Category Archives: Executive Functioning

Study Strategies

Study Strategies

By Mary Miele

To navigate independent learning and studying, students must have a myriad of strategies so that they can move through the process of learning. Within this process, students must engage with material in multiple ways, within a structure that works for their learning style as well as over time. The goal is for them to gain knowledge, comprehend, apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate. You can see this process in Bloom’s Taxonomy (see picture below).

I met with a middle school student last week who showed me material from her six subjects. She takes English, math, history, science, Latin and Spanish. Most of her classes move at a rapid pace and her teacher does not cover some of what she needs to learn in the classroom setting. Due to the rigor of the curriculum and its fast pace, it is up to her to have organization and study skills so that she can properly digest material once she leaves the classroom.

This student’s experience is consistent with what I see happening to students we work with across New York City. There is an expectation that students take home the work they are exposed to in the classroom, then work with it until they truly master it at the highest possible level.

For a myriad of reasons, it is rare for these kinds of study skills and strategies to be taught explicitly to students in the middle school. Thus, many students are feeling stressed and unsuccessful within the studying continuum. They come home and complete homework, but do not have an approach to master the material they are supposed to learn.

Thus, those of us who support school are tasked with finding ways to support our students through the study process. The following are a few of my favorite study strategies that you can pass along to your student or child today:

Work Within the Evolved Education Study Process

Teach your students to work within a studying continuum.

  1. Gather – collect the information you need to learn
  2. Organize – categorize and simplify what you need to know
  3. Study – engage actively with your material (see below for some ideas)
  4. Self-Test – test yourself to see what you have learned – use Bloom’s taxonomy to help you find some action words to help you (e.g. describe, analyze, compare, criticize ..). Also, know the format of the test and create a practice test to take using that format.
  5. Repeat steps 3-4
  6. Create a one-pager with info you need to study – create a one-pager with the information that is not at 100% just before the test date to review and copy over.

Take Your Time

Study over time. Most students we start working with only work through the first step of the Evolved Education Study Process. They gather up what they need to know, read over it and head into the exam. The problem with this is that they have missed key tasks to ensure they are properly prepared. Anxiety is often formed because these students arrive at the test without being fully prepared. It’s not a great feeling to be unprepared.

When we talk with students about studying, they often tell us they are spending HOURS of time studying. This is often true! However, they are not using that time properly, which is why they are not seeing results.

The key to effective studying is to work through the Evolved Education Study Process routinely well before the test date. In fact, students should be Gathering Information WHILE they are learning and taking classes. They should be Organizing Information EACH weekend. They should begin the studying process a few days before the assessment.

Smart Study Guide Prep

The key to effective studying is to be innovative with how you organize the information you have to learn. I just did a Facebook Live segment on study strategies and you can see me explain a few of these approaches there, too.

Create a two or three column study guide.

The best part about these study guides, which are adapted from the Cornell Notetaking System is that you can take notes as you are learning and then turn those notes into a study guide and experience right away! This can be done on a computer too by typing in notes and then adding a column to the left and/or right of your notes.

Let’s say your child is tasked with learning the information on this page:

Text taken from Eye Wonder Science

Typically, a child will read and take some notes on the important information. To be efficient, just leave a little room on the left-hand side (you can fold the paper to make the line, or add a column in a word or google doc).

 

Students can record notes on the right side of the page and add in questions afterward to aid in studying

The student takes notes and then goes back afterward to write in questions that they will need to be able to answer about the notes. Again, go back to Bloom’s taxonomy and create questions that not only ask the student to comprehend the information, but also analyze it, evaluate it, combine it, etc.

For math, students can divide the page into three columns. The direction for the problem goes on the left. The actual problem goes in the middle and the solution is written on far right side of the page. This approach allows a student to link the directions to the problem and its solution. Often, students are learning language in conjunction with mathematical concepts, so this kind of organization allows students to link the language presented in the directions with the mathematical concepts and skills they are learning.

To study math, students should write directions on the left, problem in the middle, and solution to the right. By folding the page, students can practice following directions and solving problems.

Aside from the column notes, visual vocabulary is becoming more and more helpful for students. Pictures provide students with context for the new language. In addition, see below how we use color to highlight word roots. Email me if you’d like to get more sheets of visual vocabulary.

Students can assign pictures to words they are learning and identify root words within words by using color-coding.

In closing, studying is a process, and part of that process is to review your test taking approaches and feedback from the assessment itself. Please join me on Sunday 12/17 on Facebook Live as I talk about the Aftermath of Testing. I’ll present information about how to rebound from a quiz you could have done better on and how to use feedback to inform your studying process.

In the meantime, if you have specific questions about what you can do to help your child with study skills, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at mary@evolveded.com.

 

 

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.

Camp is over – How to prepare for a successful September

Camp is over – How to prepare for a successful September

And Why Early Bedtimes Matter

By Mary Miele Learning Specialist and Founder of Evolved Education

I never went to sleepaway camp, but when I was in college, I came home for a summer to work and stay in my childhood home. The transition back home after living away and on my own for the year at school was tremendously challenging. I remember having a hard time communicating with my parents and siblings. I had to account for family member’s routines and needs. I was asked to help around the house and with the care of my sisters. It was hard to live away from home and then come back to live there.

I can only imagine how the transition back home after sleep away camp is for our young students. Camp requires a level of independence and all children will change and grow over the course of time, so who you dropped off at the start of the summer will be different than who you pick up. Adjusting to the changes which happen over 4,  6 or 8 weeks requires some time. The transition won’t happen overnight.  In addition, camp is exhausting. Children tend not to put their guard down and relax completely until they are home. This is normal. A mother I spoke to yesterday let me know that her ten year old son has been sleeping and playing video games ever since he got back. He seems “out of it”.  Sleep and rest seem really necessary all of a sudden.

When I write these kinds of blogs I consider what our clients are struggling with and try to offer some perspective and expertise to help. So, if your child is transitioning into school again (and yes, that transition starts a few weeks BEFORE school begins), here are some nuggets of advice that could help you navigate the transition with your child:

  • Get into the routine of school again. My pediatrician and I were speaking yesterday about my son’s sleep. He’s 10 and can’t seem to get enough of it. I had been letting him sleep in, but she let me know that “sleeping in” is terrible sleep. The better way to get better sleep is to get to bed early. I proposed an early bed time to my son this week – he was shockingly fine with it! So, at 7:45, we are all settling in. He can read, he can relax, but he’s in his bed, with no electronics and no TV. It’s complete down time. He has to be up at 7 for his activities during these weeks, and that is still a little tough for him, but the early bed time ensures that he’s getting enough sleep to function, and I just started this with him–I know through experience that it’s important to give new routines at least two weeks to make a difference. So my advice to you is to stick with the changes over time until you make a judgment call that they are working or not.

 

  • Involve your child in the transition plan. Yes, I did say “plan”. It’s important for children to learn how to plan ahead and parents in this day and age do not typically give their children enough opportunities to be in the driver’s seat to make these plans. I’m guilty too – it’s so much easier just to take the reigns myself. I’m great at planning. I’ll make some playdates and go to the library. School will be here in no time. This approach is not the best for any child, though. It short circuits their opportunity to activate neurons in their brain. Instead, sit your child(ren) down and ask them what they need to do to transition back to school. Mention the idea from the pediatrician about an earlier bedtime. Talk about what options the children have for activities during their daytimes. Show them a calendar so they can see how much time they have until school begins. Involve your child in creating a list of action items everyone will do to prepare for the transition. Parents with teenagers may need to involve a professional to run interference to help with the planning. I find that most teenagers resist the advice of their parents and outsourcing the creation of these plans to a mentor, tutor or education professional can be extremely helpful. One student of ours was just set up with this kind of support — she was procrastinating doing her summer work. Her mother was getting very stressed about it and called us for support. We sent over an Evolved Education ELA teacher who worked with her child on getting the assignment started and mapping out a plan. Since we are a whole child company, the teacher also talked with the student about her overall transition plan — when she would get supplies, what clothes she needed to get for the start of school, what her am routine would be like (she’s starting high school in the fall), what her feelings were about the start of a new school and grade 9!! The ELA teacher partnered with our student’s mother to bridge communication and help with ways to effectively support her daughter.  The ELA teacher Skyped with the student over the course of last week and will do so this week to check in and to provide accountability to be sure the work is getting done. This sort of support allowed the student to become prepared and her mother to relax and focus on enjoying some time with her daughter instead of fighting over the summer work assignment. For some teenagers, there are preferred ways to receive support from parents, and our teachers have an understanding of how to help parents understand how teenagers need to be supported. The transition to middle, high school and college are transitions for parents as well – in many ways parents are all undergoing great changes as school begins.

 

  • Trouble shoot challenges and get support before they snowball. A client of ours called in to discuss a common challenge for our middle, high school and college age students and that is to complete summer work. Most students have to leave this work to the last few weeks of August because of camp and travel. Students get overwhelmed when they look at a 300 page book that has been mandated to read. Starting is hard and keeping the stamina going to really read something with great focus and attention to detail is tiring — if you don’t believe me, try it along with your student. It’s a great exercise to do. Help your child by doing some paired work (you work while they work). Read the book aloud to your child and be sure they take great notes — this causes them to be very prepared for the start of school. The more prepared a student is for the start of school, the happier they are to be there!

 

  • Know that transitioning is a process. This process will begin now, but it will not end when school begins. Often students are on a high during the first week of schoool– there is excitement in seeing friends and teachers again, in getting the supplies and starting a new grade. About a week or so into school, children can experience some anxiety, sadness, or stress. This is usually very normal and it is also where early bedtimes, strong support systems, and plenty of parent-child face time can be helpful.

If you have an issue that you are concerned about, email me to book a call at mary@evolveded.com.  When you plan and work in a supportive way through the back to school transition, it can be a magical time!

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

 

MORNING AND AFTERNOON ROUTINES

Get Ready for Back-to-School

A seven part series for parents of school-aged children
Part Four: Morning and Afternoon Routines

By: Mary E. Miele, founder The Evolved Education, veteran 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!

Click here for example checklists.

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.

Click here for example checklists.

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.

Click here for example checklists.

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.

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.