Category Archives: Executive Functioning Resources

Morning and Afternoon Routines

Morning and Afternoon Routines

By: Mary E. Miele, founder The Evolved Education, learning specialist and mother of three children

Parents know that morning and evening hours are challenging, especially at the start of school. So much needs to be done. There are many moving parts, and whether you have one child to get ready, to get homework done with, or to get to bed, or more than one child to care for, these hours can be difficult to manage.

The best piece of advice I can give you to avoid a ‘free for all’ in the morning or in the evening is to establish morning and evening routines with your K-12 student. If possible, begin these routines BEFORE school starts. By having your children work through the morning routine at least a week before school starts, your children will transition to school with better form.

For this article, I have divided the routines into suggestions for each grade category (early elementary, upper elementary, middle school and high school). Please visit our site for examples of checklists you can use for your child for his or her morning and evening routines.

EARLY ELEMENTARY:

Five steps to make your early elementary students’ mornings and evenings go well:

1) Make a list of what you need your child to do in the morning and in the evening.

2) Pair the list down to its MOST ESSENTIAL components. Children at this age need a FEW items to do, not MANY.

3) Find pictures to correspond with each task you wish your child to complete.

4) Place these pictures IN ORDER OF HOW YOU WANT THEM DONE onto a document. If you are computer savvy, you can create this document on the computer. You can also cut and paste pictures onto a piece of paper. I advise that you have your child do ALL of the ‘work’ tasks before playing (so in the morning get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, pack up backpack, THEN play)

5) BE CONSISTENT: Walk your child through the checklist and post the checklist. Keep it up–eventually, your child may know it so well that he or she will not even need to look at it!

UPPER ELEMENTARY:

Four steps to make your upper elementary students’ mornings and evenings go well:

1) Make a list of what you need your child to do in the morning and in the evening.

2) Have your child weigh in and let you know what order he or she wants to complete the tasks. For instance, if your child needs to get homework done, read, do a chore, eat dinner and brush his teeth, you can allow your child to read and do chores after or before dinner.

3) Put times onto the checklist so that your child knows when to get up, when to go to sleep, when dinner will be.

4) Be sure that your child understands what he or she will be doing in the afternoon. Each morning, it is a good idea to remind him or her what day it is and where he or she is going after school.

MIDDLE SCHOOL:

Four steps to make your middle school students’ mornings and evenings go well:

1) Before you meet with your middle school student, spend some time creating a list of the tasks you wish your pre-teen/teenager to complete in the morning and in the evening. Also, have your child do the same.

2) Have a meeting in which you negotiate the terms of the morning and afternoon routine. Of course you can deem certain items “non-negotiable” and others “negotiable”.  It is important for middle school students to have a voice in how they spend their time.

3) Talk about accountability for following routines. Agree upon what will happen if the routine is not followed. Talk about the privileges that will be in place if the routine is followed. Write these agreements down.

4) If you get push back on creating a routine with your middle school student, remind him or her that you are doing this to help; as in life, routines help us to achieve goals and to be successful in accomplishing important tasks. Sometimes knowing WHY a new set of rules are being established can help. Remind your child–when a middle school student has to juggle homework, studying, extra-curricular activities, social connections as well as self-care, a routine ensures that there is time to address each component of a middle school student’s life.

If nothing else works, “This is what we do in our family,” tends to be a reason that most pre-teens and teenagers cannot argue.

HIGH SCHOOL:

Four steps to make your high school students’ mornings and evenings go well:

1) Before you meet with your high school student, spend some time creating a list of the tasks you wish your teenager to complete in the morning and in the evening. Also, have your child do the same.

2) Have a meeting in which you negotiate the terms of the morning and afternoon routine. Of course, you can deem certain items “non-negotiable” and others “negotiable”.  It is important for high school students to have a voice in how they spend their time.

3) Talk about accountability for following routines. Agree upon what will happen if the routine is not followed. Talk about the privileges that will be in place if the routine is followed. Write these agreements down.

4) If you get push back on creating a routine with your high school student, remind him or her that you are doing this to help; as in life, routines help us to achieve goals and to be successful in accomplishing important tasks. Sometimes knowing WHY a new set of rules are being established can help. Remind your child–when a high school student has to juggle homework, studying, extra-curricular activities, social connections as well as self-care, a routine ensures that there is time to address each component of a high school student’s life.

If nothing else works, “This is what we do in our family,” tends to be a reason that most teenagers cannot argue.

Back to School Class Notes

Thank you to all who attended our back to school workshops!
Below are notes from our lectures, activities and discussions.
Please remember that all participants may call upon us as needed to strategize approaches to group work, organization, test taking strategies, and home-school-self care.

The students who attended this back to school class not only learned the content that is outlined below, but they also benefited from being in a group of their peers. By speaking with one another about tactics to be a strong student, they confirmed their own workable approaches, they learned specific tactics needed to be a strong student within each topic, and they shared stories and strategies from their own experiences with one another. Many renewed their goal to make this coming school year a strong one.

GROUP WORK

The following are approaches that we discussed before engaging in our own group work projects.

  • Before you begin any group work, understand your process:
  • Understand your objective
  • Write out the steps that you need to complete the task
  • Divide up the work equally among each participant
  • Make deadlines for each person’s role/task.
  • As you work, meet with your group members and share information, ask questions, use the group as a resource.
  • No matter what always do your best work. Sometimes classmates will not have your same drive, work ethic or expectations. Do your best for the group work project–do this for your own learning experience.
  • If a group member is not doing enough work, speak to him or her directly and be sure that at the end of the conversation he or she has a defined task. (e.g. Samantha will take notes on ____ by Wednesday at 6pm) Write down the agreement or email it to your group member so that you have a record of the agreement.
  • If you have tried to speak directly to the group member and he or she is not following up with what he or she agreed to do, then go to the teacher and ask for help.  If you are worried about going to the teacher, reach out to another adult to share your concerns. Make a plan to resolve the problem.
  • Try not to pick good friends to be in your group if they will distract you from work.

ORGANIZATION: 

The following are tactics that we discussed regarding organization:

Strategies for managing the school day: 

Get around the building with ease and preparedness:

  1. Print out a copy of your schedule for your planner, your locker and make one for your pocket.
  2. Organize what you need for various times in the school day. Make LOCKER STOPS when you can. Some students talked about being aloud to go to the lockers at different times of the day depending on their schools and schedules, so this is something that has to be worked out for each individual student. 
  3. Be prepared for the start of class. What do you need to have out for each class? Usually a binder, homework, something to write with or a computer.

Use your time wisely:

  1. Do homework during free periods or study halls.
  2. Meet with teachers to clarify any areas of confusion during free periods, or before or after school. We cannot stress this tactic enough! Successful students ask questions about what is confusing. 

Keep track of assignments and supplies needed to come home and back to school:

  1. Write down homework AS it is assigned with the due dates and all of the requirements.
  2. Write down what you need to bring home next to the assignment. Use all CAPS for what you need to bring home. This way you can quickly see at pack up time what you are supposed to have in your bag. 
  3. Use a homework folder. Divide the folder into “to-do” and “completed hw” sections. This helps to ensure that you have the homework to give in at class too.
  4. If you have a hard time remembering to give homework into class, you can always have a friend remind you or put a reminder in your planner or phone.

Strategies for managing after-school/work time: 

  1. Create an afternoon work routine.
  • Gather information on what you have to accomplish: check your online homework postings, your test calendars, your planner.
  • Write down all assignments in your planner. For studying and writing assignments, write down what you have to accomplish each day leading up to the due date.
  • Prioritize what you will complete. Do the assignments due the next day first. Complete the hardest assignments first.
  • Try to get your work done before you do fun activities such as online activities or socialization.
  • You need to employ discipline: doing what you do not love to do with 100% effort.

2. Study and organize each weekend.

  • Take time each weekend to review your notes and everything that you have learned.
  • Organize your binders, folders and notebooks.
  • For math: create a separate notebook to record tricky problems and their solutions so that you can go back and study them.
  • For history and science: create study guides for the information you have covered. Use the blue notebooks that were handed out–they have really useful formatting, with two-column notes where a student can take notes on one side and create questions on the other side (creating a study guide). Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 10.04.52 PM

STRATEGIES FOR TEST TAKING AND OVERCOMING TEST ANXIETY

  1. The best way to tackle test taking anxiety is to be prepared and to put your mind in a positive, relaxed place before each test.
  2. Study along the way and be active with your studying. We talked about using quizlet.com to actively study terms and create practice tests. We also talked about creating a notebook of “tricky problems” for math and their solutions as well as study guides for history, science, foreign language and English classes. Handwriting information can help a student to remember information. 
  3. Be aware of your anxiety levels before taking a test. If you feel that you are having a hard time handling test taking, then reach out to an adult for help. Everyone feels anxiety when they are being evaluated, but if the feeling is hard to overcome and it is impossible to perform at your best, then you may need extra strategies.
  4. Make a list of the feedback that your teacher gives you after each assessment or graded assignment. Pay attention to that feedback as you study for the next test or write the next paper. You may perform better with that guidance.

STRATEGIES TO HELP ACHIEVE HOME/SCHOOL/SELF CARE

School is the priority for students. The purpose of our class is to give students “professional development” to do their jobs well. We want every student to reach his or her potential in the classroom.

Of course, we want students to have time for extra curricular activities, social time, down time, family time. The key is for students to look at their schedules and realistically plan time for homework, studying and organization and then place in time for self-care (e.g. showers, dinner, laying out clothes for the next day) and extra-curricular activities (e.g. sports, music, drama, art, etc.) as well as time to be social with family and friends.

Realistic planning is a key aspect to home/school/self care.

Communication with family members is another important aspect of achieving good health while being a student. It is important that parents know when tests or quizzes or papers are due and what needs to be done each weekend. Family plans need to take into account the work that a student needs to do.

 

MANAGING EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES

Get Ready for Back-to-School

A seven part series for parents of school-aged children
Part Six: Managing Extra-Curricular Activities

By: Mary E. Miele, founder The Evolved Education, veteran learning specialist and mother of three children

Students must have time to enjoy their passions and hone skills that do not have to do directly with their school experience. The choices for extra-curricular activities are endless. The benefits to students are that they can explore creative, social, physical, political, and career interests with like-minded students. Students will make friends and share interests and creativity with others.

Extra-curricular activities are important, but how is a middle and high school student supposed to manage them along with schoolwork, down time, social time and self-care?

Here is a step-by-step guide to managing extra-curricular activities:

  1. Write down what extra-curricular activities the student wants to do, the student’s schedule and what else he or she has to do outside of scheduled time to participate in the activity.
  • Many students forget that extra-curricular activities may require more time than solely meeting for practice or at club time.
  • Students need to factor in time for travel, preparation, and/or meetings.

2) If a student has many extra-curricular activities that he or she wants to do, prioritize them in order of what he or she wishes to do most vs. least.

  • If a student finds that he or she does not have enough time to give to the activities toward the end of the list, then at least the student will know what activity is the priority.
  • If a student cannot fit in the activity one semester that does not mean that it cannot fit in later in the school year, or during the summer. Be sure that all options are discussed so that activities are not eliminated completely.

3) Put all time commitments for your extra-curricular activities onto your calendar and be sure that you have time for homework and studying, dinner, showering%2

KEEPING TRACK OF GRADES AND TEACHER FEEDBACK

Get Ready for Back-to-School

A seven part series for parents of school-aged children
Part Five: Keeping Track of Grades and Teacher Feedback

By: Mary E. Miele, founder The Evolved Education, veteran learning specialist and mother of three children

This is a wonderful article for parents of upper elementary, middle and high school students, students who typically acquire grades and a good deal of feedback from teachers.

It is important to be able to learn from our efforts in life–understanding what was done well as well as what could be improved is a key component of being a successful student (and a successful adult, I would argue). When a mistake is made, it is not only important to practically move forward in a different way, but it is also important to develop resilience and the ability to deal with disappointment.

Parents can help students as young as kindergarten to pay attention to feedback by simply pointing it out. “Look at how well your teacher said you colored within the lines.” or “Your teacher asked that you not talk so much with your friends during rug time.”

Later, feedback becomes more complicated and following it can mean the difference between an A and a lower grade. Whenever a test, quiz, paper or project is returned, a student should get into the habit of making corrections and paying attention to feedback. It is helpful for parents to teach children how to keep track of feedback and here are four easy steps to do so:

1) Create a record template for feedback.

  • Create a google doc spreadsheet that you share with your child. On this spreadsheet, for each course, have a column for assignments given, date assigned, date due, date returned, grade, feedback given.  If you’d like a spreadsheet like the one below emailed to you, email me and I’ll send it to you!

Feedback Spreadsheet

  • Use a notebook and use a page for each course. Record assignments given, dates assigned, date due, date returned, grade, feedback given.

2) Work closely with your child for as long as he or she needs to in order to properly record feedback.

  • Some students work through this process quickly and with ease, other students need a hand to hold. 
  • Some students need to have accountability for turning in assignments and for noting feedback–this process will provide that.

3) Have periodic meetings (usually once a month is sufficient) to discuss feedback.

  • The goal is to be sure that your child understands the feedback and how to improve.
  • Allow your child to explain the feedback to you; he or she should do the lion’s share of the speaking.
  • Try not to focus on the grade, but rather, focus on the feedback and what will be done to move forward differently next time.
  • Making one or two mistakes is not the same as making the same mistake over and over again.
  • Mistakes are an important component of learning, if your child is making them, that is appropriate. I often tell my children that mistakes happen–it’s what you do about them that matters!

4) Teach your child how to use feedback.

  • Look at the feedback before going in to take a test or a quiz or before writing a paper, so that mistakes are not repeated.
  • Schedule meetings with teachers for clarification or extra help.
  • Work closely with teachers and tutors to devise plans for improving areas that are challenging.

As always, if you have any specific questions about this article or need any resources to help you to help your child, email me at mary@evolveded.com.

Stay tuned for Part Six: Managing Extra Curricular Activities

 

STUDY SPACES

Get Ready for Back-to-School

A seven part series for parents of school-aged children
Part Two: Study Spaces

By: Mary E. Miele, founder The Evolved Education, veteran learning specialist and mother of three children

Whether your child is entering Kindergarten, 12th grade or any grade in between, a proper study space can make a remarkable difference in the ability for your child to read, complete homework or study.

Here are three steps you can take to ensure that your child’s study space has the attributes it needs to work well.

1) GATHER ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS

  • A desk and a chair
Elliot Desk and Hutch $399 Potterybarn.com
Elliot Desk and Hutch $399 Potterybarn.com
  • A bulletin board or magnetic white board (if you don’t have one built into the hutch)
Magnetic White Board $29.30 Amazon.com
Magnetic White Board $29.30 Amazon.com

 

  • A monthly calendar
Academic Monthly Calendar $16.66 Amazon.com
Academic Monthly Calendar $16.66 Amazon.com
  • A place for paper
A three drawer paper organizer; put graph, lined and blank paper into each drawer. $26.99 Amazon.com
A three drawer paper organizer; put graph, lined and blank paper into each drawer. $26.99 Amazon.com
  • A place for pens, pencils and highlighters
Pen, Pencil, Highlighter Holder. $6 Poppin.com
Pen, Pencil, Highlighter Holder.
$6 Poppin.com
  • A pencil sharpener
Pencil Sharpener $27.96 Amazon.com
Pencil Sharpener $27.96 Amazon.com
  • A place for extra essential school supplies (scissors, white out, colored pencils, post-it notes, ruler, compass, three whole punch, stapler)
Double Tray (comes in a variety of colors) $17 Poppin.com
Double Tray (comes in a variety of colors) $17 Poppin.com
  • A home file box (you can start this for K students–just have folders for current homework and returned homework; for Middle and Upper School students you can have a file for each course)
Open top file box $4.99 Containerstore.com
Open top file box
$4.99 Containerstore.com
  • Proper lighting
Solid Task Lighting $31 Potterybarnkids.com
Solid Task Lighting $31 Potterybarnkids.com

 

2) ENLIST YOUR CHILD’S HELP IN PUTTING TOGETHER THE SPACE

  • Hang up the bulletin board and white board
  • Hang up the monthly calendar and place important dates onto it
  • Place paper and supplies into their containers
  • Label the file folders on the home file box
  • Show your child how to properly use the light and pencil sharpener

3) SET UP A CHECKLIST WITH YOUR CHILD ON HOW TO PROPERLY MAINTAIN THE STUDY SPACE

  • Put back in place all of the items used during homework or study periods
  • Leave mom, dad or designated adult a list of items you need them to buy (for younger children, parents will have to check the study space every week or so to check supplies)

You may want to be more detailed with this checklist depending on your child. Some children need to weed papers that they put onto the bulletin board (I tell my children that they need to review their hanging papers each month). Some children need to have picture and/or word labels on each spot for their belongings or a map of their space so that they know where things go.  Stay tuned for Part Three–which is all about school supplies!

 

PAPERWORK ORGANIZATION

Get Ready for Back-to-School

A seven part series for parents of school-aged children
Part One: Three Easy Steps to Organize Paperwork

By: Mary E. Miele, founder The Evolved Education, veteran learning specialist and mother of three children

Papers and information coming from school for every child needs to be managed. There are flyers coming home. Information is available on the school website. Homework, tests and project due dates as well as requirements are posted or sent home.  Elementary school students’ parents need to be aware of class events, trips and topics of study. Parents of Middle and Upper School students need a system for keeping track of test dates, due dates, returned assignments, teacher feedback, as well as graded assignments.

In order to manage information coming from your child’s school, follow these three steps to set up and maintain a system for managing paperwork.

1) GATHER WHAT YOU NEED: 

a)   An “in” box

This one from Poppin.com comes in many different colors and you can get one for each child.

Get one of these inbox containers for each of your children. $14 Poppin.com

Place these trays on your desk, entry way or wherever you wish to hold papers coming home from school.  You can teach your pre-teen and teenage children to leave notices from school for you as well as returned homework, tests/quizzes and projects.

b)   An “out” box

If you want to go paperless—Create a desktop folder on your computer. If you choose to stay with paper, I recommend using this file box:

Open top file box $4.99 Containerstore.com
Open top file box
$4.99 Containerstore.com

If you choose to go paperless (a great option!) I recommend following the next step as well:

Purchase Turboscan from iTunes. 

Turboscan is an App that is available on the iTunes store. I recommend paying for this one. This app can be used to scan any document by taking a picture of it. You can resize the frame in order to keep any part of the document. The new document can be saved as a pdf file and then either emailed or transferred to your desktop.

 

Turboscan $2.99 iTunes Store
Turboscan
$2.99 iTunes Store

 

c)   A calendar that goes from computer to phone as well as a desktop calendar that you will mount on a wall where the entire family can see it. I like to use double sided velcro tape to hang the desktop calendar onto the wall. This way, I can pull it off, write on it on a flat surface and put it back onto the wall.

Desktop Calendar $14.65 Amazon.com
Desktop Calendar $14.65 Amazon.com
Double Sided Velcro Tape $5.58 Amazon.com
Double Sided Velcro Tape $5.58 Amazon.com
2) TAKE SOME TIME TO SET EVERYTHING UP

a) Label your child’s inbox with his or her name

b) Label your desktop folder or outbox file box

c) Gather essential papers

  • Medical forms for each child (scan and file these)
  • Summer work requirements (This is a good time to take stock: What were they? Ensure that each child has completed his or her requirements.)
  • Pre-school paperwork (Gather anything that has been sent to you.)
  • Check online on the school’s website to find out if any information exists there
3) CREATE A ROUTINE THAT ENABLES YOU TO CONTINUE TO DEAL WITH INCOMING PAPERWORK.

Before school starts this may mean that every week, you take a look at the school’s website or deal with any incoming paperwork from school.

Once school begins, you’ll need to address paperwork on a nightly basis. For Middle and Upper School students, teach them how to place paper into your inbox. You can immediately place information from papers into your calendars and outboxes once you take note of the information. When you update your calendar on your phone, you may need to put a star on items that you intend to add to your wall calendar.

Parents of Middle School and Upper School students will want to update the wall calendar with test dates, due dates as well as any extracurricular events. The 5th part of this blog series will have more strategies for helping Middle and Upper School students manage incoming grades and feedback. Upper Elementary students may also benefit from having these systems in place.

 

 

Computer Clean Up

It’s certainly freezing here at EEC, but Spring is around the corner and to get us thinking in that direction, please enjoy this blog on how to Spring Clean your computer! 

We have many students here at EEC who use laptops and often they do not learn ways to set up and manage the paperwork on them.

At EEC we have a few coined terms that help us to guide students in their organization:

1) Make time to set up organization and when you do think about these rules:

  • Every item has a home
  • Keep it simple and do not duplicate what you have
  • Make a catch all for items that you cannot organize right away

2) Make time to maintain systems of organization

To help you clean up your computer, we have teamed up with SingleHop, a technology company focused on cloud computing to learn the best ways to clean up a computer.

 SingleHop also wants to educate the online community about the practical use of virtual private clouds as a tool for cleaner hard drives.  This tool can be applied to every term within this guide.  A virtual cloud can help to maintain a sense of organization, prioritization and backup on a laptop.  While it can create a piece of mind while working on your own computer, it also allows you to gain access from any point in the world and prepare you for the worst if something was to happen.

SingleHop_Calendar

 

We think the bottom questions are great ones to answer so that you can personalize your organization–be sure to read them and let us know how you do!  Happy Computer Cleaning!

Three Ways to Improve Executive Functioning

Recently here at EEC we have been welcoming many students, both young and old, who benefit from executive function coaching. For those of you who are not sure what this phrase means, executive functions have to do with any of the following functions:

—Planning/Organization (the ability to manage current and future-oriented task demands, to bring order to information, to appreciate main ideas or key concepts when learning or communicating information)

—Organization of materials (the ability to set up and maintain orderliness of work, play and storage spaces ie. desks, lockers, backpacks and bedrooms)

—Self-Monitoring (the ability to keep track of the effect that his or her behavior has on others or the consequences of his or her actions)

—Working memory (the ability to hold information in mind for the purpose of completing a task such as mental math)

—Initiation (the ability to begin a task, generate ideas independently or get going on an activity)

—Emotional control (the ability to modulate or control his or her emotional responses)

—Shift (the ability to flexibly move and respond to situations)

—Inhibition (the ability to stop one’s own behavior at the appropriate time—stopping actions and thoughts…the flip side of inhibition is impulsivity)

The best ways to coach someone with executive function weaknesses is to:

1) Identify what executive functions are weak for the person — Not everyone with weak executive functioning skills will have the same profile.

2) Create goals for the person–what is the top priority of what to address?

3) Teach a student SIMPLE STRATEGIES that can become a part of his or her ROUTINE.

Let’s take Sam* for instance.  Sam is a tenth grade student at a prestigious Independent School in Manhattan.  He manages six major courses, two clubs, two sports and he enjoys being with friends on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Sam has an online homework system for his school, he uses planner from time to time and uses google calendar to record his appointments.  He has folders and some binders for every subject.  He typically does homework after sports each night, but does not have time to study in his schedule, so he is often left cramming for tests the night before.  Sam gets very little sleep, because he says he starts his work too late and tends to work a little, but then also chat with friends during his work time.  His grades are ok, but inconsistent.  Sometimes he can pull off an A-, but other times he does get Bs and an occasional C when he is busy with sports or has too much work on his plate.

Sam’s issues do not scream –DIAGNOSIS OF MAJORLY WEAK Executive functioning–but they do call for some attention.  First of all, with regard to his planning, he should pick ONE calendar to use.  Then, he should adopt an afternoon work routine (ie. check online homework, check calendar, create a daily to-do list and get to work, blocking time for ONLY work with no distractions) and make time to complete homework AND study over time. He should cut out distractions during his work times and block off other times to be social and have time off from school work.

The number one complaint of our upper school students is that it is really hard to really work without distraction.  This is because work is often done on the computer in tandem with the Internet and texts, emails, Instagrams, Facebook messages, Twitter, Tumblr are all calling for them and are hard to resist.  By blocking out time to work without these alarms going of, a student can be more effective and actually work for LESS TIME!

Sleep is the second complaint of our upper school students, as in, there is just not enough of it.  By blocking off time to work on various subjects throughout the week, students can actually study over time and work ahead so that they are not working until the wee hours of the night on studying or last minute projects.

The key for executive function coaching is to personalize the instruction and the systems for each student.  Once a system is adopted, it can become part of a student’s routine and lifestyle.

As a student becomes older and experiences the freedom and less structure that higher education and young adulthood offers, these key executive functioning skills can become essential strategies to separate the successful from those who are not.

*EEC never uses exact names of students nor specific stories about them for blogging purposes. This character is fictitious, but based on facts. 

Organization and Planning: Paper and Pencil meets Technology

Here in my work at EEC I have been really enjoying the work that we do with families to help them to create the structure that they need at home to ensure that children are able to do homework, read, study, plan to complete those bigger projects such as college applications or complete test prep and also have time for other activities and relationships with family and friends.

As parents, our job in the modern age, is not only to clean the house, go to work, make dinner and be sure that our children have the clothes they need, but we also have to ensure that they have what they need to get their school work done.  Most students require some help with planning and organization.

When we go into a home for the first time to help establish solid planning and organization—we look for the following:

1) No matter what age the child is, a posted calendar for the family is very helpful for kids and parents to communicate about events that are happening.  By posting what is for dinner, or events, or a child’s test, everyone knows what is going on generally speaking and can use this information to make decisions about future plans that involve the family. For instance, if you know your 8th grader has four tests and two papers due within one week, then you will not plan to go out as a family for dinner that evening as a family.

Conversely, if you as a family have dinner plans on the calendar and your child gets a number of major assignments scheduled, he or she may be able to plan to get them done before the family event so that he/she could attend.

To help write on this calendar more easily–either hang the calendar with double sided velcro tape, or get one with two holes at the top and hang with two nails; this way you can easily pull the calendar on and off the wall in order to write plans.  Also color code your content—mine is coded as follows: red for dinner, blue for Bryce, green for Trent, purple for Alexis, black for appointments or events.

$13.29 at Staples.com This calendar is larger, but still has the two holes up top so you can hang on the wall (which I prefer). This is ideal for older students who have more long term assignments.
$13.29 at Staples.com
This calendar is larger, but still has the two holes up top so you can hang on the wall (which I prefer). This is ideal for older students who have more long term assignments.

2) In the study space for each child (starting at the age of 5th grade) each child should have his or her own calendar that is JUST for long term planning for studying and projects.

$16.09 at Staples.com This calendar is smaller--for younger students who don't have a lot to write, but need to understand larger amounts of time and possibly do one or two long term assignments per year.
$16.09 at Staples.com
This calendar is smaller–for younger students who don’t have a lot to write, but need to understand larger amounts of time and possibly do one or two long term assignments per year.

The other calendar that I believe all parents need and then all children, once they have a smart phone also need is a calendar that is digital and that syncs from phone to computer.

There is iCal, google calendar of course—I have just come across a fantastic app called Timeful that can be used as a to-do list and calendar.  This calendar can sync to your google calendar–so if you are like me you don’t have to give that up, but it also offers you the opportunity to list to-dos right onto your mobile device and put them into a particular day.

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 10.24.52 PMStudents of mine often have a google calendar or iCal and they tend to color code so that they have daily classes (that way they know where they are going each day), tests and quizzes, family events and appointments.

This is the google calendar--find it in your gmail!
This is the google calendar–find it in your gmail!

Once parents and students have set up the posted calendars and the digital calendars, the next step is to maintain these calendars.

For most families, a twice a week formal maintenance is sufficient and this is how we do this:

1. Student takes family calendar down and puts it on the table

2. He or she opens up the digital calendar and checks to see that everything from the family calendar is on the digital calendar…going chronological order of dates.

3. He or she writes down anything that is on the digital calendar that needs to go on the family calendar such as tests, quizzes, extracurricular events, appointments.

That’s it!  I suggest teaching this as a series of events–checklists work well, so as you teach, have the child write out the steps in checklist form.  Parents can follow the same exact system.

 

 

 

Technology–set up your paperless organization system!

There is A Lot going on these days for students.  Technology can be a way to make that experience easier.

Today’s blog is on creating a paperless file system.  Why would you want to do this?  Well, when someone can find his or her papers and access them easily, that person is spending less time searching for what  he or she needs and more time on tasks such as homework or time studying with kids! Plus, if you teach your children ways to be organized as children, they are more likely to be organized as adults.

Here is how to get this done (this will take about 30 minutes to work through for someone who is not experienced with making folders or loading apps)! Email me if you need help.

1) Set up your files on your desk top so that you have a file folder for Each class.

Go top left of your screen and click on New Folder
Go top left of your screen and click on New Folder

 

Make a folder for Each of your classes with the grade that you are in--so this person has four classes and is in grade 8. To change the name of any folder, hold down the click on the text until it gives you the option to change the text.
Make a folder for Each of your classes with the grade that you are in–so this person has four classes and is in grade 8. To change the name of any folder, hold down the click on the text until it gives you the option to change the text.

 

2) When you have your subject folders and you create a new word document, my suggestion is to name the document with the name of the piece of writingdraft/edited version/final date 

Here is how you save in MS Word using the format I suggest--to make the dot click on "option+8" keys together. Each essay should have its own folder and have a draft, a version that is edited and a final draft.
Here is how you save in MS Word using the format I suggest–to make the dot click on “option+8” keys together. Each essay should have its own folder and have a draft, a version that is edited and a final draft.
This is what the inside of your English folder could look like.
This is what the inside of your English folder could look like.
This is what the inside of your Fahrenheit 451 Essay could look like with three separate drafts
This is what the inside of your Fahrenheit 451 Essay could look like with three separate drafts

 

3) Most kids JUST want to make folders for the subjects that they write for–such as English or History.  However, in this day and age, there really is no reason to keep a paper file system and thus these other subject folders (i.e. Math, Science, Foreign Language) can be used to house:

  • study materials
  • tests/quizzes that have been returned
  • important worksheets to save for mid-terms and final exams

 

Of course I always advocate having some kind of a back up–either back up your computer with an external hard drive once a week or keep a back up paper file box (see my blog on back to school with this set up).

In order to easily take paper and put it onto your computer–use Turboscan, an app that you can use to scan documents.  What makes this different from taking pictures of paper with your camera is that you can save more than one page to one document, you can add pages to a document later on, you can name the document easily and you can frame the photo easily.  Plus–attach your phone to your computer and put everything into a folder.

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 10.27.03 PM

Airdrop is an app that you can use to share photos, pdfs, files etc. among various computers wirelessly.  Click on the link here to learn how to set this up for your computer and phone.

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 10.32.47 PM

 

For Parents–you can follow the same steps above to create a paperless system for the children in your life.

 

Create a folder for each of your children to house on your desktop, again to make the dot, click "option+8" key at the same time.
Create a folder for each of your children to house on your desktop, again to make the dot, click “option+8” key at the same time.

 

Within each child's folder, I house folders for categories of storage that I use--this is for Bryce, who is in grade 2.
Within each child’s folder, I house folders for categories of storage that I use–this is for Bryce, who is in grade 2.

 

This is what the inside of the medical folder for Bryce houses.
This is what the inside of the medical folder for Bryce houses.

If you would like to be able to house your documents on your mobile device, you can either upload your documents to google docs and upload that app to your phone, OR you could use Sugar Sync, which is a paid service that allows you to share files among computers and mobile devices.