Getting Your Students Organized

Shannon HoldenThis article was written by Shannon Holden, Assistant Principal, Republic Middle School, MO, and host of our TechTools, New Teacher Help, and Stop Bullying communities on edWeb. The article was originally posted in the April 2014 issue of Principal Leadership Magazine.

Let’s face it, students have the potential to be a bit disorganized. How do we give students the ability to organize and track their assignments from as many as seven different classes when the reality is that most of them have trouble keeping their rooms from looking like disaster areas!

As educators, we have tried several different methods over the years. Remember the Trapper Keeper that students were encouraged to buy during the 1980s? I had one, but it didn’t lead to the desired result. The use of backpacks was also a failure, as most students’ backpacks are 50-pound masses of never-opened books— with huge wads of papers mashed in the bottoms. Some schools have spent thousands of dollars a year on student planners in an attempt to help students develop the organizational skills they need to succeed. For the most part, however, this money has been wasted.

In the 21st century, there is a glimmer of hope. Schools are using digital resources to go paperless and save their school districts thousands of dollars on photocopier contracts, endless boxes of paper, student planners, and printer cartridges. Please do not assume that those tools can enable a school to go 100% without paper – that’s not accurate. They do, however, greatly reduce the costs associated with traditional organizational methods.

UntitledTwo excellent tools that teachers can use to get students organized are Evernote and Dropbox. Both of those tools are free, and they integrate seamlessly with other services—such as DropItToMe, Yahoo Mail, Send to Dropbox, and Turnitin—to make it easy for students to submit their work in a timely manner.

Not only can those tools help students organize their assignments, but they also make it possible for students to take legible notes and share them with classmates. Teachers can also receive notes from students and assign them a grade for their note-taking skills. Parents can also be brought into the loop, because teachers can forward their student’s notes to parents via e-mail to keep them informed of their student’s progress in class. Every set of notes can be assigned a “tag,” which makes it searchable so it can be easily found.

If you would like a free in-depth PD session on Evernote and Dropbox, join’s TechTools for the Classroom community at