Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tips for Organizing Your Student

Helping your child develop good organizational skills can maximize his or her success in school and better equip your student for the middle and high school years. When my youngest was in fourth grade, he had an issue with losing paperwork and missing due dates on assignments. While he was and is a bright young man, he found this frustrating and it impacted his school performance and self-esteem. Here are a few tips we used that can help your student better track and complete assignments, study for tests and accomplish projects at school and home:

Form Good Habits - Once everyone has relaxed after school, help your student get the ball rolling by reviewing the day and creating a plan for what needs to be done.
* Check the Planner and Communications Folder – Sit down with your young student and discuss what school work needs doing for the evening. His or her planner and any communications folders contain assignments and important notes and letters from the teachers. If he or she is not using the planner regularly, encourage its use and discuss how it can help in future years when the assignments will be more frequent and challenging.
* Plan the Evening Together – If age-appropriate, work together to set daily and weekly goals for getting the work done, taking into account any family plans. This gives your student a sense of “ownership” for the plan, knowledge of what will happen each evening and a sense of pride when the work is done.

Ask Good Questions – When planning, studying or working on homework, ask your student great questions that will help him or her think of a solution to an issue and encourage independent thinking. If, for example, your student tends to misplace completed assignments, try asking, “What one or two places can you think of for safely keeping this assignment?” In this case, your student might suggest a folder, binder or backpack.

Design a Few Simple Rules – Watch the flow of a typical evening to identify “bumpy” areas that could benefit from a rule. When a few rules are in place and consistently enforced, you and your child will find the evenings less stressful. Examples of good rules might be “Your homework isn’t finished until it is loaded in the backpack" and “Homework gets done before the electronics goes on”.

Designate an area for each student’s school items - A cubby with a basket could hold books, graded papers, a backpack and any other school-related items. Everything can go back in the cubby at the end of the homework period. Now your student knows right where to look to find his or her school things the next morning!

These tips can help in smoothing the flow of weekday evenings. As your student grows, encourage him or her to do more of this independently. In my household, my middle and high school sons apply most of these ideas with great success. Good task management skills are vital to any busy person and will help your child not only in the growing up years but throughout his or her adult life.