Many middle schoolers have difficulty managing paperwork.
Middle schoolers are managing more details and information than you think:
locker combinations and room numbers, class schedules, which passing periods are best for bathroom breaks, etc. (article by the National Education Association on the transition to middle school)
In addition, they have their attention on their social lives: which group of friends they’re in, who likes/doesn’t like them, and what they’re going to say to that boy or girl.
Most middle schoolers have a binder for each class, but they don’t have a system for managing paperwork in ALL classes.
As a retired teacher, I can say that it’s definitely a good idea to follow each teacher’s recommendation for using x binder, x folder, x notebook, organized in x way.
For managing ALL middle school paperwork that spans ALL classes, I suggest 5 folders to handle paper flow.*
- To Study
- next, To Do
- To File
- then, To Recycle
- To Turn In
If we start from the point where a student receives a piece of paper, there are 5 possible actions that he/she will take.
The first possible action is to study it. This is folder #1: To Study. The second possible action is to complete it or do it. This is folder #2: To Do.
The third possible action is to file the paper away, as in a graded paper or test. This is folder #3: To File.
Eventually, papers become entirely obsolete, and all there is to do is recycle them. This is folder #4: To Recycle.
The fifth and final folder is To Turn In, a folder that should receive only papers that the student will give back to a teacher.
This 5-folder system flows, relieves stress, and develops useful habits.
These folders can be kept in a separate “all-school” binder. They do require some management, however. A middle schooler should not be fooled into thinking that this system will take care of itself.
I suggest making a habit of tending to these folders at regular times; for example, right after school, and in the afternoon or evening after homework is completed.
What about managing paperwork, if the class is online and/or the assignments are digital?
Some teachers don’t hand out papers, but run their classes digitally. They post assignments online, and students complete them and submit them online. There’s no managing paperwork!
I suggest Google Drive, or another virtual hard drive. Create an assignment log for each digital class. This way, you can access it anywhere that you have internet.
Include the following columns, not necessarily in this order: name or number of assignment (or other identifier); concept(s); date completed and submitted; notes, and questions for the teacher.
For a comprehensive look at academic success for middle-schoolers, go to Success in Middle School: 10 Essential Ingredients.