6 Steps to Lighten Your Student’s Backpack!

‘The backpack’ is a dream for a packrat.  I seem to remember standing at my locker looking at my assignment sheets for twenty minutes, and then just deciding…”ughh, I’ll just take home everything, just in case.”

student-heavy-backpack.pngIn Sophomore year, my backpack had babies, or found its long lost cousins.  I could no longer fit all of my books, sports equipment, lunch, water bottle, pencil case, planner and extra sweatshirt into one bag.  I got a tote, and then a sports bag and then a laptop case.

By Senior year, I had chronic shoulder pain and actually dreaded the end of school because I knew I had to get all of my stuff to the car.  It took me 12 years of school but, I finally figured out how to lighten my load.

Now that I have been working with kids to organize them, I have tweaked my methods and want to share them with you so you can lighten your kids backpack weight!

1)    Use a Planner with Special Spaces

First, your child needs to use some kind of planner or calendar where they write down all assignments, after-school events and homework.   This is important in every area of their life and will make it much easier to cut down on taking un-needed books home.  The ‘special space of the planner’ is really important.  Here is a picture of my sample planner page (I just had two blank pages I typed up every two weeks to really cut down on weight)


After each classes homework assignment I had a space for “To Do.”  When I was in class I wrote down exactly what I needed to take home so I did not have to think about it at my locker.

If you want, you can download the one I give to my clients, here.doc.

2)    Use Spirals
Instead of carrying around massive amounts of paper in each binder, I eliminated binders all together (see where I put papers below) because they weigh more than spirals and I had a shared spiral for every two classes.  So instead of 5 binders with paper and dividers and every test I had ever taken, I had 3 spirals (2 partitions in each).


3)    Use a Laptop
Today, I tell my tech savvy clients to take out all of the paper in each binder and take all of their notes in a laptop (if the laptop is light and the school allows it).  They also have their planner in their computer.

4) Use a filing system
Ok so the spirals have places for notes, but how about all of the other papers.  Its time to use those syllabi and assignment sheets!  There is no need for students to carry all of their old tests, handouts and homework’s to and from class.  Instead of taking binders to and from school. Binders should stay at home and each day, kids will file away old papers into the notebooks. (they will then be organized come midterm time)

5) Use a homework binder
What about the homework and handouts you do need in class?  You will get a 1 inch binder with dividers for each class.  All unfinished and finished homework, assignment sheets or handouts needed for class that week, will go into these dividers in the homework binder (some students prefer to have 5 minifolders for each class in this binder).  I used to put my planner and a notebook hole puncher in this binder as well.
*I used the front flap of this binder for papers I needed to bring home and give to my parents so I would not forget.

6)    Get two sets of textbooks
This is a more expensive option.  But it makes it easier to have a set of books in your locker and one set of books at home.  It cuts down on a lot of weight.

Old Backpack:
5  2 to 3-inch binders filled with papers, notes, assignment sheets and blank paper.

On this system, this is what your kid’s backpack will look like:
2 Spirals or 1 Laptop
1  1-inch Homework Binder with planner pages and current notes and some blank paper.

Better right? Even if you do one of these steps, the backpack will get a little bit lighter.  I really encourage using a form of this system for a few weeks and then having your kid tweak it to what is right for them!

*Image Courtesy of: http://nodehillfrench.typepad.com

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No Responses to “6 Steps to Lighten Your Student’s Backpack!”

  1. Tracey
    May 6, 2008 at 3:10 pm #

    Great ideas! Here are some of things that I incorporate into a child’s organizational plan if it is needed.
    1.I put a lot of my students on the 1/2″ binder system. They have a soft-sided 1/2″ binder for all 4 core subjects. Every night everything goes home. Every morning everything comes back. These binders are very lightweight. Parents and students now have no excuse for not reviewing their notes or completing assignments. Many of the parents send their child back to school to get their binders if they forget (the custodian is at school until 10:00 pm!)

    2. NO ZIPPERED BINDERS ALLOWED!! They encourage kids to throw in their sheets and zip it up quick instead of putting things back in the right place.

    3.Only the unit we are studying at the moment is allowed in the binder. Previous units are filed in the classroom filing cabinet.

    4. Use a daily agenda as well as a “Long Term Projects” sheet. When projects/tests are assigned, it goes on the “LTP Sheet” which is stapled into their agenda at the beginning of the week. The night before the project/test
    is required I move that assignment into the “Daily” agenda and erase it or cross it off the “LTP” sheet. They are encouraged to check their LTP sheet nightly and plan accordingly.

    Hope these help!

    The Head Monkey

  2. Vanessa
    May 8, 2008 at 9:21 am #


    these are fabulous ideas. I totally agree about the keeping old units at home. I wish teachers sometimes were more amenable to this. I have some clients who have teachers that require their kids have everything all the time and they cannot file away old tests and papers into binders at home—infuriating!
    thanks for the tips!

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