Kenneth P. Sullivan, Ph.D.
Many times, a student simply needs better organization skills in order to perform better at school, and to reduce conflict with parents. When there is an issue of distractibility in the student, strategies to help with organization and structure are particularly helpful. Here are eight strategies that I have found to be most useful to students.
Organization of homework
Do homework at the same time and place every day. This makes it much easier to get started, once it becomes a habit.
Do the right work. Write down the assignments and check to make sure you don’t do unnecessary work.
Work like a sprinter. Work hard for short bursts of time, then take a short break. It is best if you discover how long you can keep up your concentration, and give yourself only as much work as you can do in that time. Put yourself back to work after each short break, knowing that you will not have to work too long before your next break.
If you are not interested in the work, pretend you are. The brain learns much better and faster when you are interested. Even if you are not interested, you can “fool” the brain into learning easier if you pretend you are. Pretend interest stimulates the part of the brain necessary for good concentration.
Learn the pleasure of catching your own mistakes. Many students so much hate making mistakes, that they resist anyone telling them they did something wrong. They will even argue that they are right and the book is wrong. Mistakes are only bad when someone else finds out about them, however. Catching your own mistake and correcting it before anyone else sees it is like getting away with something, and it feels good. Check your work.
There are different strategies to check your work, depending on the subject. Math problems are checked either by looking up the answer in the back of the book, or by doing them a second time in some different way, and looking to see if you got the same answer both times.
History, Social Studies, and English answers can be checked by looking them up in the book, in your notes, or by asking your brainy friend. See if you can discover other ways to check your answers, which work best for you.
Put homework in the right folder right away. Having the homework to turn in on time is good.
Organization of Projects
Look ahead. During each homework session, look ahead for assignments that are not due tomorrow yet. Many classes give projects that are too big to do all in one day. If you finish your homework early one day, consider making some progress on the assignment that is due later. Same with tests and exams; you can study some ahead, and make the studying much easier when it suddenly is the night before the exam.
Learn to use a calendar like how you use a clock. You can’t be in two places at once. A calendar is the best tool to use to make sure you have enough time to do everything you want. You write your activities down on your calendar, including class assignments, sports, music lessons, parties, and important TV shows. Then you look to make sure there is enough time for each thing. If there is not enough time for something, move something else to another day. Check the calendar every day, just like how you look at a clock every now and then.
Students and their parents may need help in identifying academic problems. Psychological testing and other methods can clarify the problems and suggest specific solutions.
A professional can also help to relieve conflict between a parent and child and restore the feeling that “We are in this together”. Building a cooperative attitude, and fostering the child’s feeling of being competent and responsible are most valuable. Sometimes this requires professional intervention and mediation.
© 2003 The Hearth Psychology and Counseling Center, LLC.