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Challenge: Get organized!

6 Ways Middle School Kids Can Stay Organized During Distance Learning

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Middle school, or junior high, or intermediate school, is a pretty significant step in a kid’s educational journey, and why shouldn’t it be? It generally starts smack dab in the middle of a kid’s primary school years and depending on where you live in the United States it’s either 6th-8th grade or 5th-8th grade.

Students say goodbye to the challenges of elementary school, and high school awaits their future. These are the years college recruits say students should begin cracking down and getting serious about their grades, if they haven’t done so already. Classes are more advanced, and tweens and teens have several more teachers and subjects to keep up with than in elementary school. That alone can be challenging for any kid. Add on distance learning and having to keep up with each teacher’s zoom link, style of teaching and homework and middle schoolers, and even parents, can feel overwhelmed. Organization is a skillset most likely not taught in school so it’s imperative that we teach kids to organize their work and manage their time. Through trial and error, I learned this lesson quickly when my son started middle school during a pandemic!

I hope these 6 tips help keep your kids organized and on task.

1. Create a Word or Excel Document That Has Their Classes on It – This document should have their class name in order of period, class start time, teachers name, zoom login, Google login info, or whatever important login information is needed. The first day we put this together it took over an hour to do. We were waiting for seven teachers to send over their information before the first day, but once we received all the data, we got set up pretty quickly. I posted this list on a wall by my son’s desk, so he now has it in front of him at all times. I also posted a calendar that lists what classes he has on what day. Having all their classes listed in one section helps kids feel more secure about their day and, hopefully, aids them in being on time for class.

2. Help Them Organize Their E-mail Inbox – By the time middle school rolls around, most students have an e-mail and communicate directly with their teachers. Since my oldest has 7 teachers he receives regular communication from each one of them. If he’s anything like his mom, which I know he is, a full inbox can be pretty overwhelming. We started by creating Labels for each subject. As the school year progressed, we created other Labels according to the need, like “completed assignments,” “upcoming projects,” and “misc. folders.” You can also have them delete or archive e-mails to avoid keeping their inbox full. Archiving is a great option if you’re not sure if you’ll need an email again. We know how unmanageable organizing e-mails can get so if we can pass along some insight to our kids, they’ll be better off.

3. Have Them Check E-mails Regularly – “Regularly” may be different for different households, but during school hours my son checks his e-mails before school begins, and if time permits, in between classes and after school, or before going to bed. That may be a lot of some, but since school is just getting started, I’m trying to keep him on track and ahead of the curve as much as possible. You may also want to include a lesson for your child on e-mail etiquette and how to spot spam or junk e-mail.

4. Teach Them How to Calendar – This is a big one because calendaring teaches preteens and teens important organizational skills, helps them see beyond the right now, and prepares them for what’s coming. I recommend that the calendar include things that they may not be looking forward to, like chores or tests, and things that may be looking forward to like vacations and birthdays. If a kid has an Algebra test on Friday and it’s on their calendar, then they can look ahead and see that they need to study and prepare for that test several days prior to taking it. Having a calendar in front of them helps them learn to look at the bigger picture because kids are programmed to think and live in the moment.

5. Create a Daily Schedule or “To Do” List – The schedule should include daily tasks that a student can just cross of their list. This may look different for different kids. Some students may prefer a whiteboard that they can look at and cross tasks off as they go, and some kids may prefer printed sheets to look at and cross “to dos” off as they go. The schedule should include assignments that need to get done during school hours and responsibilities that need to get done after school.

6. Have a Notebook or Binder for Each Subject – Early on in the distance learning process, when I saw a bunch of loose papers lying around, I quickly realized that the teachers were not going to keep my kid organized and my son needed a home strategy, as I was too dependent on the tactics used during in-person learning. If you want to keep your child’s papers organized, then I suggest using a notebook or binder for each subject. This will assist in keeping all of their notes and assignments together, thus helping them stay on top of their paperwork.

Whatever your strategy as a parent is for keeping your kid organized, it’s important to have a plan. What may work for one middle-schooler may not work for another. The key is to get them into a routine that will set them up for organizational success.

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