About planning and organisation

Some students may need support in learning planning and organisation skills. This may include providing support in breaking a task down, working out what materials they will need, and planning their response, as well as organising and managing their time. They may need extra support to get started on a task and to complete a task within a set period of time. Some students may need help to remember to bring their homework to or from school and support with organising their lockers or bags and keeping track of their belongings.

Evidence-based strategies

  • Simplify instructions and learning. Consider breaking down big tasks into smaller ones. For example, give step-by-step instructions or visual instructions (i.e. pictures). It may be helpful to check their understanding before moving on to the next step or activity. For example, ask them to repeat instructions or answer questions.
  • Model tasks and the underlying strategies or thinking. Students may learn more effectively if shown how to do a task. Consider talking out loud to demonstrate the strategies you use to problem solve when working on the task.
  • Create a consistent daily routine. Rules and routines help a student know what is planned for the day so that they know what to do if they have missed instructions. Consider using a timer/clock to help teens learn to manage their time and routines. Routines that include specific times for students to organise their materials (e.g. tidy up their belongings) and activities (e.g. write in diary their homework or checklist of things to take home) may be particularly helpful.
  • Set simple and clear goals. Consider letting students choose goals. These could be short statements that describe positive and achievable behaviours that students understand. Check that the goals set include behaviours that can be seen and counted. Update goals as they progress.
  • Teach self-instruction skills. Consider guiding students to problem solve so they can persist with school work instead of getting frustrated. For example, they can follow these steps mentally or think out loud: “What is the problem?”, “What are my options?”, “I think this is the best option”, “Am I following my plan?” and “How did I do it?”
  • Guide students to self-evaluate. Students can be taught to rate their choices and outcomes, and write down what has helped or stopped them from achieving their goals. Teachers can help students be more accurate in their evaluations by recording their own observations.
  • Teach time-management skills. Help teens to manage their own time. Show them how to organise after school commitments using an evening schedule.
  • Teach organisation strategies explicitly. Tools such as colour-coded books/folders, planners or checklists can be used to help students keep track of notes, books, homework, assignments and key dates. AllPlay Learn’s locker organisation poster may be helpful. Access this under relevant resources below.
  • Teach note-taking skills. Students can be taught note-taking and summarising skills during a lesson through simple and direct instructions. Prompts and redirection may help students to take accurate notes. This support can be reduced when they can record information and write notes clearly and concisely without help.
  • Teach students how to plan and organise their work. It may be helpful to teach students how to use a diary or planner and to give them prompts when they need to write things down. Teachers can check and sign diaries/planners. For example, teach students to (i) write tasks to be completed on the left side of the planner, and tasks to be handed in on the right, (ii) divide their work into “to do”, “doing” and “done” groups, or (iii) write a checklist in their diary each day so they can tick off completed items and write in incomplete items for the next day.
  • Teach students how to break a task down. Some students may need to be shown how to break down projects and study into smaller tasks, and to manage their time. This may include teaching them how to define large tasks and the smaller subtasks, and scheduling these tasks so that they can complete the task by a set time.
  • Provide tools to help students get started on a task. Some students may find it difficult to plan how to respond to a given task, and therefore may find getting started on the task challenging. Visual storyboards may help some students plan out a story, and writing a list of key points for an assignment may help some students organise their thoughts. Some students may respond well to discussion around the different directions they can take a task in, while others may find problem solving or “key questions to ask myself” helpful. Considering a student’s learning style and the nature of the activity can help identify which supports may be best suited to a student’s strengths and abilities.
  • Other considerations

  • When setting homework consider what types of activities they could complete within a set time or to a set standard, and consider teaching students how to use a homework planner.
  • Consider asking parents to use a consistent homework routine at home. This may be doing homework in a distraction-free area at a fixed time. They can also check that tasks in the planner are finished and provide encouragement.
  • The time between ending a lesson (e.g. putting away a book) and starting a new lesson (e.g. listening to teacher instruction, carrying out the task, and waiting for start of lesson) may be challenging for some students.
  • Students may also have challenges with behaviour, emotions, learning and memory, and thinking/cognition, or experience attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, specific learning disability, intellectual disability or oppositional defiant disorder.
  • Refer to information about these areas to help support the student.
  • Relevant resources

    Visit our resources page for a range of resources that can help to create inclusive education environments for students with disabilities and developmental challenges. Some particularly relevant resources for supporting students with planning and organisational issues include:

    Strengths and abilities communication checklist
    Locker checklist
    Problem solving guide
    Story - how to be organised

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