Autism Awareness Month: Advice for the Classroom

April is Autism Awareness Month. One of the more mysterious developmental disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder presents itself in many different ways from child to child. In an effort to raise awareness about the many learning styles of students with autism and effectively support them, it is important that educators receive valuable, current information and strategies to help empower students in the classroom. With diagnostic data indicating a rising rate of more than 1 in 70 births, it is likely that this information is vital for parents and educators.

No two students with autism are alike. This disability is unique in the sense that it manifests differently from person to person. The age of onset varies, as well, with most children exhibiting symptoms by age three. However, there are some consistent findings: boys are almost four times more likely to have autism, and language regression and sensory sensitivity are often the first reported signs or symptoms.

Because early intervention is paramount for treating and managing an autism diagnosis, students in your classroom that are affected by autism are likely to have certain routines or practices already in place. The key then becomes streamlining the successful practices and strategies from home into the classroom environment. Be proactive when asking parents about successful strategies that they implement at home. Be sure to make contact with families early in the school year to ensure that the classroom transition is smooth. As much as possible, reinforce the successful practices from home in your classroom. The more consistency that your students experience, the better. Parents are a teacher’s greatest assets when finding ways to best serve your students.

Plan to maintain consistent and positive communication with parents of your students with special needs. Parents of a child with autism may be hesitant or anxious about their child’s acclimation to a new classroom environment. This is 100 percent understandable, as some past experiences may have been unfortunate or stressful for the child. Put parents at ease by maintaining a communicative relationship—one based on positivity and growth. Of course, weekly reports may vary in positivity, but remember to lead with the pros. What did the student do well this week? What growth have you seen of late? What social milestones did you witness in class or at recess? And so on.

Since students with autism frequently experience a sensitivity to sensory stimuli, teachers should be sure to maintain a calm and consistent environment. This is much easier said than done, however. A classroom of 35 boisterous children does not necessarily lend itself to calm and consistent. In an effort to best accommodate your students with special needs, consider keeping a cozy corner or quiet spot in the classroom. Use cushions, pillows, and bookcases to create a somewhat private “cool down” area if a student is experiencing stress from the classroom. Bright lights or darkness, loud noises, commotion, or unexpected changes in the routine, like a fire drill, can totally throw students with sensory sensitivity for a loop. Students on the spectrum are most comfortable when routines are maintained and expectations are met. So consider giving your student a heads-up if the daily norm is going to be disrupted. Knowing what is to come is immensely helpful for students that rely on continuity.

Be careful about praise, criticism, and sarcasm. Generally speaking, sarcasm should be avoided in the elementary classroom because of the students’ inability to read those cues. However, with students on the spectrum, sarcasm and dry humor can be even more confusing or misleading. Similarly, comments of support, praise, or reassurance may actually come across quite differently, depending on a student’s social perceptions. Be careful when recognizing a student’s achievements. Some may loathe the limelight and attention. If you know that your student is particularly shy, consider writing him a congratulatory letter, or recognizing his accomplishment in a small group of his friends.

Tips to Improve Reading in the Classroom

Not surprisingly, reading is one of those activities that students either love or loathe. As much as it can be difficult to get a bookworm to put the book down for a second, it can be equally challenging to get a reluctant reader to pick one up. So how can we improve reading skills for both our avid and unenthusiastic readers? The strategies and methods are just as different as the students themselves.

For Reluctant Readers:

Allow reluctant or struggling readers to use digital aids to improve comprehension and ease the stress correlated with fluency and decoding. Listening to audiobooks is a proven method to encourage and boost struggling readers. Explain to students that they must follow along while listening to the text. Many audio tools also allow students to highlight, mark, or pause the reading in order to define difficult terms or make notes along the way. This process allows students to actively engage with the text without relying solely on their own reading skills. While some argue that listening to books on tape is not actively reading, educators know this to be false. These digital tools, such as the audiobook, are simply scaffolds to allow for different avenues of comprehension. Yes, students are following along, but the audio also acts as an added support for comprehension, which can be very encouraging for struggling readers.

Make sure that the Lexile level matches the ability of your reluctant readers. Many students find reading to be discouraging, especially if the level of the text far exceeds their ability to comprehend. Numerous educational applications are available now to help teachers sift through texts and find appropriate levels for all readers. Some apps even provide variations of the same story or article for on, above, or below-grade level readers. This allows all students to read and comprehend the same text, so participation is not an issue.

Appeal to individual interests by providing student choice. As much as possible, students should be provided with texts that engage them and relate to them personally. Yes, the end goal would be for students to embrace reading as a means of exploring new things. However, for reluctant readers, it is all about the incentive to buy in. Charming their interests is a great way to bring enjoyment to an activity that they don’t necessarily love.

For Avid Readers:

Encourage students to explore texts that challenge their current level of comprehension. Voracious readers embrace the opportunity to increase their own vocabulary by encountering more challenging texts. Not only do unfamiliar terms pique their interests, but the complexity of sentence structures or plotlines also helps to stimulate learning and engagement for strong readers.

Allow strong readers to take creative liberties with their writing assignments. Since writing and reading abilities are reciprocal, a strong reader will likely flourish in writing, as well. Provide enrichment by having strong readers extend a novel, poem, or short story. The idea here is that fanfiction not only boosts writing skills, but also encourages advanced reading skills such as close reading, mimicking voice and tone, making interpretive predictions, etc.

Provide time for reading and exploring new texts in class. Obviously, avid readers are happy any time they are able to indulge in their favorite hobby during class. But, more than just silent reading for the sake of it, small bits of class time devoted to reading for pleasure is a great way to foster literature circles or book talks. Socializing over a beloved novel is a way for advanced readers to dig deeper into inquiry-based methods and learn to analyze texts on a more progressive level.  

International Ask a Question Day: An Educator’s Observation

March 14th marks the somewhat underrated “holiday” devoted to asking questions. Suitably falling on Albert Einstein’s birthday, International Ask a Question Day is meant to encourage the practice of seeking knowledge. In the world of education, questions are paramount in the learning process. In my own experience—and I think most teachers would agree—our job in the classroom involves asking, answering, and clarifying questions.

True story: Purely out of my own curiosity, I decided to tally the number of questions I was asked during a random school day. Any question counted—from, “Can I go to the water fountain?” to, “Should I underline the title of an article?” By the final period of the day, I knew I had a significant number of hash marks, but the exact amount of questions that had been asked far exceeded what I had anticipated. The number of questions was somewhere in the 300’s—and it was an early-dismissal day.

The point of this anecdote is to express the extent to which questions drive our work in the classroom. Students expect to get answers. Many may quantify those answers as learning. However, the real learning occurs when questions are formulated. To drum up a question, a student must first separate what he knows from what he does not know. This practice of sifting through knowledge and categorizing skills by competency takes a great deal of reflection. The saying “You don’t know what you don’t know” is thought to ring true for many students, yet in my observations, students are somewhat experts at recognizing what they do not know.

So, how can we use this almost innate penchant for curiosity and inquiry to best benefit our students?

Encourage your quiet students to “speak up” by allowing multiple ways of asking questions in class. This could mean keeping a question box or post-it notes available for students to jot down questions that they may be too shy to ask. You could also take a similar digital approach using Padlet or Google Classroom. Students are able to post questions to an online forum or webpage; they can also respond to others’ posts as well.

When reviewing for an assessment, have students create practice questions that they would anticipate seeing on the test. Have students submit or swap questions so that students can practice answering each other’s questions. If questions are well-written and relevant, use some student-derived questions on the actual assessment. This is also a way for teachers to gauge the students’ preparation for an upcoming assessment.

Play the well-known party game “just questions” in which students are only able to communicate using interrogative statements. This improv theater exercise encourages students to practice consciously phrasing and rephrasing questions. Students must think on their toes and apply knowledge of appropriate word choice and sentence structures in order to continue the conversation.

Provide students with broad or general questions like, “What is the setting of the story?” Then have students kick that question up a notch by adding another component or more complex level of inquiry. For instance, they might change the original question about setting to, “How does the setting affect the conflict that the character faces?” This practice allows students to add a layer of deeper analysis to a general question. Furthermore, this activity allows for plenty of differentiation depending on student ability.

Twice-Exceptional Students: Common Misconceptions

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Parents of twice-exceptional (2E) students know all too well that their child’s learning can be more complicated than expected. Twice-exceptional students, once referred to as GTLD, are characterized by their gifted abilities and the fact that they meet the criteria for an IEP or 504 plan. With such a unique combination of learning strengths and weaknesses, it is no wonder that these learners are unfortunately misunderstood in the classroom. For parents, this can be even more disheartening. However, there are proactive measures that parents can take to help to mediate any future concerns.

Encourage your child to use his/her strengths as a head start or springboard in school. This means that certain skills or tasks can be made easier when students play to their strengths. For instance, if drawing and diagramming is a strength, but written communication or explanation presents an issue, encourage your child to sketch an explanation to a math problem, as opposed to writing it out. Your child is still completing the task and mastering the concept of explaining steps in a math problem; however, he/she is simply arriving at a response in a different manner. A major aspect of learning involves capitalizing on one’s strengths and maneuvering around weaknesses, which is exactly how 2E students can truly shine in the classroom. It is an unfortunate misconception that these unique types of learners are aloof or disinterested. This is simply not the case—quite the opposite, actually.

For twice-exceptional students to be able to exhibit mastery in alternate ways, parents must practice open communication with classroom educators from the get-go. While this sort of request could be misinterpreted, 2E students and their families are not seeking special treatment. They simply recognize learning strengths and their value. Parents should not be wary about these accommodations—differentiation is part of a teacher’s best practices in the classroom. But, in order to help our students, we must be made aware of their strengths and needs.

Twice-exceptional students, when either too challenged or not challenged enough, may become despondent or reluctant. A student’s boredom or frustration in the classroom can often be met with the same reaction—indifference. Again, parents should communicate these visible behaviors to the child’s teachers. The unfortunate truth is, teachers may potentially begin to see a 2E child’s reaction as “attitude” or “laziness.” These types of labels are obviously detrimental to a student’s education. Explain to teachers that your child’s manner in class is a reflection of his/her struggles—that varying the concept, task, or activity is a simple quick-fix.

Encourage your twice-exceptional student to keep a journal for reflection. This is a practice that not only allows students to track their own academic growth, but it also allows students to recognize patterns of strengths and weaknesses. When students understand themselves as learners, they can truly begin to become agents of their own education. The power of knowing how to succeed builds self-confidence, as well.

National Special Education Day: Instruction for Twice-Exceptional Students

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The second day of December marks an important day in education. National Special Education Day may be widely unknown to most people outside of the classroom; however, its significance is notable. This special day, which officially began in 2005, marks the anniversary of the signing of our nation’s first special education law passed in 1975. IDEA, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, ensures that students with disabilities are entitled to Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that suits their specific needs.

But what does this mean for twice-exceptional (2E) students? This type of unique learner, once referred to as GTLD (gifted/talented and learning disabled), requires specifically differentiated instruction beyond the typical special education accommodations. So what does this type of instruction look like in the classroom? Take a look below to see how best practices can ensure the success of twice-exceptional students.

Twice-exceptional, previously referred to as GTLD, means that a student has been identified as gifted and also meets the criteria for an IEP or 504 plan. These students could have Asperger’s, vision or hearing impairment, ADHD, or an emotional or learning disability. While we know that every learner is unique, twice-exceptional students have an even more complex need for differentiation. These students often experience difficulties in processing speed, working memory, written expression, executive functioning, attention and self-regulation, and social skills. While these struggles could obviously interfere with learning, the flipside of 2E students is their unique strengths. Students are often articulate, advanced readers with advanced verbal skills. Their gifted verbal abilities mean that these students would greatly benefit from tasks and assessments where their mastery is measured orally. Instead of a research paper, essay, etc., provide these students with the opportunity to present their findings verbally, organize a speech, or participate in a debate. A simple spoken exam or assessment could prove much more beneficial than a written response or multiple choice test.

Because twice-exceptional students acquire knowledge and concepts quickly, they may appear bored or aloof in class. They are known for rapidly acquiring conceptual knowledge and have a natural ability to think critically. Because of this, review activities, rote memorization, and tasks involving simple recall are not preferred. These sorts of tasks have the potential to cause twice-exceptional students to “check out.” Anything that seems repetitive, elementary, or mundane will likely be received as irritatingly simple, causing 2E students to zone out or avoid the task all together.

2E students are typically inquisitive and thrive when exploring, questioning, or investigating. These students often have strengths in problem-solving. So, provide them with hands-on learning opportunities—tasks that allow them to deconstruct, build, or question the functionality of something, and play to their strengths and interests.

Twice-exceptional students tend to think that others see them as lazy, unmotivated, or stupid—this could not be farther from the truth. These students simply have different learning needs. For instance, 2E learners often find easy tasks to be difficult and difficult tasks to be easy. They may be able to build a perfectly proportional model bridge; however, if asked to explain how they arrived at the dimensions mathematically, they may struggle greatly. In these instances, the students simply “knew” how to complete the task or skill—but they will not be able to provide a detailed explanation of how they did it, or why. Because of this ability to simply “do,” 2E students thrive when given choices and differentiated opportunities to display their talents. This sort of strength-based learning means that they should be given opportunities for acceleration and enrichment, creative independent study, and study groups with other GT students.

Behavioral Techniques for Children with Learning Disabilities

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When it comes to education, there are few things that make or break a lesson like behavior management. Instruction is only as good as a student’s ability to receive it. If behaviors are out of control, the learning environment will be undoubtedly compromised. With classrooms of 30 or more students, effective behavior strategies can range far and wide—just like the many personalities in the classroom. While it may often come down to trial and error, some specific behavior techniques are known to be more effective for students with learning disabilities.

One important aspect of behavior management for students with learning disabilities is to create a classroom environment that is structured, but not rigid. Structure provides students with distinct expectations, both academic and behavioral. To set a standard or expectation from the beginning is a proactive way of staving off unsavory behaviors before they even emerge. However, as we all know, behaviors are typically an effect of some specific emotion. When emotions or reactions take over, especially for students with learning disabilities, it is beneficial that educators have a repertoire of behavioral techniques to try.

For students with ADHD…

Consider what is and is not within the child’s control before issuing a punishment or redirection. A child with ADHD is often impulsive and unaware of his or her own outbursts or comments. There is a difference between a child who is disruptive and a child with attention issues who is not intentionally troublesome. Therefore, the behavior techniques for an interruption must fit the circumstances. Instead of harping on the outburst immediately, as in the case of a disruptive student, give the student a silent cue to remind him or her of appropriate behavior in the class setting. Often times, simply making eye contact with a child will remind him or her to think and raise a hand before speaking out.

Another helpful behavior technique for students with attention issues is to use proximity. When a student is placed closer to the adult in the classroom, he or she will be more inclined to listen, track the speaker, and remain focused. Proximity also helps to remind students that they are in plain view of the teacher at all times. This technique assists when executive functioning is compromised and a student’s focus strays easily.

If a student with ADHD seems unusually fidgety or distracted, allow him or her to take a brain break. This one to three-minute movement break allows students to expel pent up energy or anxiety. The small time gap of movement also helps students to refocus and check back in if attention has been lacking.

For students with non-verbal learning disabilities…

Create a simple, structured outline for the day’s lesson. This will help a student who struggles to transition from task to task, or becomes easily frustrated if he or she feels “left behind.”

An outline or small sticky note indicating the day’s lesson will also prevent a student’s need to ask repetitive or unnecessary questions. These behaviors are typical for student with a non-verbal learning disability (NVLD)—including the inability to read facial expressions or interpret body language.

A student with a NVLD may also appear clumsy, careless, or uncoordinated. Preferential seating, either close to the teacher’s desk, pencil sharpener, door, etc., helps keep this type of learner from unnecessary roaming.

Hidden Talents Masked by a Learning Disability

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As parents, you know your children better than anyone else. You know their strengths, weaknesses, and everything in between. One of the more difficult aspects of raising a child with a learning disability is watching the struggle—it can be unbearable. A learning disability may come with an unfortunate stigma, one that makes it hard to view the disability as anything other than an obstacle. These obstacles or roadblocks certainly do complicate things in and out of the classroom, but it is important to recognize the unique strengths that often accompany a learning disability. In the same amazing way that people lacking one of the five senses are able to somewhat compensate with the strengths of the remaining senses, a child with a learning disability will often present with extraordinary strengths in other areas.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) exhibit periods of difficulty focusing, hyperactivity, and impulsivity—these likely interfere with learning and can make school difficult. But, believe it or not, ADHD symptoms may also have their own unique benefits. One of these benefits is called hyperfocus, which is exactly as it sounds. When children with ADHD are able to hone in on one specific activity or task for long periods of time, they maintain an acute focus, one that outlasts that of their peers. Whether this form of hyperfocus comes about athletically, artistically, technologically, etc., children that are able to channel their attention and excess energy find great success in their interests.

Furthermore, having adapted to managing the ADHD symptoms over time, children learn to self-check and recognize when their level of attentiveness dips and peaks. Again, because of the weakness in other areas, children with ADHD are often forced to think or learn a little differently. They build strength in other areas and become experts at streamlining information. With practice, they are able to hone in on significant details and gauge their own comprehension. This sort of self-awareness helps students play off of their strengths and develop creative means of achievement.

As you have likely noticed about your own child, children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are also highly sociable and friendly. Because they are prone to being talkative, their verbal language skills, including vocabulary, are often higher than those of their peers. Storytelling, public speaking, and debating are likely some of your child’s common social strengths.

Dyslexia/Dysgraphia

Dyslexia, a learning disability that affects a reader’s ability to decode, comprehend, and read fluently, certainly presents its own challenges in and out of the classroom. Reading levels can range from below grade level to nearly illiterate—which is not only frustrating for parents, but greatly discouraging for children, as well. The advantages of dyslexia are widely unknown, as the disorder is seen as a major educational roadblock. However, there seem to be undeniable benefits. Since reading presents a major challenge, some believe that the following behaviors are a means of compensating for the gaps in reading. For example, children with dyslexia typically thrive at tasks involving abstract thinking, creativity, and holistic or “whole picture” thinking. This flare of creativity is simply another type of intelligence, one that is equally important and beneficial. Children with dyslexia also display strengths in reasoning, problem-solving, and persistence.

Similarly, dysgraphia, a disability that affects written language, has its own unique benefits also. Since motor skills affect pencil grip and the ability to master written language, children with dysgraphia compensate by sharpening their listening skills. These learners are masters of recalling oral details, memorization, and storytelling. These conversationalists thrive in social situations and are often helpful problem solvers. Again, the weakness in one area allows your child to strengthen other areas of importance. Therefore, while a learning disability will certainly present difficulties, a “glass half full” viewpoint means that your child’s alternative forms of learning, understanding, and expressing can be major benefits.  

What We Can Learn from Students with Learning Disabilities

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A learning disability indicates that there is an issue or difficulty with acquiring knowledge or grasping concepts, information, or processes. Because of our common understanding of students with learning disabilities, it is unfortunately typical to view a disability as a disadvantage in the classroom. While this can and certainly is the case on some level, what we often neglect to notice are the advantages that come with what we consider a disability. Yes, learning disabilities make certain skills more difficult, but they also bring many unique perspectives to the classroom. Perhaps viewing these disabilities more as differences would open our eyes and allow for a more optimistic outlook.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) exhibit periods of difficulty focusing, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These symptoms vary from person to person, but can notably interfere with learning. But, believe it or not, ADHD symptoms may also have their own unique benefits. For instance, hyperfocus occurs when children with ADHD are able to hone in on one specific activity or task for long periods of time. Whether this form of hyperfocus comes about athletically, artistically, technologically, etc., students that practice channeling their attention and excess energy find great success in their interests.

Furthermore, having adapted to managing the ADHD symptoms over time, children learn to self-check and recognize when their level of attentiveness dips and peaks. Children with ADHD are often forced to think or learn a little differently. They become experts at streamlining information, honing in on significant details, and gauging their own comprehension. This sort of self-awareness helps students play off of their strengths and develop creative means of achievement.

Students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are also highly sociable and friendly. Because they are prone to being talkative, their verbal language skills are often higher than those of their peers. Storytelling, public speaking, and debating are some of their common social strengths.

Dyslexia/Dysgraphia

Dyslexia, a learning disability that affects a reader’s ability to decode, comprehend, and read fluently, certainly presents its own challenges in and out of the classroom. Reading levels can range from below grade level to nearly illiterate—which is not only frustrating for a child, but greatly discouraging, as well. The advantages of dyslexia are widely unknown, as the disorder is seen as a major educational roadblock. However, there seem to be undeniable benefits. Since reading presents a major challenge, some believe that the following behaviors are a means of compensating for the gaps in reading. For example, students with dyslexia typically thrive at tasks involving abstract thinking, creativity, and holistic or “whole picture” thinking. Children with dyslexia also display strengths in reasoning, problem-solving, and persistence.

Similarly, dysgraphia, a disability that affects written language, also has its own unique benefits. Since motor skills affect pencil grip and the ability to master written language, children with dysgraphia compensate by sharpening their listening skills. These learners are masters of recalling oral details, memorization, and storytelling. These conversationalists thrive in social situations and are often helpful problem solvers.

Instructional Techniques for LD Students

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Just like any other student, a student with a learning disability benefits greatly from structured, engaging, individualized instruction. And again, all students, no matter what type of learning obstacle may accompany them, have unique ways of accessing and retaining information. But what specific strategies can foster optimum learning opportunities in the classroom? Well, that depends on your students. Below are numerous strategies to best navigate your inclusion classroom and assist every student in the best way possible.

Present information, assignments, readings, etc. in different ways

Students with learning disabilities sometimes require multiple avenues or scaffolds in order to best access the material. This can mean that, while some students benefit from audible instruction—simply listening to directions—others may need to see instructions written out. A best practice, especially with the technology provided in most classrooms these days, is to provide clear and concise directions both orally and visually. This is achieved by printing individual handouts with directions, or leaving instructions on the Smartboard while students work on the task. Posting directions on the board or at students’ desks also reinforces the process of rereading for clarification. If students have the directions at their fingertips, memory or attention issues are circumvented.

Another beneficial way to present information to students with learning disabilities is to carefully and deliberately model the task or activity. For instance, written and spoken lab directions are helpful for many, but actually seeing the process of measuring, pouring, calculating, etc., may be necessary for students with processing disorders or issues pertaining to executive functioning. Writing assignments should also be modeled for students, as sentence structure, organization, and fluidity are not easily accomplished just by discussing. These, and other high-level thinking skills, require some step-by-step handholding for ALL students.

Furthermore, when creating or modeling different examples, it may be helpful for some students with learning disabilities to see a sample in front of them, not just up on the board. This way, as the teacher is modeling the task, students can follow along closely, taking notes and highlighting as they work.  

Allow students to access readings and class materials in different ways. Again, technology can be a major asset for inclusion classrooms. With the use of laptops, headphones, audio files, etc., students are able to read and write with assistance. Much like many accommodations require, students can listen to texts while following along. They are able to highlight or mark texts digitally using google classroom or other interactive technologies. Students can even complete and submit work without ever having to print or keep track of a tangible document. This can be particularly beneficial for a student with executive functioning issues, where organization can be a real struggle.

Modifications for assessments and assignments are also greatly beneficial. For example, conveying the theme of a novel in paragraph form could be extremely intimidating for many students, especially those with a learning disability involving written language. Since a best practice for teaching is to utilize student choice, why not allow students to represent a theme or other difficult concepts by a different method? Some may thrive by creating a collage or other visual representation, while others may compose a poem or comic strip to convey the theme.

A key to exceptional instruction is to provide students with engaging, individualized means of learning. This not only benefits students with learning disabilities—all students flourish when teachers utilize best practices.  

Ready, set, GO BACK TO SCHOOL!!! Organization Style. Part 1 of 6

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Ready, set, GO BACK TO SCHOOL!!!!

Organization Style

It’s that time again—the back-to-school commercials are in full swing! Backpacks, lunch boxes, clothes, and school supplies are some of the things occupying the minds of parents these days. As the sun sets on summer 2016, it is important to ensure that your child is given every advantage to begin the school year with a bang!

While much focus is put on school supplies and the “necessary” materials, one key element in preparing for a successful year ahead is to put organization in the forefront. And, as they say, practice truly makes perfect—or close to it. Organization applies to a multitude of facets in the educational realm. While all are important, organizing time or “time management” is essential. For example, consider if a student has color-coordinated references, organized notes, and an impeccable outline for a research paper, yet that same “organized” student gives himself Sunday night to complete the final draft of his research paper. All of the prior organization becomes a futile attempt if time was poorly organized.

Organization, specifically time management, is a skill that comes with practice. Even as adults, we sometimes drop the ball by failing to plan ahead accordingly. Here are some tips to ensure that time management makes its way into your household this school year.

Start from the beginning. As we all know, it is much easier to prevent negative habits than to correct them later on. Right from the start, discuss a realistic daily schedule that includes designated homework/reading time, after-school activities, family time, and reasonable sleep/wake times. Of course, be prepared to be flexible when things inevitably come up. But, for the most part, a set schedule will help your child to maintain balance and assuage the stress that comes with cramming.
Model the practice of planning ahead. Especially in the middle and upper grades, projects and assignments become more labor-intensive. With several steps, check-in points, and deadlines, it is easy for students to quickly lose track or get overwhelmed. As with many difficult tasks, showing is more beneficial than telling. Show your child how to organize by breaking down large assignments and setting at home check-in points in advance of the actual due dates. Also, show them how to prioritize more difficult tasks. For example, a five-paragraph argumentative essay is going to need more attention than a vocabulary practice sheet.
Be proactive with organizing your time. It is important to anticipate certain roadblocks to prevent last-minute school stressors. Check the printer for ink before the paper is due; plan for picture day so that the outfit of choice is clean and pressed; pack gym clothes with extra socks so that the morning rush through the dryer can be avoided; email teachers about foreseen absences ahead of time to get any missed work or important information; have a plan for sick days, in which your child has a buddy in the neighborhood to bring work back.

Teaching students how to organize their time is a skill that will prove beneficial throughout their academic and adult lives.

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