School Agendas: Enabling Children to Manage their Time
Agendas can help children learn to manage their time. Children are under pressure to track their own time and manage multiple activities, such as homework, projects, tests, extra curricular activities etc. The efficient use of an agenda prevents children from feeling overwhelmed by their school work and gives them a sense of control which makes them feel good about themselves. It helps children to prioritize, plan and pace their tasks and is a communication tool between home and school. As parents, we can help our children take responsibility for their time so they can become efficient time managers.
The daily use of an agenda serves:
- As an organisational tool
- As a time management tool
- As a communication tool
- To develop initiative
- To develop responsibility
- To develop self-worth and a sense of control
Your child's classroom teacher(s) will be teaching students how to make the most from their agendas.
But, as parents, there is much we can do at home.
1. Set a SITE
- Homework is best done in the same place at the same time of day.
- The site needs to be free from family noise and the distractions of interesting toys and games.
- Put the agenda on the desk at the beginning of each homework session.
2. Make it a HABIT/ Establish a ROUTINE
- Take 5 minutes with your child, each day to review the day's homework and to check that everything is written in the agenda.
- Open the agenda together.
- Ask questions, discuss the answers.
- Check that notices from school are handed over to you at this time.
- Use the pocket in the cover of the agenda for any communication to and from school.
3. CHECK IT OFF
- When the homework item is completed, put a check mark in the box or cross it out. When all the tasks are checked off, the homework for that night is completed.
- Give a reward for completed homework. Rewards depend on your own child (stickers, small treat, bonus points).
4. Set PRIORITIES with your child
Ask the questions:
- What has to be done and is urgent?
- What is important but can be left until another time?
- What would be nice if it is done but is neither important nor is urgent?
An urgent task would be to study for the test for the following day. An important task would be to begin work on the project due at the end of the week. A nice task would be to colour the illustration to a poem. Write the urgent tasks down in the agenda on the appropriate dates. Write "project due tomorrow" and mark it as urgent. The project is considered important on those days leading up to its due date but urgent the night before it is due.
Estimating helps children learn how to predict tasks and plan the completion dates accurately. It also develops the pacing skills needed for sitting tests and exams.
1. Have your child estimate how long it will take to complete each homework task.
2. Time the task.
3. Compare the estimated time and the actual time.
Your child estimated it would take 10 minutes to complete an easy math assignment with 20 questions, but it took 20 minutes. The next day your child is to complete a harder math assignment, still with 20 questions. Can he or she adjust their estimate accordingly?
Remember this is a learning experience. It takes practice and perseverance. This step must be learned before realistic planning can be done independently.
6. PLAN AND PACE
Once your child has mastered the skills of setting priorities and estimating, they are ready to learn how to plan and to realistically pace their homework.
1. Break the primary task down into manageable steps.
2. Draw up a plan. Keep it broad - don't get into too much detail.
3. Pace each step so your child experiences steady success.
Note: This stage of organisational ability is specific to each individual child. Only you and your teacher know your child's learning style and work capacity, so plan and pace the work schedule according to his/her individual needs.
Example: If a project is estimated to take 3 hours then break it down into 3, 1 hour blocks and spread it over 3 days. Write the project in the agenda on each of the 3 days, marking each entry as important. Remember to continue to prioritize the urgent tasks so they can be completed on time.
Make sure your child has enough down time to relax. Children need time in the day where they are not scheduled, time alone for uninterrupted reading, playing, listening to music or shooting baskets. This relaxation time is as important as structured homework time.
Be an example: Make sure that you take time to relax; learning by example is very effective.
Take time each day to review the agenda and check-in with your child concerning the school day. The emphasis should not be on marks and success, but on positive communication.
1. Keep the communication open and non-judgmental.
2. Eat before talking. Short tempers can be lengthened with food.
3. Communication is three-way, i.e. between yourselves and your child, the school and yourselves, your child and the school.
4. Notes can be written directly in the agenda or slipped into the back pocket of the cover.
When you notice your child taking initiative to plan independently, back off. Let your child practise this new organizational skill alone and reward his/her developing independence. Encourage your child to make decisions independently and stop yourself from rescuing him/her from possible mistakes.
10. SET GOALS
As children mature, the setting of personal goals becomes increasingly important to them. They will ask questions such as:
What do I want to become?
Who do I want to be?
What subjects do I excel at?
What skills do I have?
What kind of person do people see me as
How much time do I have to pursue all my goals?
Read some books on this subject. Draw up a realistic, goal-oriented Action Plan. Write the Action Plan into the agenda. Review it regularly to ensure that the daily extra-curricular activities contribute to and support the Action Plan.
- You have worked with your child all year so they can become the best they can be.
- Take time to review the hard work, the learning experiences and the achievements.
- Do not judge. Be positive. Reward the achievements, the initiative and the personal growth. It has come with hard work, perseverance and practice.
These tips were written by Moira Toomey, an occupational therapists working at the Ottawa General Hospital. Reviewed July 2010.
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