Over the years I have helped my children and some of their best friends develop a system for organizing their school work. This system has worked for my family and I hope this will help some of you as the new school year begins. My MESS method of organization for core curriculum subjects works especially well when it is time for students to clean out their binder and separate the materials being taught in school from course material other than core subjects.
Some schools call them part of the Core Curriculum while others call them Team Subjects. These are the classes and subjects all students are required to study year after year from 1st grade through senior year in high school. Individually they are known as Math, English, Science and Social Studies. Math can be anything from addition and subtraction to geometry and calculus. English includes grammar and writing as well as literature and vocabulary. Science moves from simple hands on experiments to very sophisticated physics, chemistry and biological studies. Finally, Social Studies include the studies of many fields to help students develop civic competencies. These studies can include history and psychology as well as other natural sciences such as philosophy and religion.
Most of these subjects can be organized into one binder when children are younger; however, as time goes on each will usually require its own notebook or folder. Also, as students move to higher grade levels the amount of work produced and accumulated for each subject increases exponentially. Assignments get bigger, material gets more complex and the academics become more important and relevant. Also, as times goes on, the need to organize these materials into subjects becomes critical to academic success.
So what happens when a month has gone by and you or your children empty their backpack to find a pile of unorganized papers and projects? It’s easy. Start with a MESS organizing system to make life easy. You simply start by placing four pieces of paper in front of you on your desk. Each pile will be titled one of the following: Math-English-Science-Social studies.
M for Math – all math and math related papers go into this pile.
E for English – all English papers, projects, and tests go into this pile
S for Science – all science homework, papers, notes go into this pile
S for Social Studies – all materials related to history go into this pile.
Now take the papers and go through them one at a time placing them in the appropriate piles. Whatever paper you no longer need to carry with you can be filed using the same headings. If you need to take them with you everyday, then keep them in the appropriate notebooks filed under Math, English, Science and Social Studies. Without much thought or work you have now used the MESS system to organize your core subjects. After you or your young students go through this process a few times, you and they will find the system can be used not only to organize the work, but also to understand that these are the courses and classes to focus on and study the hardest. As a result, you will also have a clean MESS in that backpack.
Overtime, this acronym becomes a mindless reminder of your homework assignments and other requirements such as important papers or projects or work to be completed for the core subjects. Of course, not all organizational systems work for everyone, so give it a try and if it works – stay with it.
National Council for the Social Studies
Teach Students to Organize Core Subjects into MESS for success