Oftentimes low scores, poor grades, and lack of motivation stem from disorganization. With some simple organizational techniques, many students become more engaged in their learning and earn higher marks. Here are some simple daily tips for students who want to improve their academics:
- Agendas: Throughout the day you should write your assignments in your agenda. If the homework is posted online, you should write in your agenda during the first 5 minutes you are home from school. Alternatively, a simple table including the headings “Course,” “Assignment,” and “Due Date” can be created on a computer and printed out. There are also many useful apps, such as MyHomework, which more techy students may prefer. Whatever the medium, you must be held accountable for this everyday. Allow your parents to quickly check your agenda right after school.
- Prioritizing: For students with procrastination and/or focus issues, simply writing down the assignments is not enough. Next to each task, you ought to write the date it is due and an estimate of the time it will take to complete. Then, you should write numbers next to each assignment, indicating the order that they will be completed. It is important to note that it does not matter if you place the most difficult assignment first or last, or the one that will take the longest amount of time first or last, etc. All that matters is that you have some valid reason for the rankings. Again, this helps teach responsibility and accountability.
- Assessments: These should be written in the agenda and then highlighted. You can create list of materials to study (textbook summaries/charts/diagrams, lesson outlines, lecture notes, study guides, assignments, past quizzes). Then you ought to write down in your agenda which day you will study which resource. Breaking down the daunting task of studying for a test into smaller, more manageable parts helps to prevent procrastination and improve overall comprehension. While studying, you should highlight the information that is most difficult for you, so that you can study it again later.
- Long-term assignments: Similarly to studying for assessments, long-term assignments should also be written and highlighted in the agenda. Big projects should be broken down into smaller tasks, such as: choose a topic, research, compose a thesis or main idea, outline, complete first paragraph/trial/draft, etc. These specific tasks ought to be written in the agenda indicating the days you will complete them. This holds the you accountable for the steps along the way.
- Utilize spare moments: Suppose the bus is late or you have finished your classwork and are waiting for the other students to catch up. This is an excellent time to get ahead on some of your simple tasks. You can read the next chapter in your book, begin thinking of topic for paper, start your homework for math class, etc. You’d be surprised how much you can get done during these random spare moments.
- Plan a reward: Make sure that in all your planning that you do not forget to incorporate a reward for yourself. A reward for working on homework for one hour straight could be taking a 10 minute break. A reward for completing a massive history project can be that new phone case you’ve been wanting. It is important to acknowledge your accomplishments – big and small.
- 3-ring binder: Rather than storing papers for all you class in one huge binder, consider getting a separate binder for each class. This will prevent it from getting too heavy or disorganized. Try to use binders that are unique-looking (different colors or patterns), so as to help keep you from grabbing the wrong binder in a hurry. In each binder, use color coded subject tabs or a folder with pockets to separate your “To-do” assignments from your “Done” assignments.
- Bin with hanging files: At home, have a plastic or cardboard bin with separate hanging files for each subject. At least once per week, go through your binders and move anything from your “Done” section to the corresponding hanging file in the bin. Do NOT throw anything away! If the teacher accidentally loses your assignment or if you have a huge unit test, you will have all your old papers in one area for easy access. Only throw away papers from this bin and your binders at the end of the school year.
- Locker: If your schedule rotates, try to keep books and binders for classes you have on the same day together. Turn the spines of your books and binders outward, so they are easier to identify. If your locker is cramped, consider buying a locker shelf to utilize the space better.