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Get and stay organized with these study skills

Start the year right by helping your child get organized with basic time-management and organizational skills.

By GreatSchools Staff

Encourage your student to take the time before school starts — or during the first few weeks — to adopt good organizational habits.

Time to get organized

Organization is the key to academic success: good students manage their time well and are on top of their assignments, notes, projects and test preparation.

Being organized makes learning more efficient and reduces stress and anxiety. A student who knows he's put in the right amount of time and used it well is a student who is confident when it's time to turn in a paper, take a test or give a presentation.

The good news is your child can be taught these skills.

"Mom, have you seen my [fill in the blank]"?

If your child can't keep track of his papers and of what's due when, help him develop a system. Purchase a binder and put a folder in the front for completed work to be turned in and a folder in the back for papers returned by the teacher. Or work with him to develop a system of his own to keep track of important papers. Once the system has been formalized, monitor him for a few weeks to make sure he's following through on all the steps.

"Yikes, it's due today!"

Make sure your student has — and uses — a planner to keep track of assignments. Some schools provide these to students, and if not, you might want to work with your PTA or parent organization to provide planners at your school. Help your child get in the habit of writing down each daily assignment in each subject and checking it off when it's complete.

Skills that improve school performance

Time management. Educators start teaching time-management skills in fifth grade, but your child will likely need reinforcement to make the process a habit.

First, make sure your student refers to her day planner/calendar on a regular basis. Teach her to divide up her work over the number of days allotted for the assignment. This will create small, manageable subtasks out of bigger, more daunting tasks. Large projects can create anxiety for students who are new to the process, and you will be helping your child by walking her through it the first few times and by enforcing the schedule you have devised together. A research project will be less likely to be left until the last minute if it's done in chunks, each with its own deadline.

Suzanne Owen, English teacher, literacy coach and mother of four in Antioch, CA, suggests these tips:

  • Subscribe to a newspaper and encourage your children to read it. Newspapers provide more detail and background than the Web or sound bites on TV. Newspapers also help make connections between what appear to be disparate bits of information.
  • Talk to your kids about what they are learning; not about grades, but actual content.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

12/1/2010:
"pretty good information"
08/25/2008:
"I love this site!!!!!!!!!!! Please keep up the great work!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The articles are really helpful!!!!!!!!!!!"
08/25/2008:
"These are excellent suggestions. My son struggled with organization in 7th grade. We want to start strong on the first day of 8th grade. I will try to use all that was written in the article. Thanks! Mrs. Hansen Mid-Cities area, Texas"
08/22/2008:
"Organization is at least 60% mental, 40% physical. Organized thinking is a big part of being organized -- plan & create, do, and review. "
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