Students Speak: Organizing and Prioritizing

Student sitting at desk studying for an exam

When teachers tell students to stay organized, what exactly does that mean? In the SMARTS curriculum, lessons on organizing and prioritizing are broken down into two units: strategies for materials and time and strategies for information and ideas. 

When it comes to organizing information and ideas, strategies can vary. Students might:

  • Organize information from a text through structured and frequent practice identifying the main ideas in paragraphs to understand basic writing structures. 
  • Organize writing using graphic organizers to create a systematic approach to writing. 
  • Organize note-taking by determining what information is essential and using strategies to sort, categorize, and remember information.
  • Organize for studying by identifying information to memorize for upcoming tests as well as prioritizing the review of the information that is not well understood.

What do students think about organizing and prioritizing? Throughout ResearchILD’s Student Ambassador Program this past fall, students were encouraged to think about their thinking and how executive function processes impact their daily experiences in school and at home.

Here are some of their ideas about what organizing and prioritizing mean to them:

Students Speak: What do organizing and prioritizing mean to you?

  • “Organizing means keeping everything neat or clean and knowing where it is. What prioritizing means to me is time management and importance in your daily lives. For example, doing a writing prompt that is due tomorrow instead of usually drawing for fun.”
  • “Structuring your thoughts and choosing something over another.”
  • “Figuring out what is most important out of your upcoming assignments and organizing your ideas/materials in ways that will assist you.”
  • “Organizing means to sort information or objects into different areas. Prioritizing is the ability to organize the time or importance of tasks.”
  • “Finding a system that works for you and helps you complete your work.”

Students Speak: What is one strategy you use to organize and prioritize your time, materials, or information?

  • “If I have missing homework, I put them in a document to organize them.”
  • “Write it out.”
  • “With modern technology, a lot of schools including mine organize a lot of my assignments for me which is something that I use when doing homework.”
  • “Planning chapters out event by event ahead of time (usually four or five ahead, sometimes seven) so I know what events need to happen in a certain order to make it happen.”
  • “List out my assignments in order of what needs to be done first.”

Overall, organization involves the creation of a meaningful structure for ordering parts into a cohesive whole. Strategies for organizing and prioritizing systematically help students to achieve their goals.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development: