As educators our goal is to prepare students for whatever comes next. As they move up through the grades we are always trying to prepare them for the next grade with higher expectations. Yet, the ultimate goal is always to prepare them for college or work after high school. As part of this preparation we teach the primary academic skills of reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. We also must teach nonacademic skills essential to future success. Two of these skills are time management and organization. Teachers and parents can begin practicing these skills with students as young as preschool and can help develop them throughout their academic career. As with academic tasks these skills are easier for some students than others and some students will need more support in order to be successful. Also like academic tasks there are multiple ways to teach and learn time management and organization. Here are a few ideas for developing these skills at different ages or levels of development.
Parents and preschool teachers can help children of this age by talking about time, having consistent routines, and helping them to put things away in a designated space. Using a visual timer and or song to indicate how long a child has to complete a task can also be very helpful at this age. Pretend play and imaginative play are also important elements in developing these skills at this age. Parents and teachers can help by asking the child to think about what comes next or “what will it/you look like when you are finished?”. Children of this age will not really understand the passage of time but they will begin to learn through exposure.
Children in early elementary school will continue to benefit from all of the previous strategies. However, as they move into school age they can take on more responsibility. For example, using a checklist to complete their morning routine independently gives them independence they desire. A planner is often introduced in school at this age as well. Learning the skill of writing things down that they need to remember is a lifelong skill that can begin as soon as they can read/write or draw pictures. Visual timers and visual schedules continue to be very good supports for students at this age. Teachers can also encourage visualization. They can provide examples of what finished worksheets or projects should look like.
As students move into middle and upper elementary they are expected to complete daily homework. Teachers can continue to provide examples of what finished work should look like to help with visualization. They can also have students use a planner to keep track of assignments. It is best if teachers check the planner to makes sure that it is being filled out completely at this age. As students get proficient at this task checking may no longer be required. Teachers can also provide organization strategies. However, if a strategy does not seem to work for a student other options should be considered. Students will continue to benefit from checklists especially when there are multiple steps or the task will take a longer time.
Junior High and High School
As students move into Junior High and High School they are sometimes expected to have mastered time management and organization. However, especially with long term assignments or projects many students will continue to need support. Even at this age a visual example of the finished product is frequently needed. Teachers can also support students by first giving smaller deadlines then teaching the students to set smaller deadlines themselves. If they have not mastered the use of a planner by the time they enter Junior High it is essential that other methods be explored. At this age most students will be more inclined to use electronics. Teachers and parents should familiarize themselves with electronic calendars and to do lists so that they can help their students.
-by Bethany Hyatt, School Psychologist