personal “Learning Library” and get your child organized to boot!

If you haven’t started a family calendar or family discussion about upcoming events, check out our post titled, Do you feel like you are Alexa or Google calendar for your children?

Begin by discussing upcoming tests, quizzes, projects, etc. and put them on the calendar. You can hopefully find this information in your child’s planner or on their teachers’ virtual class site. Sidenote, if you need help getting your child organized for a big project, check out our post titled, The Dreaded School Project.

Using a different color for each class will make it easy to quickly glance at the calendar and know Jonny has a science test coming up (I suggest a big desk calendar so you can see the entire month). If using an electronic calendar, make each subject a different color.

Now that you’ve got a family calendar situated, here’s a way to weed through all that paper!

You will want to follow this process on a weekly basis. Initially, it will take about an hour to work side-by-side with your child, modeling along the way. Once your child grasps the process, time should decrease and so will your presence. SUCCESS!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A set of different colored writing utensils
  • A few accordion binders
  • A recycling bin   

I find that prepping my children before we do anything is helpful, so about a week before you start this process, talk with your child about the plan. You guys can work together to buy materials, decide on the day and time to organize, and pick the type of calendar you want to you. This will also hopefully allow for some buy-in on your child’s part, “What, me? Organize my stuff? No way, Mom!”

Now the organization part:

This will be hard only the first time, hopefully, especially if your child has held on to every. single. paper from the school year. Go through and decide: keep or toss? Keep in mind there may be some things in there that hold sentimental value to your child, “I sat next to my bestie when I painted this picture- There’s no way I’m tossing it!” We keep art projects and “AWESOME JOB!” projects separate from school work; this way it won’t get messed up and they can show it to their kids someday!

Here are some examples of what we deem worthy of keeping and tossing:

  • Study guide: Keep
  • Completed quiz or test: Keep
  • Notes from class: Keep
  • Completed assignments (including homework): Toss
  • Drafts for writing assignments: Keep if they haven’t done the draft yet; otherwise, toss. Here’s a suggestion, though, keep one writing assignment and its components from draft to final so your child can see their editing style and process. Maybe even keep one from the beginning of the year so they can compare it to an end of the year writing to see how much progress they’ve made.
  • Old science labs: toss
  • Bell ringers or exit tickets: Toss
  • Old art projects: Up to you
  • Completed big projects: Up to you

Creating a personal Learning Library

Now that you have your piles sorted, here’s where the accordion binders come into play: you can either do one for each subject (if your child likes to keep things) or just one total. Label each section a different subject. It is helpful to color code the tabs or multiple folders with calendar items (i.e. blue is for science: science tab is blue and assignments on the calendar are blue). If using one per subject, have your child work to organize based on topic, date, etc. Whatever method they feel is best to find materials. These binders can then be kept at home not only to free up needed space in backpacks and binders for MORE paperwork, but also to create their personal Learning Library. Remember, this is a process!

Way to go! Now your child has a personal Learning Library! Using the calendar and their Learning Library, your child now has an organized way to study for upcoming tests and quizzes and not feel like they are carrying the weight of a small elephant on their back.

What are ways you help your child get organized?

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