4 ways kids use organization skills to learn

4 ways kids use organization skills to learn. A child reads a book in class.

At a glance

  • Organization affects learning in four key ways.

  • Trouble with organization affects kids’ ability to store and retrieve information for learning.

  • Math can be particularly hard to learn for kids with organization challenges.

When kids have organization challenges, opening their backpacks can be a frightening experience. Crumpled assignments and tests, school announcements from two months ago, even a missing house key — it’s a mess!

Many people think of organization skills as the ability to keep things in order. But people also use those skills to keep their thoughts in order to retrieve and use information effectively.

Kids who struggle with organization have trouble handling information in an effective and logical way. They often have difficulty setting priorities, making plans, sticking to a task, and getting things done. These skills become increasingly important as they move through different grade levels.

Here are four ways kids use organization skills to learn.

1. Organization and following directions

Following through on directions requires kids to do two things: focus on what needs to be done and come up with a game plan to do it. Both of these require mental organization and planning.

Kids with strong organization skills can often follow directions without even thinking about it. They can plan steps to get something done. But when kids have organization challenges, they may not be able to see the progression of steps contained in directions or even know where to start.

2. Organization and learning to read

Kids use organization skills in subtle ways when first learning to read. Imagine that kids have a mental filing system where they store the uppercase and lowercase versions of a letter together with the sound (or sounds) that letter makes. Learning requires connecting sounds to letters. Whenever they see a letter, they can pull out the sound that goes with it from their mental filing system.

The filing system becomes more complicated when kids start trying to read sight words. These are common words that kids learn to recognize by sight. They need to match what the word looks like to what the word sounds like and what it means.

If kids struggle with organization, they may have trouble retrieving the necessary information to connect letters to sounds and groups of letters to the things they stand for.

3. Organization and literacy learning

Literacy, which is the combination of reading, writing, and grammar skills, requires a number of organization strategies. For kids to read books and write, they have to keep track of many things at once: characters and their relationships, plot, sequences of events, supporting details, and the main idea. Nonfiction requires keeping track of subject-specific vocabulary.

Kids who struggle with organization may not be able to gather all that information and organize it. And if they have to stop and look up words while reading, they may not be able to pick up where they left off.

4. Organization and learning math

Kids must use organization skills to learn the rules and procedures of math. Math also involves organizing information based on relationships, such as sorting things into groups by size, color, or shape. As math gets more abstract, it’s harder to create mental categories for sorting the information.

Kids also need organization skills to solve word problems using clue words (such as fewer than to mean subtraction). If kids have trouble with organization, being able to store and retrieve rules and facts can be challenging.

Ways to help

Challenges with organization might make learning harder for some kids. But there are strategies that can help.

Key takeaways

  • Organization skills allow kids to come up with a plan and follow through to get work done.

  • Tools like checklists and planners can help kids get more organized.

  • Organization challenges can make learning harder, but not impossible.


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