Smyrna Middle School

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Organization

​Is your middle school student forgetting homework? Forgetting about papers for you to sign? Does their backpack/locker look like a tornado hit it? 
Many parents go through 20 questions game with their child about school. What can they do and what can you do? From the article, Keep Your Middle Schooler Organized  on Psychology Today:

"What they can do:
  • Your child MUST keep an accurate list of assignments in their planner (paper or electronic).  Many kids think they'll remember an assignment, because they haven't yet realized how hard it is to keep track of the many tasks they're assigned. Different schools use different methods. Make sure you understand the system that your child's school uses to record assignments so you can help them use it effectively:
    • Write down the assignment on the day it is due.  The way I and many parents were taught to use a planner is to write assignments down the day it is due.  You look ahead and know what to work on.  You can put in 'tickler' notes to break down long assignments into smaller parts. 
    • A newer method: Writing down an assignment the day it is assigned.  Both my sons - in two different school systems 10 years apart - were taught to write down assignments on the day they are ASSIGNED.  After 10 years, I have finally learned how this system is SUPPOSED to work, although neither of my sons ever did.  It does make sense and is an excellent system if your child can use it.
      • When an assignment is assigned, write it down the day assigned AND THE DAY DUE.
      • The next day, check the previous day's assignments.  Anything not complete gets written down again.  Each day, continue to add new and uncompleted assignments.  When an assignment is done, check it off.
      • With this system, each day's listing works as a 'to do' list.  It thus combines both an agenda and a to do list.
    • PHOTOGRAPH THE CHALK BOARD.  Most of my son's teachers write the assignments on the boards.  Many of them have the week's assignments written there on Monday.  Take a picture.  They can organize it later.
What you can do:
  • Ask your child about each class and check to make sure any assignments are written down.  Be especially aware of patterns.  Is spelling always due Thursdays?  Math tests on Fridays?  Put it on your own calendar so you can remember to ask.
  • Check their planner against other sources of information.  One way that parents can help is to check assignment books against other sources information to make sure they are complete.  Your kids can do that too. Many schools put some assignments on-line.  Other teachers hand out calendars.  Others have weekly scheduled.  For example, my son's Language Arts teacher assigns spelling, analogies, and grammar on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, respectively, and everything goes in on Thursday.  Writing that down at the beginning of each week helps to keep things in order.
  • If it's still not working, ask for help from the school.  If, after all best effort, you child still isn't bringing home an accurate list of assignments, enlist help.  Ask your child to stop by their teachers after school or at the end of each class and check their assignment books.  If your child isn't turning in homework, your child's teacher is probably at least as frustrated as you and your child.
Make sure needed materials are home when they're needed.  One of the real challenges of getting homework done is making sure that each of the books, handouts, and assignment lists are home when they're needed. 
What they can do:
  • Check the assignment book at the end of each day as they're packing for home.  
  • Set up a system to remember books. Have your child mark down what they need when they write down the assignment. For example, they can put a post-it note on the front of the planner. When they write down the assignment, they write down the books or handouts they need to do it on the post-it. If they check their post-it before they leave at the end of the day, they should be set.
  • Ask for extra books.  Is this a chronic problem?  Does you child have a 504 or IEP or just concerned teachers?  Ask for an extra set of books.  In addition, many books are available electronically and the teacher just have to give you an access code.
  • Don't forget worksheets!  Sometimes putting all worksheets directly in the planner is the best way for them to make it home.  My son takes photographs of every worksheet he is given so it's on his iPod, he can't lose it, and he can print them out if they get lost.
  • What you can do:
    Still not working?
  •  If you can get a second copy of your child's books, DO IT.   Some books are needed every day, but others are only needed once in a while.  Kids often forget books not needed on a daily basis.  This can cause major problems.  It had never occurred to me that I could solve this problem by getting an extra copy of textbooks, but when I asked, my son's teachers were happy to oblige.  Often now they are available electronically, you just need to get the passcode.  If you're having a problem, they may have extra copies of old textbooks stuck in a closet somewhere.  Ask.  They can only say no.What your child can do:
  • Put all homework in their assignment book.  For some children, slipping all homework for the day into their assignment book is a good strategy, as they need to take it out to write down their new work.  If that works, go for it.
  • Flag assignments that will be turned in.Because some homework needed to be in binders and other was loose, keeping it all in one place simply did not work for my son.  Flags did.  You know those bright post-it notes or flags you can buy?  Or paper clips?  Every time my son completes an assignment, he puts a bright flag on it before he sticks it in his accordian folder.  When he opens the folder up, the first thing you see is four or five bright markers, showing what has to be turned in for the day.  Since he began using this system, he hasn't lost one assignment.  
  • Have them photograph every assignment.  The ones they do in class.  The ones they do at home.  My kids can lose anything.  Photograph it.  They may also realize the assignment they thought was done wasn't finished.  The photograph will show it to them.
  • Do all work that can be done in Google Docs.  They can't lose an assignment typed into Google Docs.  They also can't lose an assignment photographed or scanned and uploaded to Google Docs.  Anything in Google Docs can be printed again.  Many teachers who are just checking off that things are done will just look at an iPod or phone and check it off as there.
  • What can you do?  
    Essentially nothing.  You can teach your child strategies and give them the tools they need to do their work.  You can make sure they photograph or upload it.  But ultimately, once the homework is done and they are off at school, they're on their own."