Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Organization Tips Kids Will Actually Use

The following information is provided by Susan Goodkin, Executive Director of the California Learning Strategies Center, The Center helps parents meet the needs of gifted and advanced students from kindergarten through college planning.

Organization Tips that Work for Kids

When it comes to organizing young students, many parents and teachers try to fit all students into one box.

For example, students generally come home from their first day of middle school with new planner in hand and strict instructions to record all their assignments in it every day.

As many frustrated parents have learned, however, making every child use a planner as their primary organizational tool simply doesn't work in practice.

For many students - particularly young boys - writing down their assignments in tiny boxes, for up to six different classes, is torturous.

Additionally, for the planner to be effective, not only do students have to accurately record the assignments in the brief time between classes, but then they have to remember to review their scribbles. As one of my young clients earnestly informed me, "Oh, the planner works for me - I just forget to look at it."

If we want to improve our children's organization skills, we need to consider tools many kids are more comfortable with - and more likely to actually use - than planners.

Take cell phones, for example. When teachers write assignments on the board, a click of the cell phone camera will record the homework accurately and instantaneously.

Students can also text message the assignment to their mom or dad. (I know, to many adults it seems just as easy to write down the assignment as to text it, but texting seems easier to kids.)

If homework is assigned verbally, students can use their cell phones, and some Ipods, to record their teachers' instruction. You can also can channel your child's inner James Bond and get cool spyware gadgets such as a recording pen.

For an example, check out

Of course, students need to get the teacher's permission before recording.

Parents must also understand that teachers already have their hands full policing the use of cell phones and Ipods. Students who don't limit their in-class use of these devices to recording assignments should lose the privilege of doing so - back to the planner.

However students initially record assignments, they still need to review them.

Rather than trying to get kids to haul out their planners to check their assignments every day, why not make use of a tool the vast majority of kids unfailingly look at without reminders: their computer. You can turn the computer into an organizational aid through the many free programs available on-line.

Using programs such as Airset ( or zohoplanner ( students can calendar homework assignments, record appointments, create to-do lists, and more.

Students can also program reminders to pop up before assignments are due, as well as e-mailing their entries to parents - thereby creating another source of reminders!

Finally, for those kids who are reluctant writers of to-do lists and the like, parents can check out voice recognition systems such as Dragon Naturally Speaking,

This software will magically transform your child's spoken words into a written document. This is helpful for all kinds of tasks, as well as reducing the frustration of those kids who think faster than they can write.

Getting our children organized will be a lot easier if we adapt to their world. What are the odds that today's students will rely on low-tech devices such as planners when they're adults?

Let's help our kids by letting them use 21st century tools to organize their 21st century lives.

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