Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Middle School Nuts and Bolts: Intro to Time Management

By on August 28, 2010

A tween is all about distraction. Their brain is just going through so many changes that focus can be an issue under the best of circumstances. They are trying to settle on an identity, their cast of friends changes from act to act, and for many, this is the first couple of years changing teachers throughout the day. But responsibilities are static, and despite our understanding what a tween is going through, we still need to teach deadlines and responsibility. So when teaching about time management to a tween, it can be all about providing enough options that they have no choice but to look their deadlines in the face.

When it comes to time management, we have to specifically teach tweens, and that means introducing them to different ways to look at time in the hopes that one method might ring with one student or another. Think about adults: some like wearing a watch. Some still like to write all their events in the little Filofax in their bag, crossing out what’s accomplished or dog-earing a completed page. Others like using something like Google docs or some other online program. Still others like their iPhone to ring them when something’s coming up. As adults, we differentiate how we manage our time.

Students, however, are sometimes at the whim of the method that works for that particular teacher for that particular year or the one designated by the school site. Yet middle school is a vital time for tweens to learn multiple strategies. In elementary school, much was given to them explicitly, and once they enter high school, there’s this expectation that they can manage their time already independently. So when else are they going to learn these skills but in middle school?

It’s constantly a work in progress, but I have a few methods that I use with students to help them manage their time so that they can take responsibility for their own deadlines:

I have multiple ways in my ELA classroom that students can look at their workload and time management. I also post our agenda online (web.me.com/bulldogradio) so that they kids have access to the weekly information from home. After all, school should mimic real life, and folks outside of education have access to information 24/7, why shouldn’t we grant it to our students as well?

Here are some strategies I provide for my students, from micro to macro:

1. Weekly agenda – This reflects the online agenda, changing from week to week. The students come in to a board with a brief summary of what’s being planned for the week. Each day has the gist listed in blue, and if there’s something in red, that means it’s due that day. The students copy all information into their school agenda that they keep in their backpacks. So this incorporates color-coding as well, another great tool for time management. This actually also helps me as a brief outline of what I need to accomplish that is posted in the room, like my own personal checklist. In addition, this method forces me to weekly lesson plan. I make sure the upcoming week has this brief outline worked out by the time I leave on Friday afternoon so that my weekend is less stressed and more devoted to my own personal life.

2. Monthly Calendar – This is just your run-of-the-mill calendar I purchased at Office Max that hangs in my classroom with bright color coded indications of when tests, days off, and events are occurring. It gives a slightly broader view of upcoming responsibilities and deadlines.

3. Quarter Timeline – This is a taped timeline that stretches over the back of my room, divided by lines that represent the weeks of the quarter. It gives an indicator using symbols which days are off, which are testing days, holidays, minimum days, etc…I use a post-it in the shape of an arrow to indicate where we are in the timeline. A student moves the arrow during my first period class each day. Again, it widens out their perspective of time and what’s coming up.

4. Yearly Agenda Sit-Down – At the start of each year, I spend about 15 minutes with each period going through the yearly agenda. So I ask them to take out their agenda and I sit down with my own calendars for the district, site, and department. We go through EVERYTHING: fundraisers, testing days for the state and the department, holidays, major informational meetings, dances, etc…They are really focused on what I’m saying. After all, tweens like to be in the know. And it always pulls out discussions that are really valuable. For instance, this year as I told them the date for the meeting to get information for our 8th grade DC trip, I told them about the financial aid available and how the teachers chip in to help students go who can’t afford it. However, the trade off is that students have to keep up their grades, stay out of trouble, and go the meetings to show their interest. Perhaps this might help with my own classroom management by sharing this carrot with them now. In addition, we all crossed off our student-free days in our agendas including our furlough days this year, which began a talk about how much more focused we have to be because we all have the same job to do in less time. Perhaps this also might end of helping them keep their eye on the ball when we’re in a crunch.
Introduce tweens to multiple strategies of time management. Let tweens into knowledge of the master calendar, and give them the tools to manage their own responsibility. In the end, you’re giving them the ability to make your own middle school classroom run smoother and, more importantly, you’re giving them the skills that they will take into their lives beyond school.
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