Time Management: Tips and Tools for Middle School Students
Can you feel the excitement of August? This month can be especially exciting for middle school students. The years between elementary and high school are among the most influential in a young student’s life, where they may start honing in on academic strengths, exploring extracurricular interests, and developing lasting and meaningful relationships with peers. We couldn’t be more delighted to welcome our middle school students to the Laurel Springs family this year.
Middle school stressors range from the "what's cool in school" types of wonders as elementary hits the rearview—like which backpack is the best upgrade to which back-to-school shoes are the rage—but you as the parent are more likely stressing about making sure you have the tools you need to help your middle-schooler prepare for a more rigorous scholastic experience.
As the academic years progress—especially in self-paced learning—more will be demanded of your child when it comes to juggling assignments and studying, so it’s important for development of time management skills to take top priority.
Here are our tips to help young teenagers stay on top of their schoolwork.
Tip 1: Preview each course and note major assignments
At the start of the semester or term, your student will be given a slew of materials, including a syllabus or course outlook and assignment calendar. Be sure to get your eyes on these materials before the classes are in full swing and note any significant milestones or important dates. Creating monthly calendars can help your child visualize which times of their school year will have higher workloads/deadlines and which will be more lax.
The information you want to look for may include teacher office hours, test dates and homework schedules, and crucial details about the class’s framework. Are assignments due every week or every day? Is there a final exam or a final essay? What’s the last day to turn in work for this class? You’ll want to include the highlights on your family calendar, too—this way you can avoid scheduling conflicts that might be disruptive.
Tools for success: Gmail and Google Calendar
The Google Suite is a great resource for students with a lot to keep track of, and unmissable dates can be easily imported from emails in Gmail to Google Calendar. Your student can get a lot more out of Gmail than they realize; when Gmail is properly customized, their email inbox can make keeping track of conversations and assignments a breeze.
Need more help? The wizards over at LSS tech support can help you make sure that the G Suite is properly implemented and maximized on your student’s computer.
Tip 2: Create a weekly schedule
When your student is in the trenches of the term, all of the assignments, meetings, extracurriculars, and social activities can become a blur. That’s why middle-schooler time management should absolutely include a weekly schedule. You and your student can identify what should be a priority and started earlier in the week so the most urgent obligations aren’t overlooked or only get last-minute treatment.
Pick a time each week that works for your family to sit down and copy important dates out of your child’s monthly Google Calendar and anything new that’s come up from the previous week into their weekly calendar. Sunday evenings work for some, but you may find that getting it out of the way on Friday afternoons after school makes the last hours of the weekend more enjoyable.
Weekly and daily planners can also help your ambitious middle-schooler maintain a school-life balance as their academic responsibilities become greater. You can encourage your student to pick one evening a week and/or a couple of Saturdays a month to be blocked out on the planner and reserved for relaxation or socialization.
Tools for success: Traditional daily planner and time management apps for middle schoolers
We all know that phones can be incredible tools and our biggest distractions all wrapped up in one. While adults can make great utilization of a smartphone’s calendar and reminder features, it may work best for your young student to break out the old-school daily planner. Let them pick out one that suits their personality and a pack of colorful pens, then make the 15 minutes spent filling in the planner a fun shared activity.
There are apps that can help teach time management skills for middle school students, too; apps like TickTick and iStudiez Pro offer easy to-do list functions, while Forest and Flipd are great for productivity. Common Sense Media has an extensive list of the top time management apps for kids.
Tip 3: Practice time blocking
By practicing time blocking, your middle school student can optimize their time and ensure they are taking mindful, structured breaks. At self-paced and independent learning institutions, students have the greatest control over how their time is used. Understanding how to manage their academic time is a skill that will benefit young teenagers for the rest of their lives.
In time blocking, a certain amount of time is allotted for each task before moving on to the next one. Some students may need a more structured daily regime than others, with even their social media and lunch breaks given a designated amount of time so they don’t become off-task.
Tools for success: Goal trackers and reward systems
Google Calendar is a great tool to start the time-blocking method of working; by color-coding and blocking out your time like the productivity app Todoist shows, the day is neatly organized for visual learners. Simple goal setting for middle schoolers can also be very effective in helping teenagers stay invested in their own success and preventing their obligations from being neglected until they’re down to the wire, calling for a big push of productivity right before a deadline.
How do you teach a 12-year-old time management? Well, the most effective strategy may be incentivizing their responsibilities. This doesn’t mean offering prizes simply for completing assignments, but helping them identify small weekly and/or monthly goals and celebrating the completion of those goals, even just through verbal praise and acknowledgment or with a trip to the movie theater or their favorite pizza place, can encourage them to continue putting in consistent effort. After an entire semester or academic year of good performance, you can choose to reward your child in a way that makes sense to you.
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