Organize your child: Color-coding and labeling school supplies

At Big’s school last year, he was given 2 identical notebooks: one for spelling, one for homework assignments. On the outside, the notebooks looked exactly the same–both had only his name on the cover. For the first few weeks of school, he faced complete confusion: writing homework in his spelling book, unable to find his spelling words in his homework book, and, often, bringing home the wrong book.

The first week of school, I asked if we could label one book with a title. Nervous, because he didn’t know the teacher and didn’t want to do wrong by her, he refused.

But after another 2 weeks of confusion, he agreed that we needed an organization solution. A very simple one.

I took out a marker and labeled the books: homework and spelling. It amazed me that the teacher didn’t lead her 7 and 8 year old students in writing “HOMEWORK” and “SPELLING” on their books, but I suppose she didn’t see this as something in which students needed guidance. (Teachers, please note: students need guidance because they’re afraid to do something against your grain.)

Next, I highlighted the outside of each book a different color, so that when quickly reaching for each book, Big would know which color to look for.

After adopting this organizational tactic of labeling and color-coding, all confusion between the two books ceased. It was amazing what a simple change will make.

Lesson learned for both me and Big. This year, I’m keeping my eyes open on both the kids’ supplies. As soon as we determine the purpose of books, we’re pulling out sticker label that the kids can decorate to title each notebook and folder with not only their name (which is already on there) but also the purpose of each.

Such a simple concept, but a lesson learned.

mom of 3 and wife living in the Philadelphia suburbs, Julie is a former elementary school teacher and a Public Relations manager. She is the owner/editor of Julieverse, a merchandiser with Chloe + Isabel ( and founder VlogMom and Splash Creative Media. A marketing strategist and freelance education and parenting writer by trade, Julie attempts to carve out time to enjoy playing with her kids, PTO, cooking and exercise.

© 2012, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.


  1. says

    I know some parents complained about my specific school supply list back when I was teaching- I’d ask for red, blue, green, and yellow plastic folders. But it was so much easier when they needed their math folder and I could just say “Take out your green folder…” Much quicker for the kids to find and to keep them all organized!

  2. says

    my oldest is starting middle school and after looking at his supply list, I decided (in ALL my type-A glory) to assign each subject a color. . .so our LA binder is Red, as is our pencil case. Science is a green binder and a green folder. . .and so on. Organization is not his strong point – and I want to make the fear he has over having his first locker as little as possible.


    • says

      that’s awesome. When I taught, the teacher always assigned the colors so that EVERYONE had a blue math folder. I’m sure it’s different in middle school, but it makes me wonder what’s changed in elementary school?

      Also, how strange is this? My 3rd grader doesn’t know what “Language Arts” is. I thought for sure they’d still be calling it that!

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