Monday, October 12, 2015

Time to Get Organized: A Guidance Lesson for Middle School Special Education Students

This is a guidance lesson that is designed for use with middle school students in special education classes. Students who have difficulty focusing or with organization will especially benefit from this lesson. Students must be able to read at a second grade level to understand what is taught without modification. This lesson will take anywhere from 25-45 minutes, depending on class size and whether or not all suggested activities are included. While the intent of this lesson is to support students in a special education setting, this information can be valuable to general education students as well.

With six classes each day, multiple homework assignments each night, countless activities and busy social lives, being a middle school student can be overwhelming and stressful. Disabilities that impair motor skills, processing skills or make it difficult to focus can make this even more challenging. Acquiring the skills to be organized and manage time well can lead to feelings of self-efficacy and improved grades in students. Proper organization skills can help students to not only keep track of assignments, but also to come to class prepared. Following this lesson, students may realize that making an effort to be organized, planning ahead and studying regularly can help their lives to go smoothly.

Guidance Activity

For This Lesson, You Will Need:
  • “My Schedule,” “My Studying Tips,” and “My Locker Design” Handouts (available for download here)
  •  Writing utensils
  • An organized binder complete with:
    • Dividers
    • Notebook paper
    • Pencil pouch
    • Writing utensils (pens, pencils, highlighters)

Opening Discussion
Suggested dialogue: Imagine two students. One student, Billy, woke up when his alarm went off, ate a healthy breakfast and arrived to school on time. He comes with all of the school supplies he needs and drops off what he doesn’t need for his first class at his locker. He has extra time, so he checks his planner for assignments that are due today. He puts them in the front of his binder so that they are easy to retrieve. He arrives to class feeling relaxed and set for a great day. Another student, Jack, wakes up ten minutes before class starts. Yikes! He picks up some dirty clothes off his bedroom floor, throws them on and races to class. Incidentally, he is late. Then he realizes he never ate breakfast and forgot his planner at home. When he gets to class, he looks in his binder for his homework and can’t find it in the mess of papers. He gives a frustrated sigh and asks his teacher if he can look in his locker.
Discussion Prompts:
  • Who do you think had a better morning?
  • What can you do to be like the first student?
  • How is life different when you are organized?
  • How are you like Billy\? How are you like Jack sometimes?
"My Schedule" Activity
*This activity coincides with the "My Study Tips" handout.

Ways I Can Make My Morning Go Smoothly: Suggested discussion: Now, look at your “My Study Skills” handout (Display on a doc cam if possible).  Did you know that being organized starts with getting ready in the morning? Let’s talk about how to start our days off on the right foot. What are some ways that we can make mornings less stressful? (Answers may include eating a healthy breakfast, setting out outfits the night before, giving yourself plenty of time to get ready, getting backpack ready, etc.) Write down five suggestions for yourself.

Using My Planner: Suggested discussion: In middle school, there is a lot to remember. A good way to remind yourself of what you have to do each day is to use a planner. Raise your hand if you use a planner. How do you use it? What are some tips for using your planner that you would tell a new student? Write down 3 tips for using your planner. A planner only works if it is used. When is a good time to write down assignments in your planner? (Possible answers include after my work is done, after school or after homework is assigned. Prompt students to write down answers).

My Study Habits: Suggested discussion: Let’s talk about good study habits. When do you feel most alert and focused? Is it in the morning when you just wake up? Is it right after school? Are you a night owl? (Students discuss and write down answers). Where do you like to go to study? (Allow for student answers). Write down three of your favorite places to study. 

My Organized Binder: Suggested discussion: Here’s an example of an organized binder. (Demonstrate using a sample binder). I am going to pass this around so you get ideas for what you want your own binder to look like.
What do you notice? Do you see how easy it would be for this person to find what they need? When is it a good idea to save an assignment? Recycle? Save for later? 
(Prompt students to write their own answers down).

My Supplies: Suggested discussion: I want to make sure you have the school supplies that you need. Sometimes we lose our supplies or they fall apart. Put a check mark next to each item on the “My Supplies” checklist. (Read off each item individually and prompt students to check off what they have). If you do not have supplies, please see me afterwards (Discuss options for getting supplies with students after class). Now, you are going to place this handout in the front of your binder for safekeeping.

Optional Activity: “My Organized Locker”
If time allows, students can design how they would like their lockers to be organized using the “My Organized Locker” handout.
Discussion Prompts:
  • How often should I clean out my locker?
  • Where should I put items that I need for classes a lot?
  • What kind of items should I keep in my locker for emergencies? 
Closing Discussion
Suggested discussion: As you can tell, being organized can make it a lot easier to be successful as a student. What did you learn today? What changes are you going to make to your study habits? In what ways are you planning to be more organized in the future?

Helpful Hints
  • Ensure school supplies are on hand for students that cannot afford school supplies or have supplies that are falling apart.
  • Provide resources to students that need extra help or a quiet place to study (ex. after school homework help, organization club, tutoring programs, etc.)
  •  Give instructions one at a time to help students to fully process and focus.
  • Encourage students to answer both verbally and in writing.
  • Use developmentally appropriate language.
  • Give extra time to students that take longer with tasks than others.
  • Make handouts double-sided and in a bright color so they are easy to find. Hole punch handouts so that students can store them in their binder.
  • Choose a transitional period such as at the beginning of a new semester to teach this lesson.

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