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Organizing Your Schoolwork
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Learning to get organized, stay focused, and get things done are must-have skills when it comes to schoolwork.
These skills can help you with just about everything in life, too. The more you practice, the better you'll get. Let these skills become go-to habits that make your life work better.
Organize your stuff. Everything is easier when you’re organized. You can get to work faster without wasting time looking for stuff.
Keep your assignments and class information organized by subject. Put them in binders, notebooks, or folders. If you find yourself stuffing loose papers in your bag or grabbing different notebooks for the same class, it's time to stop and reorganize!
Clean out your backpack every few days. Decide where to keep things you want to hold onto. Offload things you no longer need to carry around.
Organize your space. You need a good workspace — someplace quiet enough to focus. It's best to work at a desk or table where you can spread out your work. Have a set place for homework. That way, when you sit down, you can shift into work mode and focus more quickly.
Organize your time. Use a planner or planning app to keep track of your schoolwork:
- Write down all your assignments and when they're due.
- Break big projects into parts. Mark the dates when each part needs to be complete. Be sure to schedule when you'll work on each part.
- Mark the dates you'll have tests. Then make a note of when you'll study for them. One sure way to reduce test anxiety is to prepare by studying (really!).
- Enter other activities on your calendar. Fill in times for team practices, drama rehearsals, plans with friends, etc. This helps you plan ahead because you’ll see when things might be too busy to get all your work done. Use your planner to schedule a time to do your schoolwork on days you have other activities.
Avoid distractions. When you multitask, you're less focused. That means you're less likely to do well on that test. Park your devices and only check them after you finish your work.
Some people focus best when it's quiet. Others say they study best if they listen to background music. But music with lyrics can distract you. If you find yourself reading the same page over and over, it's a clue that the music is a distraction, not a help. If you need to block out other sounds, try white noise or nature sounds.
Take breaks. Taking a short break between assignments can help your mind stay fresh and focused. Get up from your desk. Move, stretch, or walk around to clear your head. Take some slow deep breaths. Then get back to your studies.
Refocus yourself. If you get distracted, guide your attention back into study mode. Resist checking your phone or device. Remind yourself that now it's time to stay on task.
Get It Done!
Get started. It’s not always easy to get started on homework. But you’ve got to get started if you want to get it done. Sure, you can think of a million other things you’d rather do. But if you procrastinate, you’re more likely to feel stressed — and less likely to do your best work.
To help yourself get started, break down homework into small tasks. Pick one small task to do first. Some people like to start with the hardest thing. Others like to start with something easy. Then do it.
Keep going. When you finish the first task, tell yourself , ‘Alright. I got this done.’ Then move on to the next task. Keep it up. Cross off each task as you do it.
Some people find it helps to set a timer for five (or 10) minutes. See how much you can get done before the timer goes off. Coach yourself to keep going for another five minutes. Don’t rush. Just try to work at a steady pace.
Finish it up. Stay focused as you do the final steps and details. Cheer yourself on — you're almost at the finish line!
Check your completed work. Put your work into the right folder or binder. Pack up your backpack for tomorrow. Now you've got it DONE.
These skills may sound simple. But they’re not always easy. If you need more tips to organize your work, stay focused, or get it done, ask a teacher, school counselor , or a parent for help.
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How to Help Kids Organize Their Homework
- by Colleen Beck
- April 13, 2022
Amazon affiliate links may be included in this blog post. As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Do you know a student that struggles to organize homework? Maybe you see a messy backpack and homework that is always lost. Here we are covering tips and strategies to address disorganized students so homework can get done, important papers aren’t lost, and kids can thrive in learning. Let’s cover some important organization tips .
Today, I’ve got ideas and tips to help children with attention, executive functioning, focus, sensory, or learning difficulties get organized at home .
This is part of our Real Tips for Helping Your Sensory Child Get Organized series and a follow up to our post on Helping Sensory Kids Get Organized at School .
Tips to organize homework
Imagine a world where your body and brain are unsure of what’s happening next. Imagine a world where your body and brain are unsure of what’s happening now. There are noises coming at you from near and far, itchy socks scratching your toes, and a commanding urge to jump, fall, swing, and roll.
Now, imagine that you have to recuperate from a high-sensory day at school, full of bells, school buses, students voices, chalkboards, crowded hallways, single-file lines, and laborious writing tasks.
You now have to get off the school bus and fall into the evening home routine. There are homework duties, schedules, dinner time patterns, bedtime tasks, and settling down. The time at home is full of “Must-Get-Done” items that sometimes make the family time that is so precious more of a crazed 3 hours of “Non-Stop-Rushing”. The child with sensory needs often times have attention, behavior, visual perceptual, fine motor, and executive functioning problems. Then there are the issues of fidgeting, distractibility, motor planning concerns, problem solving issues, and memory difficult. All of these problem areas are a tornado of trouble when it comes to organization at home.
When students pile off of the school bus or jump in the car in the school pick-up line (or even finish up their homeschool day), there is often times a sense of busyness and rushing. It’s a race to get home, homework done, dinner prepared, eaten, and cleaned up, before it’s time to hurry off to appointments and activities.
We are a busy society and it’s almost normal to fill our hours with things to do. Those commitments bring with them lists, dates, facts, and more commitments. We are focusing on so many things at one that brains are on constant overload. And our kids are right there, feeling the burden of overwhelm. For the child with sensory processing disorders or kids with learning difficulties, it’s a strain.
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5 Tips to Keep Schoolwork Organized
If your child has trouble keeping track of homework assignments, these strategies will help..
Instilling a little order in your child's study habits will allow a lot more time for actual studying. Help your child put these five organizational tips into practice to build good habits.
- Set up a Designated Study Space. Make sure there's an area of your house just for homework, with all the supplies she needs in bins and boxes. Provide plenty of space for books and set up baskets for papers so your child can find old homework to review for tests, and keep frequently used resources, like a dictionary and thesaurus , handy.
- Color Code Subjects . Buy school supplies for each subject in a different color, so your child can see at a glance which folder, notebook, and binder has to do with which subject.
- Create a Cubby Hole at Home . Place a crate or sturdy box near your front door so your child can keep his backpack and other school items in one spot. Teach him to put anything he needs for the next day in that place as well. That way, he'll know where his stuff is when he's looking for it.
- Use a Calendar. Give your child a date book or other portable calendar that she can bring with her to school. Teach her to write down assignments, tests, play dates, lessons, and other plans regularly. Also have her write down her classmates' phone numbers and e-mail addresses so she can find and contact them easily.
- Set a Good Example. If you keep things neat and organized in your own life, your child is more likely to follow suit. If he has trouble making "to-do" lists, sit down and make one alongside him. Seeing you turn off the TV at a regular time to pay bills or even just to read will show him the importance of setting aside time to do things and sticking to it.
MORE: Design a Kid-Friendly Workspace
Organizing Homework - 10 Steps for Success in any Grade!
Education is about more than just learning the rules of language and mathematics. It is more than digesting facts and data about the world around us and its history. From kindergarten through twelfth grade, school is about learning habits that will lead to a successful life. Among those skills, one of the most important is good organizational skills.
A foundation of good organization skills will help children learn more effectively, retain information better, and promote higher grades all the while building transferable skills that will support success beyond their school years.
The Importance of Staying Organized in School
Good organizational habits in school will help create order so that students can focus on learning instead of stress and chaos. Organization is both physical, with filing systems and sticky notes, and mental with objectives, schedules, and priorities. You can keep your child focused on learning throughout the school year by focusing on both the physical and mental aspects of organization.
Define Clear Objectives
The first step in organizing schoolwork is to clearly define the learning objectives. The human mind is a lot like a filing cabinet. It organizes certain types of memories like data and facts categorically. By identifying the objectives of the learning program, you can effectively tell the mind where to store this information. This can make memory recall easier, leading to better retention of information and more success in learning.
Prioritize Important Activities
Throughout the day, students engage in several different activities. Some of those activities like practicing spelling words or solving math problems are important tasks to achieve learning goals. Other activities like searching through lockers or notebooks for assignments are less important and possibly even wasteful. Good organizational habits will help your child spend more time on important learning activities and less time on wasteful activities that detract from learning.
Scheduling Creates Structure and Organization
Structure is a set of healthy boundaries that help our brains identify what types of activities and behaviors are appropriate or inappropriate for a situation. In the classroom, structure is necessary to keep minds focused on learning . Creating a schedule of learning activities so that students know what to expect and when to expect it will ease the transition between activities and keep the momentum moving forward.
Organization Lowers Stress Levels and Promotes Learning
Neuroscientists have studied the effects of stress on the human brain and one of the most interesting things they have discovered is directly related to learning. Affective Filter is a term used by neuroscientists to describe an emotional state caused by stress in which a student is not responsive to learning or storing new information. Good organizational skills are more than just tidying up the classroom. It has a scientific purpose to promote learning by removing the disorder that creates stress.
Actionable Steps for Organizing School Work
The great thing about organization is that it is an ongoing process. If you missed the boat at the beginning of the school year or fell off track halfway through, you can always start where you are and work on improving your organization.
Plan Ahead Every Week
Start each school week by intentionally creating a plan of attack for all assignments or projects. You can take a bird’s eye view of the week and schedule in time to work on specific assignments or subjects so that you do not run out of time to accomplish important assignments. Planning helps eliminate the stress and poor workmanship that comes from cramming and pulling all-nighters.
Planning will help you decide which project to tackle first. If your schedule is overwhelming, try sorting out easy tasks that will take five minutes or less and doing those first. Checking off several easy items will boost your motivation to continue with the rest of the list while also trimming that list down to a more manageable size.
Out of the remaining work on your child’s schedule, evaluate personal feelings. If there is one subject or project that is dreaded, complete that one first. Simply do not allow procrastination on certain subjects or certain projects. Procrastination breeds stress and anxiety which affects all aspects of learning.
Use Time Effectively
Working hard and being productive are not necessarily the same thing. In learning, it is far more important to be effective than it is to just work hard. Modern school curricula are designed to promote effective learning by breaking subjects up into manageable periods and alternating classroom study with physical exercise and artistic stimulation.
Work on assignments in short blocks of time, not exceeding 60 minutes. Frequent breaks to rest the mind are good for learning. Breaks not only provide a mental rest from the learning subject but also help fight boredom and maintain attentiveness.
To understand more on how you use time effectively by organizing homework and others, watch this video:
Keep a stash of water and healthy snacks available during study time. By curbing hunger and quenching thirst, you can limit your child’s distractions from learning. While frequent breaks are important, being able to be completely focused during work times is much more important.
Front-load your tasks so that all of the heavy or big assignments are completed first. It is easy to lose track of time and we are generally most productive at the beginning so tackling the big things first will make sure that your child does not run out of time to complete his or her homework.
Establish a Dedicated Study Space
Choose a clean, tidy and uncluttered space to work in. Remember that physical surroundings impact mental performance. If a space is cluttered, the mind will be anxious and less able to learn. The space should be well-lit, quiet and ergonomic to limit distractions. A dining room table or at a desk in the bedroom are generally suitable workspaces. Try to avoid working on the floor or laying on a bed where your child might spend more time fidgeting to get comfortable and less time focusing on the assignments.
A study environment should emulate a test environment. Studies have shown that our minds are better able to recall information when the learning environment mirrors the testing environment. Factors like background noise from music or tv can affect how easily your brain can recall information.
One of the coolest things that happen when you use a dedicated study space is that your brain begins to associate that environment with studying. Each time that you enter your study space at the specified time each day, your brain will already be ready to start studying because that space has been associated with good study habits.
Any activity that does not directly support learning or that is not directly related to the assignment at hand, is a distraction. Wasting time scrolling Facebook or answering a text message might seem like a quick thing that only takes a few seconds. But each time that the phone is picked up and the learning process is interrupted, it takes additional time to refocus and get back to learning. All of the additional seconds add up to wasted time. Students who spend excessive amounts of time completing homework each night are probably guilty of wasting more time than they are working.
Stock a Study Kit with all of the Essentials
Hunting down the right tools is half the battle when doing an assignment. Keep the focus in the right area by providing a well-stocked study kit complete with basic office supplies like pens, paper, and erasers.
If you want a leg up on the motivation factor, try incorporating fun or colorful school supplies. Bright colors are mentally stimulating and are readily available in a variety of supplies like post-it notes, pens, markers, and folders.
Create a Well-Organized Filing System
Another big time-waster is hunting down paperwork to complete assignments. A good filing system, particularly a visual system like this wall storage pocket chart :
or a more modest grey wall file system (which comes in multiple colors) will help keep study materials in easy reach.
Both of the above options also include free door hangers, such that you're not cluttering valuable desk real-estate, and files can conveniently hang behind your door.
Visual wall filing systems can be used to keep important papers out in plain sight and logically organized. Try using the folders to separate assignments by subject or to arrange by difficulty.
Another visual organization method is a wall chart created from multi-colored post-it notes. Large projects can be easily broken down into smaller tasks. A post-it note chart can help organize all of the pieces and parts of the project in one visual method which can help carry your motivation through the completion of the project.
Start a List of Questions
Learning is hard work and to our detriment, we humans, tend to make any excuse to avoid doing hard or difficult things. All it takes is getting stuck on a question or not understanding an idea to derail an entire study session. Help your child practice diligence by teaching them to write their questions down and keep going. The hard questions can be re-visited again at the end of the lesson or another time when help is available from a teacher or parent. The important thing is that students learn to maintain control and not to quit or be distracted by difficult questions.
As the parent, teach your child to rely on their problem-solving skills first by making yourself less accessible. Instead of giving your child full access to ask questions whenever they get stuck, teach them the list method and provide a specific time when you will assist them with their study questions.
Exercise to Energize the Mind
Another common struggle during study sessions is just attentiveness. It is difficult, if not impossible, to learn new material if the mind is not fully engaged. Frequent breaks are a good first step to maintaining attentiveness. But a quick burst of physical exercise that raises the heart rate and gets blood moving can boost energy levels needed for learning. A quick brisk walk or a couple of sets of jumping jacks is all it takes. Children of all ages will benefit from a little bit of movement during study breaks, but younger children often have a lot of extra energy to burn so it makes a big difference for them.
It is no secret that physical activity is good for your health and that its effects are cumulative so even five minutes during study breaks can add up to a whole extra workout. But what you may not know is that short bursts of physical activity can also lower stress levels which makes it easier to learn new things. Exercise also increases blood flow to the brain and increases alertness and memory.
Be Your Child’s Accountability Partner
As a parent, one of the most important jobs that you have to help your child through school is to hold them accountable. Be the one to make sure that your child is using these study tips. Be the one to make sure that your child is devoting enough time to studying each day. And be the one to make sure that your child continues to follow the same habits and use the same study space throughout the entire school year.
Accountability will not only help your child build good study habits and earn good grades. It develops strong character traits like trust and responsibility. A simple task like enforcing study rules and making sure that your child sticks to them today can translate into how successful he or she is at keeping a job or staying in a committed relationship.
Why Study Skills are Important
Good study skills are more important than just earning good grades and successfully completing grade levels. Study skills are habits that are formed young when the brain is still developing and set the tone for how an individual will perform throughout their life. New habits can always be formed, but as we grow older and become set in our ways it becomes much more difficult to break bad habits and replace them with good ones.
Builds Character and Teaches Responsibility
A child who has learned how to study effectively and maintain consistent routines will develop positive character traits that will carry them throughout their entire lives. Being able to make and keep commitments is important for any long-term, functional relationship. No matter whether it is a job or a romantic relationship, learning to stick to routines at a young age is important.
Teaches Effective Problem-Solving Skills
Learning to study independently, particularly if encouraged to work independently and not rely on parents or teachers to provide answers will help the child develop essential problem-solving skills that will help him or her function in daily adult life.
Promotes a Culture of Learning
In a fast-paced, ever-changing world it is important to stay on top of what is hot and new. The most successful employees in business know this and make life-long commitments to learning. But learning isn’t easy for everyone. By teaching your child good study habits inside and outside of the classroom, you can help make sure that they develop a love of learning and always seek out opportunities to learn new skills.
Teaches Project Management Skills
Two skills that every employer wants to see in job candidates is the ability to use sound judgment to prioritize work and the ability to meet deadlines. These skills are developed at a young age, in school, through the development of good study habits. Every day teachers dole out assignments with varying degrees of difficulty and time commitments required. After a full day of classes, the average student has collected a variety of assignments that need to be completed during available study time.
To avoid spending hours and hours tirelessly working on homework, students must learn the skills needed to study effectively. The very same skills that are learned during middle school and high school to prioritize and complete assignments on time will transfer into career skills.
How an Organized Classroom Can Help
Developing good study habits are so much more important than just getting through school. They are the foundation for career skills like time management and problem-solving skills. Good study habits are also the beginning of developing good character traits like trustworthiness and responsibility. But more importantly, good study skills are just good organizational skills applied to learning inside and outside of the classroom.
Staying organized in school has several benefits that help children succeed in school in the short term and in adulthood in the long term. The mental space tends to mirror the physical space so a tidy and organized classroom or study space will create a calm and focused mind for learning. In much the same way, chaos and clutter in the surroundings will create stress and anxiety in the mind that will impair learning.
Create visual organization in the classroom by using color-coded systems, charts, and labeled storage. Implementing organizational strategies in the classroom can benefit all students by creating an orderly environment. A Wall Storage Pocket Chart can help with organizing homework for all of the students in a class.
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Social Thinking Articles
10 Steps to Foster Organization: Homework and Beyond!
Michelle garcia winner, ma, ccc-slp.
Updated: June, 2022 © 2022 Think Social Publishing, Inc.
Our daily lives are made up of an endless stream of thoughts, decisions, actions, and reactions to the people and environment in which we live. The internal and external actions fit together, sometimes seamlessly sometimes not, largely dependent upon a set of invisible yet highly important skills we call Executive Functioning (EF). These skills, which involve planning, organizing, sequencing, prioritizing, shifting attention, and time management can be well-developed in some people (think traffic controllers, wedding planners, business CEOs, etc.) and less developed in others. They are vital in all parts of life, from making coffee to running a profitable business. The skills develop naturally, without specific, formal training, and we all have them to some degree--or at least, we assume we all have them.
Nowhere does an EF skill challenge cause more turmoil than in the area of homework, producing monstrous levels of anxiety and dread in students, parents, and teachers alike. The myriad details that need to be accomplished in a student's class, school day, or week can be overwhelming for any student.
I am often asked: "If tasks are so overwhelming to their EF systems, should we just avoid having students deal with them?" The answer is an unequivocal emphatic NO ! Organizational skills are life skills, not just school skills, and like social skills they are rarely directly taught. Few states include explicit teaching of EF skills in their "standards of education."
So where do we start? First, we need to understand how complex the human organizational system is and how complex it is by the time students reach middle school. We can only be good teachers if we appreciate the demands we place on our students. Next, we need organization as a skill set of both static AND dynamic systems.
Static vs. Dynamic Systems
Static organizational systems and skills are structured in this manner: same thing, same time, same place, and same way.
Static organizational tasks are introduced in kindergarten, first, and second grade. We break down tasks and ask students to explicitly complete very defined units of information, at a certain time and place. For example, write your name at the top of the page, read the instructions, complete the work, when done turn the paper over and sit quietly until time is up.
Dynamic organizational systems and skills involve constant adjustments to priorities, workloads, time frames, tasks, and places. They are less teacher-directed and more student-directed. By 4th grade, teachers are introducing dynamic assignments to students with moderate levels of support. Soon after that we expect students to be able to manage increasingly dynamic workloads with little extra support or direct teaching. By high school, almost all schoolwork and homework have dynamic components requiring students to use EF skills to allocate time, resources, places to work, etc.
Here's the good news: most of us understand that to tackle a dynamic task we have to break it down into its static elements.
The dynamic part of the task requires thinking. The static part of the task requires doing.
A dynamic assignment such as writing an essay requires a significant portion of time be spent thinking about the topic before launching into the static task of actually writing the paper. One of the great challenges for many students with social learning differences and/or challenges is learning to break down dynamic tasks into more concrete, static chunks of work.
Students hone organizational skills starting in preschool, when we first ask them to clean up their toys. Teachers can accurately identify organized versus disorganized students as early as kindergarten. By 4th grade teachers expect students to be proficient with EF skills.
However, the reality is that many students (both neurotypical and neurodiverse) desperately need help with homework, specifically, and EF skills in general. Help is available. The following 10 steps illuminate specific aspects of EF skills that increase students' static and dynamic organizational coping mechanisms. While these steps are interrelated and synergistic, avoid trying to teach them all at the same time. Each may be difficult to grasp and master depending on one’s learning pace. Keep expectations realistic, talk things through regularly, and probe for misunderstandings or miscommunication. Learning EF skills is a dynamic system of its own, with its static components. Make sure your child or student experiences success and feels competent at each stage of the process.
10 Steps to Foster Organization Skills
- Clearly define what needs to be done—avoid assumptions . Too often, parents and schools view organization goals too simply: "the student must write the assignment in their planner." We are assuming that getting the general information in the planner is enough - it's NOT! Adults must be organized in their own thinking if they are to effectively teach students this skill. Go beyond giving out assignments; help the student understand how to also approach the task from an organizational standpoint.
- Move it with motivation. Parents and teachers often don't realize this lack of motivation can stem from feeling overwhelmed by the task demands. Students with the greatest motivational challenges are often our most cognitively gifted. We often assume "smart" means "organized" and say things like "come on, I know you can do this, I know you are smart." Yet, they may have the hardest time motivating themselves when overwhelmed because learning comes naturally and they have never had to work at learning. By adolescence, students need to appreciate that completing work - even work that seems somewhat ridiculous to them - has its rewards. It establishes them as hard working in the eyes of others, improves their grades and increases feelings of self-worth through meeting their grade level academic expectations. Many students need to start at a much more concrete level of motivation, with very small work steps combined with reward early in the task completion process. For example, if a student cannot easily work for an hour, have them work successfully on a single part of the task for just 10 minutes before they get to pause and congratulate themself. Self-motivation increases when students feel confident in understanding and accomplishing the task - even part of the task. If a student is not motivated, it doesn't matter how well you teach how to approach the assignment, they will not implement the ideas .
- Prepare the environment. Most adults familiar with helping students "get organized" understand this point. Establish a dedicated workspace for homework that includes the essential tools: technology, supplies, oversight (if possible), and materials needed for the task.
- Chunk and time it. Assignments that sound coherent and structured to teachers can still overwhelm a student. For example: "Write a report focusing on the economy, culture, weather and climate of a specific country." Clear enough? Probably not. Make sure the student understands how to "chunk" an assignment (break it down into smaller pieces) and how the individual parts create the larger whole. For example, not all students will know their report needs four sections, producing essentially four "mini-essays" worked on separately and then joined together. Furthermore, once they chunk the project, they still need to predict how long each chunk will take to complete. Many students struggle to predict how long projects will take across time which extends into all aspects of interpreting and predicting time. This is an essential life skill! We time map just about everything, gauging how the task will or will not fit into what we're doing now, an hour from now, later in the day, or later in the week. Homework functions in much the same way. Students are more willing to tackle homework when they can reliably predict how long they will have to work on the task. For example, a student will usually calmly do math if they think it will only take 5-10 minutes. However, for those who don't predict time well, the nebulous nature of the activity incites anxiety, and they may cry 45 minutes over doing a 10-minute math assignment. When the student does not - or cannot - consider time prediction as part of his organizational skill set, they are likely to waste a lot of time rather than use time to their advantage.
- Use visual structures. Homework, for older kids, shifts from mostly static tasks given by one teacher to mostly dynamic tasks assigned by many. We expect students to self-organize and know how to juggle the many pieces that make up each class, grade, and level of education. Yet, this valuable skill is never directly taught! Visual long-term mapping charts, such as Gantt charts, can help students plan and monitor multiple activities. These bar type graphs allow a student to visually track multiple projects across time, determine when they are due and how much time is available to work on each. Gantt charts are frequently used in businesses and managers, but rarely make it into student software for school/homework planning.
- Prioritize and plan daily. Keep in mind that many of us make daily lists, but don't always complete all tasks on our list. We get to the priority items and postpone other tasks. Within the school setting the teacher often dictates priority, but priority is also dependent on the point or credit value. Just because a task is due does not mean a student needs to make a decision to complete it, especially if it is a low value to the student or the teacher. Sometimes students have to make a choice: Do I study for the test or turn in the assignment only worth 3 points? Help students to develop priorities and understand that the most desirable tasks sometimes need to come last - after slogging through the drudgery of other tasks. We all must do the boring work! However, even with a prioritized plan in hand many students will still struggle with actually working on the tasks. Many students also have difficulty working on projects they don’t like. Their baseline attention span may be no more than 7-10 minutes on non-preferred tasks. Help students succeed with their daily schedule by teaching them to take frequent small breaks at the end of their baseline attention span. For example, a graduate student in theology found he could only push himself through 10-minute work cycles before feeling overwhelmed or internally distracted. He used a visual time-timer and gave himself a short stretch break every 10 minutes. Once he completed a number of these short work cycles, he gave himself a larger reward. The key to using self-reward is to make sure the small reward isn't likely to be distracting or absorbing (computer games, TV, reading a book). Instead make these small breaks quick and refreshing, just to refocus attention: sensory based activities ( stretching or movement ), a small snack, a quick trip to the bathroom or walk around the room.
- Hunt and gather. Simply put, students need to plan time into their schedule to locate different resources to complete a task. For example, research at the library might be a "chunk" they plan for on their homework list (don't forget travel time!). Check out the work of Sarah Ward and Kristen Jacobsen for great strategies.
- Consider perspectives. An assignment done well is one that meets the teacher's expectations and follows the teacher's instructions. Homework is more on target when students start by considering the teacher's perspective before diving into the assignment. Parent perspectives enter into the homework plan also. Many parents expect children to finish homework before watching TV or going online. Even though the child may have accomplished a great deal of homework (in their mind enough), trouble can still erupt because it wasn't finished in the parents' minds. Perspective taking can be quite overwhelming to many students with social learning and organizational problems.
- Communicate and then communicate some more. Knowing when and how to ask for help can be challenging for some students. Avoid assuming students – especially those referred to as "bright" students - should intuitively know how to ask for help, clarification or even how to collaborate with others on assignments. Tip: as students age into middle school and beyond, most are turning to their peer group rather than their teacher to ask for help. This establishes a strategy for using peer support networks that are desperately needed for success in college and/or in the work world.
- Completion. Be sure the child knows what finished means, both at school and at home. For instance, a homework assignment is not truly "done" until it is turned in to the teacher at school. While homework baskets/bins (static) are commonly found in elementary school, they are less obvious during middle and high school years. Make sure your students know where to turn in homework. Also, parents should save celebrations for completed projects until after the assignments are actually turned in, rather than just completing the work. Many of our students do the work, but never get around to turning it in.
Take the Time!
This is a message we need to constantly reinforce. As children age up, tasks become increasingly more complex and dynamic. Teachers and parents need to work together in identifying and teaching any or all of the 10 steps mentioned in this article. Teaching organizational skills takes time, but think of it not only as a homework skill but a life skill.
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Getting Organized for Schoolwork & Homework
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Organization doesn't come naturally to everyone. Most kids have to learn organizational skills, and parents can be the best teachers. This booklet is full of practical, proven ideas for organizing everything from time and writing, to large assignments and notebooks.
As the saying goes, "The longest journey begins with a single step." Organization is a student's first step toward success in school. But organization doesn't come naturally to everyone. Most kids have to learn organization skills, and parents are the best teachers. Experts say kids are much more likely to get organized if parents value organization and show them how. This booklet can help. It's full of tips for parents to help their child organize everything from study and storage areas to notebooks, and from tackling large assignments to studying for tests. Tips for organizing writing assignments and using calendars are also covered. Soon their children will become more organized—and more successful!
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7 Tips for How to Organize a Homework Station
Create a space that kids can use to do their homework. Get tips for how to organize a homework station and what to include in a homework caddy.
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Tips for an Organized Homework Station
School is almost in session and now is the time to get organized for the after school homework hustle. Whether your kids are in elementary school or high school, they most likely come home with some school work. Set your kids up for homework success with an organized homework station. Are you not sure how to get started? Here are some tips on how to set up a homework station.
1. Decide on the best location to do homework.
First things first, it is important to pick out a good spot to do homework. Older kids might prefer a desk or table in their rooms. Younger kids might need to be in the main spaces of the home so you can help them when questions arise.
Also, some kids need complete quiet to do homework while others kids like to have some background noise.
Kids do not necessarily need a designated desk. But is is nice for them to have a specific homework spot that they can go to each day.
When my kids were online learning last year, I carved out some room in my home office. It was a perfect spot for my youngest spot to study in. I was nearby to help him with questions and it was out of the way from the rest of the house (which can be noisier).
It is important to be sure that the homework station has good lighting! You might need to purchase a small table lamp if there is bad lighting. One of these simple desk lamps will offer plenty of lighting for homework.
2. Remove potential distractions.
It is easy to get distracted while doing homework. Kids go to school for a full day then come home and spend 30 minutes to several hours doing homework. It is no wonder they can have a hard time focusing.
You can set your kids up for success by anticipating potential homework distractions.
They should be away from electronics including phones and TV.
Some kids can not do homework near their siblings. So, let each kid have the space he needs. Pets can even be distracting! Figure out what gets your kids off track and try to eliminate those potential set backs. You can even talk with your kids about what those issues might be and work together to come up with solutions.
3. Provide the right tools.
The biggest time waster is having your kids track down all the supplies they need for a particular assignment. So, make sure the homework station is fully stocked with the supplies they need.
4. Keep supplies organized with a homework caddy.
The best way to keep a homework area organized is to have a homework caddy. Essentially, you want to gather up all the school supplies your kids will need to do homework.
I like to use leftover school supplies from the previous school year to stock our homework caddy. We are at the point now that the kids do homework in different spots in the house. My older two kids do homework in their rooms while my youngest likes to do his at the kitchen counter.
So, I made individual homework caddies for each of the kids! You can find containers to use for homework caddies at Target, Homegoods and even the Dollar Store. I still use a big supply caddy that all of the kids utilize. But then, they have individual supplies for their own desks.
I plan to give my kids these individual homework buckets at our annual Back-to-School dinner celebration.
It is nice for each of the kids to have their own supplies. This year, I made sure all of the kids had a small stapler. I also will sharpen all of the pencils! Then, there is no time wasted dealing with un sharpened pencils!
What do you put in a caddy for homework?
Depending on the grades of your kids, you will need different supplies.
At a minimum the homework caddy should include:
- Highlighter pens
- Index Cards
- Post it Notes
- Graph Paper and Loose Leaf Paper
- Colored Pencils
I can not tell you how helpful it is to have a container of supplies for homework. There have been many times in the past that my kids are tracking down scissors or another school supply for a project. They end up spending so much time looking for something which delays the start of their homework time!
5. Set up a homework routine.
I thought I had the perfect homework routine for all of my kids. My older two kids always came home from school and had a snack and started homework. Then, my youngest son threw me for a loop when he resisted doing homework right after school. I tried to stick to the same routine I had done with the older kids, but I finally realized he needed a little bit different routine.
There is no right or wrong homework routine. You have to figure out what works best for each of your kids. Some kids need some downtime before starting on homework and other kids prefer to get things done right away.
Often times, evening activities an dictate when homework needs to be done. Now, my older two often have after school activities so they can not get homework done until the evening.
Decide on a homework plan at the beginning of the year and make sure all of your kids are on board. Then, if you need to make changes with the routine, adjust your routine accordingly.
6. Organize the homework station daily and weekly.
Are you kids neat and tidy or does their work space look like an absent minded professor? All of my kids have homework spaces that look like the latter. When a homework space gets messy, it is hard to find the tools the kids need. Plus, it can be very distracting to have a messy homework environment.
Each day have the kids clean up their homework area. Then weekly, go through paperwork and supplies and discard unwanted items.
7. Make changes to the homework set up as needed.
Perhaps you start with a homework station in one spot and you realize it is not working for your student. It is never too late to make changes.
Each child might need a little bit different space. If you find that the location is too distracting for your child or perhaps too remote (and you can not keep an eye on him when needed), make a change!
Homework Organization Supplies
I’ve rounded up some homework organization supplies. Most of these items we have at home including the three tiered rolling cart (perfect for art supplies!).
Are your kids ready for the first day of school? Now is the time to get organized for back-to-school, so that your kids can have a great start to the school year!
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I’ve teamed up with Keri Lynn Snyder to share our best back-to-school tips.
Read her tips for Prepping Your Home for the Start of School!
More School Organization Posts You Might Like:
The Best Desks for Kids
How to Organize Kids Art Supplies
How to Set up a Small Homeschool Space
You always have the best organization ideas- love everything about this!
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