Back to School!
Now that our students have returned from summer camp and voyages around the world, we have been thinking about how to anticipate the challenges of the school year and to create effective systems around those challenges.
As summer draws to a close, students should start preparing systems of their own to help them navigate their academics, beginning with any summer assignments they have to complete. With this in mind, we thought we'd share some of the tools that we use to structure our own time, as well as some of the systems that have worked well for our students.
1) PREDICT YOUR TIME
I often ask students to keep a prediction chart, at least for a few weeks, to help them monitor how accurately they are gauging the time it takes them to complete assignments. Some students underestimate the amount of time things take, ensuring late nights and incomplete work. Other students overestimate the amount of the time assignments should take, which often leads to inefficient studying and note-taking. Prediction charts can be fun, utilitarian or aesthetically pleasing (whatever works) and can be abandoned once students begin to scaffold self-awareness about the way they manage their time.
2) PRIORITIZE YOUR PLANS
Once students have a clear sense of how long assignments take, they can begin to prioritize tasks. Students can rank assignments in order and can move long-term assignments to weekends and nights with lighter workloads. Some students tend to prioritize their favorite classes at the expense of more time-consuming and difficult pursuits. Actively prioritizing assignments really helps.
3) BREAK DOWN LONG-TERM ASSIGNMENTS INTO MANAGEABLE TASKS
Students often procrastinate on bigger assignments because they don't know where to begin. Writing an essay, for example, requires students to find and type up quotations, determine a thesis based on a close reading of these quotations, and write an outline. If students can identify these steps, they can better predict and prioritize them.. Similarly, studying for a test often requires collection of materials, outside help from teachers or tutors, mastery of the material and practice. Learning to break down long assignments into digestible tasks is essential.
4) CREATE A REWARD SYSTEM
Some students make deals with themselves around their favorite evening activities: one student rewards herself with a pretzel (her favorite snack) upon completion of a written paragraph while another won't check facebook until 50% of her homework is complete. These little rewards are important for getting through tedious assignments or long evenings of studying. One day, crossing something off a list might be enough.