Search form

[content block]

Dr. Ken Shore's
Classroom Problem Solver

Forgetful Behavior

Some students practice forgetfulness with an almost religious zeal. Their memory lapses can extend to all aspects of school, from copying down assignments to bringing in lunch money; from remembering their daily schedule to getting permission slips signed. If you have many students who are memory challenged, you can find yourself spending considerable time tending to their needs, often at the expense of classroom lessons.

Remembering school responsibilities is an essential part of being a student. Fortunately, for most students, it also is a skill that can be learned. Many students can be helped to remember more effectively through memory aids and classroom accommodations. Others require an absence of aid; they need to learn from their mistakes without being bailed out by the teacher.


Allow students to borrow items on the condition they return them. Set up a loaner box with such classroom supplies as pens, pencils, rulers, erasers and paper. Let students borrow those items, but have them sign a checkout sheet. Insist on the items' return at the end of each day and have students note the time of return on the checkout sheet.

Avoid bailing out the student. If you continually bail out a student when she forgets, she will have little incentive to remember. So, help her learn responsibility by letting her experience the natural consequences of forgetting. For example, if the student forgets to bring in her instrument, she can't play in the band concert. If she forgets to bring in her book report on the day it is due, she gets a lower grade. If, despite repeated requests, she forgets to bring in a signed permission slip allowing her to be on the safety patrol, she cannot participate. (Allow some latitude, however. You might not want her to miss a class trip because she forgot to bring back a permission slip by the due date.)

Assign the student a classroom partner. Ask the partner to help the student, by reminding her, when necessary, of classroom rules and routines and by making sure she takes home the materials she needs.

Give the student some memory aids. Teach her the acronym PANTS to remind her what she needs to bring to and from school every day: P = Parent information; A = Assignments; N = Notebook; T = Textbooks; and S = Student, namely herself. You also might have her make a list of end-of-the-day tasks that she can tape to her desk or binder.

Give the student a second set of books for home. Consider doing that with a student who consistently forgets to bring her books home -- or back to school. That way, she has no excuse for not doing her homework or class work. True, you might be bailing out the student by doing that, but violating that principle is acceptable if it allows the student to complete her assignments.

Use a signal or word to jog the student's memory. If a student tends to forget class routines or rules, remind her with an agreed-upon gesture or phrase. Or ask her a question to trigger her memory: "Jenna, where are you supposed to put your homework?" or "Serena, what is the classroom rule about using the bathroom?"

Send a reminder note to the student's parents. If a student is prone to forgetting about upcoming events or field trips, or deadlines for tests, projects, or book reports, send home a note informing her parents of the events and deadlines. You might extend that practice by sending the notices to all parents to the class. Send the notice the same time each week or month so parents come to expect it. You might attach permission forms to this notice too.

About Ken Shore

Dr. Kenneth Shore is a psychologist and chair of a child study team for the Hamilton, New Jersey Public Schools. He has written five books, including Special Kids Problem Solver and Elementary Teacher's Discipline Problem Solver.

Click to read a complete bio.