What is it?
Planning and organization are important cognitive processes that assist individuals in managing their selves to achieve a goal. For a student, that goal could include daily outcomes such as showing up to school on-time, or more time-intensive endeavors such as completing a semester-long science project. Planning refers to the ability to map-out the necessary steps to reach that goal. Organization refers to the ability to create and use a system to store and keep track of important items, whether that be materials (e.g. pencils, homework, car keys) or information (e.g. order of operations).
When do you use it?
Planning and organization skills are used in a majority of tasks done on a daily basis. When a task is learned to mastery, doing it may feel like being on “auto-pilot”. However, even the simplest of tasks can be broken down into numerous steps. Simply turning in homework every morning is associated with a variety of steps and organizational systems.
Example for turning in homework successfully
|Complete HW previous evening||Evening routine that includes time for completing HW|
|Place completed work in folder / backpack||System for moving materials between school and home|
|Arrive to class next day||Locate classroom: mental map of school locations|
|Open backpack||Have backpack with necessary materials|
|Take out folder||Folders organized by subject|
|Take out homework||Homework organized within folder|
|Place homework in bin||Understand classroom organizational systems|
What are some examples of strategies?
To-do lists help plan the steps to complete a task. Having a student create a to-do list will help them organize their thinking, and the list will serve as a visual reminder of what needs to be done as they complete the task(s). Students can be involved in the creation of a to-do list by asking guiding questions such as, “what will finished look like?”, “what needs to happen first”, “what needs to happen next?”, and “are there any steps you need help with?”
Visually supported environments promote organization. Cues including labelling with text and/or pictures, colour-coding, and defining boundaries will help create organizational systems.
An example that combines both these strategies is a keychain with a written list of items students should put in their backpack. The list is colour-coded to reference each item. This could be easily adapted with pictures of the items in lieu of text. When attached to the student’s backpack, it serves as a visual cue that promotes planning and organization.
Dawson, P., & Guare, R. (2009). Smart but scattered: The revolutionary ‘executive skills’ approach to helping kids reach their potential. New York, NY: Guilford.
Cooper-Kahn, J., & Dietzel, L. (2008). Late, lost and unprepared. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House.
Moraine, P. (2016). Autism and everyday executive function. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.