Prioritize & Organize With These Planner Pointers

A homework organizer can help a child with ADHD be a star at school.

a student with ADHD uses a school planner to track her homework
a student with ADHD uses a school planner to track her homework

Want to make sure that your child gets his homework done every night — and learns about planning and how to prioritize?

Teach him to use a homework planner. Whether you call it an “assignment notebook,” a “student planner,” or a “homework organizer,” it serves the same purpose: helping a child keep track of school assignments, materials, and time.

I’ve worked with many well-meaning students who swear they wrote down their assignments only to find that they left out critical details. For instance, Cindy wrote down that she had reading homework, but forgot to note the questions that were to be answered.

As a teacher and a mother, two rules have worked for me: Encourage your child to write down assignments in his planner word for word, and ask his teacher to look over the planner before he leaves class.

The teacher should check to make sure all assignment information has been noted, and that all books and/or materials needed to complete the assignment are in his backpack. When this becomes routine to your child — and it will — teacher supervision will no longer be necessary.

Using a homework planner will increase your child’s chances of getting his assignments done, and it will also help him develop skills — juggling responsibilities, allotting time, planning ahead — he needs to become more independent. The earlier you begin this process, the easier it will become for your child. Here are some teacher-tested tips to maximize a planner’s use.

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Take the Long View

In addition to noting homework assignments, you and your child should schedule his extracurricular events. If you enter “Gym day on Monday and Wednesday,” include a reminder for him to pack gym shoes in his book bag the night before.

A notation about Thursday’s piano lesson may include a prompt to practice every day for 15 minutes. This will give your child a view of the week ahead and reveal any conflicts between school and extracurricular activities.

Keep Track of Materials

Create a checklist of books and materials your student needs to bring home each day, and paperclip it to the planner. Make blank copies of the checklist and attach a new one every day.

Learn to Prioritize

After school, have a snack together and open the planner. Look over the list of homework assignments for that day, asking him to estimate how much time it will take to complete each one. Write the estimate next to each assignment. Then help him prioritize his work — math first, reading second, social studies third.

When everything has been completed, check to see whether your estimates were close. The more your child does this, the better he’ll become at allocating time.

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Add On

Place sticky notes, of various sizes and colors, in the planner to remind your child about special school events or tasks — asking the math teacher for help with last night’s homework, for example.

Break Projects Into Tasks

All kids, especially those with ADHD, have difficulty with long-term planning. When your child has a big test, or is assigned a complicated project, use the homework planner to break it down into manageable mini-tasks. If he’s been assigned a report about an animal of his choice, mark the due date with a colored marker and work backward, allotting a day or so for selecting a topic, another few days for researching the elements of the report, and enough time to write a rough and a final draft.

Cross Things Off

Encourage your child to draw, in pencil, a thin line through each task as he finishes it, and to “X” out the entire list of assignments at the end of the night. He’ll feel a sense of accomplishment, just as an adult does when deleting items from his to-do list.

This simple action reinforces one of my favorite messages to students: Put yesterday behind you. Each day is a new beginning.

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