As an elementary school teacher, I partnered with parents and guardians to ensure students completed their assignments on time and that they arrived at school on time. As a middle school teacher, I realized that my students were of an age where they could begin managing their own time.
Middle schoolers could keep track of assignments, due dates, and the length of time it would take to complete their assignments. They also were traveling to and from school on their own. Some of them were responsible for younger siblings as well.
In high school, the level of responsibility for students increases even more. Some students are juggling school and work. Some are caretakers for family members and may even have children of their own. High schoolers are also thinking about their next step — whether it’s to enter the workforce full-time, attend an institution of higher education, or a combination of the two.
As both a classroom teacher and an instructional coach, I’ve developed tips for supporting students in cultivating and developing their time management skills.
Learn your students’ why and invest them in committing to it
Part of adolescence is figuring out who you are and what is important to you. Here are some prompts to encourage students to reflect on why managing time is important to them:
- What will change when your time is effectively managed?
- What changes will others observe in you when your time is effectively managed?
Ask students to reflect on a time when they effectively managed their time.
- How did you do it?
- Describe the process.
- What was the result?
- How did you feel before, during, and after the process?
- What, if anything, is transferable from that experience?
- What did you learn about time management and about yourself throughout that process?
Also, consider brainstorming scenarios and examples with students so that the students who aren’t able to recall or articulate moments of well-managed time can begin to develop insight and experience.
Provide time to use a planner in class
Break work into manageable chunks when you can. Show students how to break their work into manageable chunks on their own. This is a great use of the gradual release method!
When I was a middle school homeroom teacher, I fashioned a section of the whiteboard to look like a page in my students’ planner. It was divided into their core subjects and also had an “other” section. We had 30 minutes of homeroom in the morning and thirty at the end of the day. 10 minutes during the morning homeroom was dedicated to students familiarizing themselves with what they had planned for the day; 10 minutes of the afternoon homeroom was dedicated to students updating their planners.
Additionally, I displayed a large calendar in the classroom with important dates such as assignment deadlines; midterm and finals weeks; showcases; science fairs; conferences; and assemblies.
Your goal as a teacher is to model and aid habit-building both visually and verbally with students. Prioritize practicing on a predictable, low-lift basis.
Engage the research about proven strategies
Encourage students to learn more about how others around them manage their time. This is a culturally responsive approach to time management since no one size fits all when it comes to students finding a method that works for them.
Also, introduce frameworks such as the Pomodoro technique, to engage in focused work. You can also gamify the Pomodoro technique. Here is a link to ideas on how to do so: FTW: 4 apps that make a game out of getting things done | PCWorld
You can also share the neuroscience of procrastination and deep work.
- Here is a great book to help teachers help their students: GTD for Teens – Getting Things Done®
- Here is a great resource for students from the National Honor Society: Time Management | NHS
Partner with parents/guardians and colleagues
Along the lines of conducting research as aforementioned, consider how can parents and guardians can be partners in this effort to help students cultivate and improve their time management skills. They know their children best. Invite them to weigh in via survey or through a session. When possible, they can support the process of creating and holding students accountable to individualized plans.
Furthermore, partner with your colleagues. For example, perhaps your colleagues can offer a study hall period with a menu of options for students to not only study but to organize, reflect, make decisions, and plan ahead. Another idea is to norm as a grade team or content team on which methods you will incorporate into your classes to support students in building their time management skills.
Student-created accountability plans
Teach students how to create accountability systems–one of them being selecting an “accountabilibuddy.” This person should be someone of the student’s choosing since accountabilibuddies need to share a positive rapport. Here is an inspirational Twitter post to inspire you! Miss Ervey Class- Accountabilibuddies
Normalize asking for help
Unexpected things happen! De-emphasize perfectionism and feelings of shame when students mismanage their time. Instead, have students create backup plans. It can sound like “If ____, I will_____.” This allows students to lean into a growth mindset and stay on track after a setback. Empower students to ask one another for support, to ask a trusted adult, and to do their own research (there are plenty of books and websites with effective strategies and tools!).
After all, the word “management” is derived from the Latin word “manus”, which means “hand.” In this sense, managing something — in this case: time — means it’s in one’s hand to control. Empower students to believe that the way they handle their time is within their locus of control! The big picture is that developing and fine-tuning time management skills is a timeless endeavor and lifelong skill!
Equity Leader & Coach
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