The beginning of the school year is a time for setting expectations and creating habits. Students who establish strong routines now benefit throughout the rest of the year, and this all starts with back to school organization. If they use their lecture notes to check their recall of information and set up flashcards with vocabulary terms, they are usually prepared for their first tests and maintain a productive study approach.
If they use a planner to keep track of assignments and prioritize their work, they typically manage their after-school time effectively. On the other hand, students without consistent home routines often end up with piles of unsorted papers, missing assignments, and/or overwhelming workloads.
Back to School Organization Strengthens Executive Functions
Many of these crucial habits rely on executive functions, which often do not fully develop until people reach their mid-20s. Executive functions enable people to plan, sequence, and monitor their own actions. To support students who are still developing these skills, adults can provide environments that promote planning, organization, and self-monitoring. Providing students with physical planners and showing them how to turn their upcoming tests and assignments into a daily to-do list is an essential aspect of time management and task initiation.
Parents can also help by checking and rewarding planner completion until it is a firmly established habit. Similarly, having a weekly organization check-in can benefit students who struggle in this area. With regard to self-monitoring, strategies like verbalizing thought processes and checking work can improve students’ awareness of their own thoughts and actions. When adults model how to talk through their thoughts and double-check their completion of everyday tasks, they show how this strategy works. Students can also grow more independent in self-monitoring by setting up electronic reminders, reflecting on goals, and journaling.
Supporting students as they set up their school year routines is a complex task. Ultimately, students must become independent in their application of executive function skills, a process which requires making mistakes and learning how to problem solve. However, students must first be provided with tools and modeling that guide them towards using executive function skills effectively. As one expert in the field suggested, “Provide the minimum support necessary for the child to be successful. That’s a flexible maxim: on some days and in some situations, the child needs more support, at other times less. It’s not just kids who are learning as they go—adults who work and live with kids are doing the same.”
Would your child benefit from strengthening their executive functions by learning strategies to be more organized and better manage their time? If so, contact The Family & Learning Center to find out how we can help.