The last part in our homework series involves effective use of a planner. If your student has complied with/mastered the other suggestions we’ve mentioned, (s)he is ready to begin using a planner.
Organizational skills are important to school performance. No one can afford to score a "0" on a paper, just because (s)he didn't pay attention to the due date. No one wants to get an "F" because (s)he forgot to put a completed project in the backpack the night before it was due.
Poor organization skills can reduce your final scores by a whole letter grade. That's why you should learn to use a day planner the right way.
Using a planner is an advanced skill. It is a habit that needs to be developed. That is to say that if your student begins to use a planner, remember that (s)he will likely not be very good at it initially. If there is a place where the notion of “successive approximations” ought to be applied, this is it. Have a goal in mind, but reward/praise your student for “getting close” to the desired behavior.
Developing habits around planner use, takes time. Here are some things you can do to ensure that the habits being developed are good ones:
1. Pick the right planner. Find one that fits inside a special pocket or pouch in your book bag if you can.
2. Name the planner. Give it a name and personify it. You're student is less likely to neglect something with a name and a strong identity. When an object is named it has more of a presence in your student’s life. Call it something goofy or something sentimental—it doesn't matter.
3. Have your student carry it with her/him at all times and remember to have her/him check it every morning and every night. Set up a routine or some incentives to encourage this behavior.
4. Have him/her fill in the assignment due dates as soon as they are known. Get him/her in the habit of writing in the planner while still in the classroom. Don't put it off!
5. Learn to use backward planning. Write due dates in the planner. Go back and parse the assignments into stages. Be realistic when doing this. Account for the fact that there are days when a break is NEEDED and there won’t be any work done.
6. Use a color-coding system. This can be used to distinguish between classes or for reminders that a due date or other important event is approaching. For instance, use a yellow caution sticker to serve as a warning two days before your research paper is due.
7. Put EVERYTHING in the planner. Remember that anything that takes up time, like a play date or a ball game, etc. will occupy time and keep your student from working on an assignment. If your student doesn’t put these things in the planner as time out, (s)he may not realize how limited homework time really is. This leads to cramming and all-nighters.
8. Use flags. Buy sticky-note flags and use them as tabs to indicate the end of a term or the due date of a large project. This is a great visual tool that serves as a constant reminder of an imminent due date.
9. Don't discard old pages. There will always be important information in the planner that will be needed at a later date like old phone numbers, reading assignments, etc.
10. Build in congratulations ahead of time. On the day after a big project is due, put in a reward appointment, like a trip to the mall or a new video game. This can serve as positive reinforcement.
Things to Include in Your Planner
It is important to block off anything that consumes your time, in order to avoid conflict and crisis. Don't forget:
- Regular blocks of homework time
- Assignment due dates
- Test dates
- Dances, parties, dates, celebrations
- Family gatherings, vacations, excursions
- SAT, ACT test dates
- Sign-up deadlines for standardized tests
- Fees—due dates
- College application due dates
- College visitation days
- Planned times for relaxation
If you have some additional suggestions that you have found to work, please share them. We would love your input.
Until next time.