Here's the April OT Tip of the Month. This one is on teaching student to keep their desks and work organized!
One of the most frequent complaints I hear from teachers is “ their desk is a mess!”
One of the most frequent things I hear students say when asked to locate an item in their desk is “ I don’t know where it is.”
What do these 2 statements have in common? They are both the product of having too many items to manage and not enough space in the desk to neatly arrange them. In addition, for students who struggle with organizational skills and visual memory, cleaning out their desk and expecting them to remember just sometimes isn’t enough help.
A couple of my favorite recommendations that I have seen implemented this school year are a classroom depot where all crayons, glue sticks, scissors, markers, rulers, and reading guides are kept, as well as a plastic tote that is placed on the floor next to the students desk. Not only are these great ways to decrease desk clutter, they both provide a much needed movement break when a student goes to gather their items.
A great strategy to increase students self- awareness and responsibility in maintaining an organized and neat desk space is to use a visual support which I call the “Just Right Desk.” Students love taking pictures, so I begin by having them take a picture of their desk. This will be the “before” picture. After organizing the desk space with the student, I have the student take another picture of the finished product. This is the “after picture.” It is very important to do this with the student for 2 reasons. First, if they are part of the process they will be invested in maintaining the final product. Second, they will be able to provide feedback as to how efficient it is to access the materials and what preferences they may have. I then have the student look at the 2 pictures and determine which picture looks more organized and easier to find items in. The pictures are a great tool in assisting students in recognizing the difference and when they state the “after” picture is the neater and more organized of the 2 desks, I refer to that desk as the “Just Right Desk.” I then laminate the picture and either secure it to the side of the desk, or in a place in the classroom where it can be easily obtained such as on a side of a magnetic file cabinet or the white board with magnetic tape or a magnetic clip. The visual is then used to assist the student in maintaining a neat desk area as they can look at their desk and compare it to the picture. If they do not look the same, they can refer to the picture and organize it so they match.
The feedback I have received from students has been that the picture really helps! Classroom teachers have also shared that not only are students are taking pride in maintaining a neat desk space, they are able to locate items much faster. So, if your objective is to assist your student in improving organizational skills as well as maintain a neater desk space, give the “Just Right Desk” a try!
Michele L. Frommer, OTR/L
Thanks for sharing, Michele!