Tips for Helping Students Stay Ahead and Organized

Academics, For Parents, For Schools, Public / /

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Getting and staying organized can be a challenge for anyone – especially a child managing different teachers’ expectations, a club activity or team sport they’ve committed to, and the beginnings of a vibrant social life. But when a kid gets sick and misses a few days of school – catching up or figuring out what to do can be especially stressful. 

Sarah Besand, a Teacher and Possip Reporter, shares tips for helping students with staying organized and ahead!

Here are our top tips to help students stay ahead and organized:

For Parents of Younger Students

1. Teach Confidence

Just as adults can find themselves wading through resources, students can feel similarly! Before teaching specific strategies to your child, we recommend setting aside some time to talk with your child about confidence and proactivity when it comes to missed work. This can look like role playing proactive conversations with teachers and helping students choose strategies that work for them. This helps them build confidence as well as those proactive habits–and it’s an all around win for everyone! Here’s what that teaching confidence could sound like:

Student: “Hey, I know I’m going to be out of school on _______. Could you help me gather what I’ll be missing so that I can turn it in when I return?”

Student: “Mrs. Boley, I was sick last week and missed class on Thursday and Friday. Can you show me what I need to do to make up the work I missed?”

Be sure to help your child think through when they can approach their teachers. Is there time before class or after? Is there time during a study hall or lunch period? Do they need to stay a few minutes after school or get there 15 minutes early?

2. Promote Time Management

When students are facing a mountain of work – both the ongoing assignments and the ones they missed, one great strategy to share revolves around how to structure their time–what everyone wishes we had more of! Teaching time model strategies at home like time blocking can be a life-saver for students and for you! This practice allows you to break up your time into shorter segments and also make time for what you love. Apps like Pomofocus can help to digitize this process and can help break tasks into smaller chunks and breaks as well. 

3. Focus On Learning and Growth Over Grades

This mindset shift is one that will help improve all of the strategies you choose to cultivate in your home to stay ahead and organized. As you teach skills like time blocking and digital planning, we recommend reminding students each day that, ultimately, staying organized can help lower stress and promote learning and growth. Reinforcing this can be in the form of a mantra or an affirmation, but students need to hear it and parents need to repeat it time and time again. 

For Parents of Older Students

1. Model Calendar Strategies

One way to help middle and high school students make the most of their academic planners is to first model making a list of all tasks that need to be done, and then marking their corresponding due dates in a calendar. This can help students visually see how much time must be allotted in the prep work for these assignments, and then flesh out a plan. Modeling this at home can be empowering for students so they can practice in a low stakes environment and then implement going forward.

2. Try an “Ideal Schedule” Day

The “Ideal Schedule” is a great practice to work through on Sundays. With the “Ideal Schedule,” students can choose how many hours they want to spend on any given task or personal activity and can decide what needs to stay or go depending on the amount of hours available. This can be another great practice to implement as a whole family!

3. Role Play Self-Management

Similar to the technique for elementary school students, upper grade learners can also benefit from low stakes practice of preemptively asking teachers what they can do to stay ahead when they know they may miss school. These practices help build student pride and confidence, as well as help them stay ahead in their classes. Here’s what that could look like:

Student: “Hey, I know I’m going to be out of school on _______. Could you help me gather what I’ll be missing so that I can turn it in when I return?”

Student: “I missed ______. What can I do to make sure I get caught up and stay on track with the rest of the class?”

4. Use the “Athlete’s Checklist”

Many of you may have heard of this strategy if you have students in athletics or extracurriculars! With “No Pass-No Play”,  some coaches require their athletes to go to each class and get a sign off on their grades or any missing assignments.  Parents can do the same!  Parents give their child (athlete or not!) a sheet and then require them to visit their teachers weekly and check off on if they are on track to pass.  Students’ goals can vary based on school, age, or child whether they need to be “passing” each class or aiming to get As and Bs.

Click the Checklist below to download your own copy!

For Teachers and Schools:

1. Start with a Syllabus

Starting the school year or quarter with a syllabus can really help students stay on up to speed. Digitally or on paper, students can track what they have missed or may miss so that they can stay ahead in their studies.  It can also help parents who may be trying to help their child become more organized.  Try it, and see how organized your students become!

2. Have a Missed Class Paper/System

If a student is going to miss a class or school, have a system so they know: 1) who they notify; 2) have a form they get filled out with the work they need.  In a middle or high school, the person who they notify and get their form from may be in the front office.  In elementary school it may be their homeroom teacher.  Having an adult that students check in with not only helps them stay on top of work – but it helps them feel seen and noticed if they are missing part of school.

3. Be Predictable

Having a standard day for tests and quizzes can really mitigate student confusion when they are out. For example, if students know they will be out on a Friday and it’s an assessment day, that student could take the quiz a day early or the first day they come back. This helps students stay on track and your grade book as well!

4. Consider how Parents Can Help

While students are working on their independence, parents can be a great lever.  The more they know, the more they can help.  Some of the ideas above can help parents have the information they need to support their students.

Depending on the grade level, a parent helper may help other parents know what is coming.  A mom at one of our team member’s kid’s school created a class calendar or grade level calendar and shared the link with other parents.  This parent created a calendar with all known quiz, tests, and projects for the semester, and shared a link with parents if they wanted to subscribe to the calendar. 

5. Create a “Week’s Work” Corner

An easy strategy for you to keep up with extra copies as well as help your students stay ahead is to set up a “Week’s Work” area in your classroom. This can be organized with folders for every day of the week so that students can practice their self-advocacy skills and catch up on the work they missed.

We hope these strategies help students, parents, and teachers alike stay organized and ahead of their school and work week. It is a beautiful thing to come together and work towards a common goal–and what’s better than keeping everyone on track academically (and personally too!)?