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My daughter’s fifth-grade teacher has students keep a “gratitude” journal. She says it’s part of their “social-emotional learning” curriculum. Isn’t that more for Sunday school?

Not really. There’s no one place to express gratitude or learn its power. Being grateful helps kids maintain perspective about what is going right in their lives.

“Writing in a journal is an easy avenue for self-expression for preteens,” says Carol Lloyd, the executive editor of GreatSchools.org. “Expressing gratefulness releases oxytocin — a brain chemical that promotes trust, attachment, generosity, calmness, security and reduces stress.”

In addition, “as the holidays arrive, it’s a good thing that a teacher might ask students to reflect on what they’re thankful for,” says Marissa Gehley, a retired California youth counselor. “When we model gratitude, we show kids that we recognize what’s good about the people we interact with every day.”

A sense of gratitude is a “battery charger. It can help young people focus on positives instead of negativity,” says Gehley. “Thanking someone for something can change a child’s attitude for the better in an instant.”

Professor Adam Grant at the University of Pennsylvania and other researchers have discovered that expressing gratitude can help kids become happier, healthier, less-stressed students who enjoy stronger social relationships.

Lloyd says more and more schools are integrating social-emotional learning, often called “soft skills,” into the school day because “research shows that learning how to boost self-awareness, get along with each other, empathize, self-monitor and manage one’s temperament can boost academic success. Learning to be grateful is an important aspect of self-awareness.”

Lloyd likes the advice of Tim Kasser, the author of “The High Price of Materialism.” He encourages parents and educators to foster in kids an “inward richness” instead of a shallow consumerism. One way to do this is to practice being grateful.

Lloyd, drawing on Kasser’s work, offers these tips to parents who want to foster a “gratitude attitude”:

– Model values you want your child to hold. “If you spend your time working long hours, shopping a lot, talking about money, you are modeling that materialistic aims in life are important. Your child will imitate those values,” says Lloyd.

– Reduce your child’s exposure to materialism. “I like the guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics: No screen time for children younger than 2, and less than two hours per day of screen usage for older kids,” notes Lloyd.

– Critique advertisements with your kids. Research shows that when kids see ads and adults make factual or evaluative comments such as, “Those commercials are intended to sell,” or, “That commercial is wrong; the actual toy doesn’t work like that,” kids’ desire for the product declines.

– Model gratitude in an emotionally genuine way. Let your daughter see you thank her teacher for a lesson she loved or thank the supermarket clerk for noticing a torn package. Thank your daughter for clearing the dishes. Be thankful at dinner or at bedtime.

“It could be in line with a religious belief, such as saying grace, or it could be secular,” explains Lloyd.

When you model gratitude, she says, “you help create an emotional habit — biochemically and neurologically — that will shape your child’s responses in a positive way.”

For more tips on fostering gratitude, go to greatschools.org.

My third-grader is an impatient learner. He’s smart enough, but if he doesn’t get something right away, he gets upset and gives up. How can I help him?

Talk to your son about how we learn. A third-grader is old enough for that conversation.

“It’s important for kids to realize that learning something new doesn’t happen immediately,” says Matt Frahm, superintendent of the Naples (N.Y.) Central School District. “It’s a process that can be broken down into simple steps. We all go through them, whether learning to kick a goal in soccer, play a new video game or master a recipe.”

We also need to make kids aware that learning new things is easier when they’ve developed key personal traits and attitudes, says Frahm.

“In his best-seller, ‘How Children Succeed,’ author Paul Tough talks about the hidden power of character,” he says. “Research shows that successful learners use their curiosity, grit, persistence and dedication to great advantage.”

So apart from trial and error, how do we learn new things?

First, we’re introduced to a new idea or concept. Good teachers provide and discuss examples and then ask students to draw on what they already know to provide context. Teachers call this “building on prior knowledge,” says Frahm.

For example, third-graders study astronomy and space — the properties of suns, moons, planets and stars. After introducing the lesson’s theme, a teacher will draw out what students think they know already. This might range from notions gained from sci-fi movies to watching a NASA launch online.

“Teachers observe what kids are curious about, what their misconceptions might be, and what knowledge they have to build on,” say Frahm.

Once new material is introduced, an important next step is practice. It’s common sense that when we practice we get better at something — whether it’s hitting a baseball, coding or multiplication.

“But in today’s packed school day, there is often too little time to practice new skills, so parents can help a lot here,” says Frahm. “For example, few students nail math facts right away. When parents promote fun math-fact practice with games, apps or even old-fashioned flash cards, kids learn them faster.”

The next step is making new learning stick. We do that by using it over and over in different ways so that it is retained and reinforced.

“Families play a key role here, too,” says Frahm. While teachers try to give students plenty of chances to apply their learning in class and homework, savvy parents ask kids to use their new skills at home.

For example, Frahm suggests, “Ask your third-grader to figure out how much it will cost if the family orders three pizzas that cost $11; or how much it costs to fill an empty 5-gallon can if gas costs $2.44 a gallon. Giving kids chances to use new learning not only provides practice, it develops confidence. They begin to own it. When they own it, they use it more and lock it in.”

Whether you’re a parent of a third-grader or a senior, talk about how learning occurs. Help kids develop the character traits that make them successful. They’ll be more eager learners as a result.

My son used to devour book series like “Big Nate” and “Captain Underpants” when he was younger. Now in sixth grade, he never reads for fun anymore. He seems to have lost interest in books. Should I worry?

Don’t waste effort worrying. But do take a few steps to re-engage him. Here’s why: Strong reading skills are essential to success throughout school, says Francie Alexander, one of the nation’s top reading experts.

“And students only become strong readers when they read for pleasure regularly,” she explains. “Think of it as fun practice. While parents, and even students, are aware of the link between reading for pleasure and academic success, fewer than half of students approaching their teenage years make leisure reading a priority.”

Here are five things you can do:

One, help your son find things he wants to read. Research shows that one reason students move away from pleasure reading isn’t homework or afterschool schedules. “It’s because they say they have trouble finding books they like,” says Alexander, the chief academic officer at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “Adults underestimate this as an obstacle. When parents play an active role in guiding them to materials that match their developing interests, they see them return to reading for pleasure.”

Two, look for a series he can enjoy. “The neat thing about series such as J.K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ or Rick Riordan’s ‘Percy Jackson’ books is that once a reader is hooked, finishing one book means they can’t wait to tackle the next,” says Alexander.

Librarians know which authors teens ask for; you can also consult online reviews from such sources as Goodreads, Amazon and Common Sense Media.

Three, don’t limit your choices to “young adult” books. Your librarian can suggest high-interest adult books with age-appropriate themes that match your son’s interests. Does he like sci-fi? “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams might keep him turning pages.

“Consider nonfiction too, such as biography,” suggests Alexander. “A techie teen I know who loves all things Apple enjoyed Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. A football fan might love ‘The Blind Side’ by Michael Lewis.”

Four, take a broad view of reading. Think beyond the book. Does your son love skateboarding? Get a subscription to Thrasher. Does he excel in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)? Send him Popular Science every month.

“And don’t worry about the platform,” says Alexander. “Whether he’s reading print on paper, or on a tablet, laptop or his phone, it’s all reading. He’s learning new vocabulary and concepts that will provide context for his schoolwork. Audio books are fine, too. Download one to enjoy while you’re driving to those away soccer games!”

Five, make your home a place where everyone reads for relaxation. “If the latest issue of People is your guilty pleasure, make sure your son sees you enjoying it,” urges Alexander. “More and more families are ditching TV and picking a fun book to read aloud together for a few minutes each night. Contrary to what many parents think, older kids love to be read to, too. A reading-aloud ritual not only models reading for pleasure, it gives families precious quality time.”

Another kid calls my son names and pokes him in school. I told his fourth-grade teacher about the bullying. She said she would watch for this behavior, but suggested a website so I could teach him tips to defend himself. Isn’t that the teacher’s job?

Preventing bullying is everyone’s job. That includes parents. The nation’s schools make it a top priority through explicit policies, awareness campaigns, staff development, and parent and community outreach.

In most schools, teachers, students and school staff, from bus drivers to custodians, receive annual training in ways to handle bullying on the spot and reduce and deter future incidents.

Despite these laudable efforts, bullying is still very much with us, says Stephen Gray Wallace, the founder and director of the Center for Adolescent Research and Education (CARE).

“Studies make it clear that parents have an important role in helping their children deal effectively with bullies,” he explains. “Your son’s teacher wasn’t passing the buck. She was offering tools to help him assert himself.”

Wallace says kids bully in various ways: “It can be repeated aggressive behavior such as making threats, physical attacks or spreading rumors; attacking or excluding someone from a group on purpose. With kids’ access to digital tools, we see bullying online, too, through texting, email and social media, so parents need to monitor those channels too.”

Kidpower, a nonprofit organization that helps kids take charge of their own safety, offers these tips to help kids learn to deflect bullies:

– Teach your son to walk, sit and act with awareness, calm, respect and positive confidence. This means walking with back straight, looking around, projecting a peaceful face and body, and moving away from people who might cause trouble.

– Teach him to leave a threatening situation in a powerful, positive way. Coach your son to avoid being a target by assertively moving away with confidence from a bully’s earshot or reach. Stepping out of a line, crossing the hallway or changing seats is often the safest choice. Sometimes saying, “See you later!” or “Have a nice day!” in a neutral, normal tone can diffuse a situation.

– Coach him to turn, stand up tall, put his hands up in front of the body like a fence, elbows bent to be close to the body, palms out and open, and say loudly, “Stop!” and walk away.

– Set boundaries about disrespectful or unsafe behavior. Remind kids that being cruel or hurtful is wrong, whether it happens in person, via social media, texting, online or in any other way. Set a good example by addressing any hurtful or prejudiced language or remarks. Speak up about disrespectful language by saying, “That didn’t sound kind,” or, “That sounds prejudiced.”

– Be persistent in getting help from busy adults. Kids who are bullied need to be able to tell teachers, parents, club leaders and other adults in charge what is happening in the moment. They need to be able to report clearly and calmly. Teach them how to report a situation using precise, polite, firm words and tone of voice — even under pressure.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Find useful resources to raise awareness and guide your son at kidpower.org, stopbullying.gov and the Search Institute (search-institute.org).


Our first child is a senior applying to college. We need all the aid we can get. The admissions officer at one university we visited advised of changes to the FAFSA. What are they?

FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. As a minimum, this federal form is required from undergrad and graduate students who seek grants, student loans and work-study jobs in a given academic year.

Along with other possible forms, the FAFSA helps determine the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), “a key figure colleges and others use to determine a student’s aid eligibility,” says Kal Chany, the president of Campus Consultants Inc., a New York City-based firm that helps families maximize financial aid. FAFSA requires student data, and if applicable, information from custodial parents or stepparents of a dependent student.

There are two big changes. One is the earlier start to the FAFSA filing period. It began Oct. 1 for fall 2017-spring 2018 aid. In previous years, FAFSA filing began Jan. 1.

The second change is that “prior-prior year” (PPY) income from 2015 will be reported on the 2017-2018 FAFSA. In the past, prior year income was used. “But,” says Chany, “all other data will be as of the date your FAFSA is filed.” This includes — but isn’t limited to — asset values, household size and the dependency status of the student.

While the process is complicated, make the effort. “Assume your child is eligible. Don’t rule out any college because you think it’s too expensive. The higher the cost, the more aid you may receive,” says Chany, who is the co-author of “Paying for College Without Going Broke” (Princeton Review, 2015). He offers these tips:

Decide how your family is going to file. You can file online, which is preferred; you can fill out paper forms; or you can print out a downloadable PDF. Go to fafsa.ed.gov to explore your options. Call 1-800-4-FED-AID to request a paper copy, if desired.

Know your deadlines. Each college and state grant agency calls the shots. Make a chart to track the various aid forms and deadlines for each college. Make sure to include your home state’s grant deadlines and requirements — they may be earlier than the colleges’ deadlines.

“Contrary to conventional wisdom, the early bird doesn’t necessarily get the worm — just make sure you file in the appropriate time frame,” urges Chany.

Figure your EFC before applying. Use worksheets in financial aid guidebooks or online to calculate what the college will estimate you can afford to pay.

“Check for the most up-to-date information, as formulas change every year,” Chany cautions.

Maximize your student’s eligibility. Consider making appropriate adjustments to your assets, debts and retirement provisions before you apply.

Decide when to file. “Ten states award grant assistance for residents on a first-come, first-served basis. A small number of schools award aid that way, too. If either apply, file the FAFSA and other required documents ASAP,” advises Chany. “Otherwise, file by the earliest school’s priority filing deadline (or your home state’s priority deadline, if earlier) for the particular form involved.”

Don’t forget to proofread. The forms are complex. “You’ll get rewarded by paying attention to detail,” says Chany. “Parents often make costly mistakes that can cost thousands of dollars.”

I worry that my daughter, who is in preschool, may have a stuttering problem. She repeats syllables. Her preschool teacher says it’s normal and she’ll outgrow it, but I don’t want to take that chance. Should I get her tested?

When deciding whether or not to have your child evaluated by a speech therapist, the first step is to become well informed. One good place to start is The Stuttering Foundation’s website, stutteringhelp.org.

There you’ll find explanations for speech characteristics of mild to severe stutters, practical tips and risk factors. The website lists the following:

– Family history.

– Age of onset: Kids who stutter before age 3 1/2 are more likely to outgrow stuttering.

– Time since onset: Between 75 and 80 percent of all children who stutter will begin to show improvement within 12 to 24 months without speech therapy.

– Gender: Girls are more likely than boys to outgrow stuttering.

– Other speech and language factors. Does your daughter make frequent speech errors such as substituting one sound for another or leaving sounds out of words?

Your daughter may be what experts call “normally disfluent” — in other words, she’s learning to use new words and building her oral language skills. Many children work through periods of normal disfluency in their preschool years.

Experts with The Stuttering Foundation advise that you should observe patiently, model slower and relaxed speech (think Mr. Rogers), and give your daughter focused, one-on-one time daily to build her confidence in speaking.

These disfluencies occur most often between the ages of 1 to 1 1/2 and 5, and they tend to come and go, says Jane Fraser, president of The Stuttering Foundation and co-author of “If Your Child Stutters: A Guide for Parents” (The Stuttering Foundation, 2010). “If disfluencies disappear for several weeks, then return, your daughter may just be going through another stage of learning.

“We always counsel early intervention as the best treatment for stuttering. If you are very concerned about your child, put your mind at ease by visiting with a speech-language pathologist trained in working with children who stutter.”

Fraser advises parents not to be upset or annoyed when stuttering increases. “Your daughter is doing her best as she copes with learning many new skills all at the same time. A patient, accepting attitude will help immensely.”

Reassurance often helps. “Some children respond well to hearing, ‘I know it’s hard to talk at times … but lots of people get stuck on words … it’s OK,’” says Fraser. “Other children are reassured by a touch or a hug when they seem frustrated.”

If your daughter stutters on more than 10 percent of her speech, stutters with considerable effort and tension, or avoids stuttering by changing words and using extra sounds to get started, she will profit from having therapy with a specialist in stuttering, advises Fraser.

To find a therapist in your area, visit the following: stutteringhelp.org/referrals-information.

My usually confident daughter Charisse just entered middle school and is under a lot of different pressures, including from new peers. It’s hard talking with her about it, but I sense her dilemma. She would be mortified if I meet with the counselor for advice. Any thoughts on steps I can take?

When teens — or anyone, really — feels pressure, there’s a sense of being rushed or forced into making choices or decisions before we’ve had a chance to think them through. The transition to middle school often brings students a new set of pressures and stressors to deal with, says educator Annie Fox, author of “Middle School Confidential,” a series of graphic novels and apps for teens (Free Spirit Publishing Inc.).

Not all pressures on teens are bad, says Fox. For example, a teacher might urge a student to take an advanced class because the teacher believes the student could do well. That kind of push gives the student a chance to stretch herself and open doors to more opportunities.

“After thinking about it, she might realize, ‘That’s a good thing. I’ll try it,’” explains Fox.

Or a friend might encourage her to go out and do something fun when she’s feeling down, and this is “also a good thing,” says Fox.

Pressures from new friends who encourage a student to do something that makes her feel uncomfortable or that go against what she believes in or knows is wrong, “can make her feel at war with herself, like she’s being pulled in two directions at once,” says Fox. “This can leave a teen confused and thinking there aren’t any good options.”

The key is to help Charisse develop a set of tools to analyze and deal with stress and pressure in healthy ways. Fox advises teens to master these four strategies:

First, identify the cause: Tell Charisse to be “really clear about what’s bothering her by putting it into words,” says Fox. For example, she could try completing this sentence: “Someone wants … but it doesn’t feel right because … ”

Second, teach Charisse to step away from the situation. Take a break. Play with the cat. Go for a walk with the dog.

“Learning to relax under pressure can help calm the body while opening the mind to possible solutions,” says Fox.

Third, have your daughter weigh her options. “If Charisse feels torn between someone else’s expectations of her and what she wants for herself, have her write down both sides of the tug of war, being fully honest in the process,” advises Fox. “Seeing the pros and cons can help her figure out what’s right for her.”

Fourth, show her how to take a stand. Helping Charisse articulate what she does and doesn’t believe in will help her state it clearly and confidently to others. “It’s important for teens to be clear on their values and where they draw the line,” explains Fox. “It’s not their job to please everybody, rather to make choices (online and off) that increase their own self-respect. When teens’ decisions reflect who they really are, they start to feel more at peace with themselves. They get stronger against negative pressures.”

Fox offers teens and their parents guidance on a range of topics and answers questions on her podcast, FamilyConfidential.com, and her advice blog, AnnieFox.com.

My high school-aged daughter and son have been assigned to watch C-SPAN and political shows about the presidential election. She supports Hillary Clinton. He’s for Donald Trump. They end up screaming at each other. I’ve had to warn my son to stop using disrespectful, offensive language and my daughter to stop throwing things at the TV. This is crazy. Help!

I’ll say this for their teachers: They aren’t backing away from teaching this election as some have said they are. A Texas history teacher (who asked that her name not be used) wrote me to say, “I love teaching the presidential election, but this year I’m scaling back because the administration warned teachers to ’stay objective.’ I work in a diverse school. I would not be able to let the divisive, anti-immigrant rhetoric go unchallenged. Instead of class discussions, I assign online games from iCivics.org because students can work through them thoughtfully and be held accountable for their views.”

For decorum at your dinner table, two teachers who’ve taught three decades of elections offer this advice:

“Since the kids have gone all ‘Lord of the Flies’ on Mom, adopt the ‘pass the conch’ technique from the book,” says Newton, Massachusetts, educator Marj Montgomery. “Choose any object. No one may speak without that object in hand. No one. If they haven’t read ‘Lord of the Flies,’ do so with them. Enjoy the discussions it prompts.”

Illinois educator Kevin Pobst suggests not allowing them “to watch programs together if they cannot conduct themselves with civility, period. Break the rule and the TV goes off. Then they suffer the consequence of not getting the assignment done.”

Discuss what their goal is when they argue. “Do they want to persuade each other, or are they just expressing their preference to insult?” Pobst asks. “Vicious, yelled, personal arguing is not persuasive. It’s mutual offensiveness. No one persuades by offending. You persuade by making a rational, fact-based case for your ideas, not an emotional rant.”

Montgomery suggests using debate and mock trial techniques. After they make a case for their candidate, “have them switch sides,” she says. “That turns down the volume. Daughter speaks for Trump, son for Hillary. Nothing comes out of either’s mouth without checking the fact with an unbiased fact-check site. Mom can even sound an obnoxious noisemaker when any statement is found to be false.” (See factcheck.org, politifact.com and the Fact Checker at washingtonpost.com.)

For a meaty discussion (and history lesson), “make a short list of successful presidents. Ask them to figure out what the job description really is,” says Montgomery. “Discuss demonstrated skills and personality traits.”

As for your son and daughter, Pobst says, “Their own relationship will, God willing, go on for another 60 to 70 years, while electoral preferences are time-bound. They shouldn’t fall into a pattern of talking to each other in ways that will undermine their relationship — or turn each other into cartoon characters.”

While these election-driven arguments are clearly frustrating you as parent, Montgomery says, “Rejoice that your kids are involved in the political process — noisy and uncomfortable as it is. It’s way preferable to the teenage shrug, followed by the mantra, ‘Whatever.’”

Find useful election resources at Harvard’s justiceinschools.org, c-spanclassroom.org and newseumed.org.

My third-grade daughter is struggling in school. She is anxious and thinks she’s dumb. I’m worried that she might have a learning problem. How can I find out?

It’s not unusual for a child to be anxious about going to school once in a while, especially early in the year. But if she’s feeling like she’s dumb and is struggling, take steps to find the reason why.

Amanda Morin, an educator and parent advocate, says it’s important to know your daughter is not alone in having these anxieties and challenges. In fact, roughly 1 in 5 kids have some type of challenge.

You may have heard the term “learning disabilities,” however, “the term ‘learning and attention issues’ is a little broader. It covers a wide range of challenges kids face — whether their issues have been formally identified or not,” says Morin, who’s an adviser at understood.org, a nonprofit organization for parents whose children have learning and attention issues.

Having these challenges doesn’t mean a child isn’t intelligent. “In fact, kids with learning and attention issues tend to be just as smart as their peers,” Morin explains.

Learning and attention issues are brain-based difficulties that can create struggles in different ways and to varying degrees. Kids may have trouble with reading, writing, math, organization, concentration, listening comprehension, social skills, motor skills or a combination of these.

It can be hard to know whether you’re seeing signs of learning and attention issues in your daughter if you’re not sure what skills are typical for her age and what’s expected of her developmentally and academically. To see key developmental milestones for third-graders, check out Morin’s article, “Developmental Milestones for Typical Second and Third Graders,” at understood.org.

This will help you get a better sense of where her skills fall. It’s also useful to become familiar with the academic skills kids usually learn in third grade. For some key concepts she’ll master, go to understood.org’s article, “What Third-Grade Academic Skills Typically Look Like in Action.”

Meet with your daughter’s teacher to see what she has noticed. Is your daughter having trouble with recognizing letters or with rhyming? Is reading, writing or math a challenge? Is she more distractible or less focused than other kids her age? Is she having trouble making friends?

You can ask your school district to do a free educational evaluation to identify issues your daughter may have and to help guide the type of support she will need at home and school.

The evaluation may introduce terms like “learning disability” or “learning disorder.” Those phrases are necessary to open doors to important services and supports for kids with learning and attention issues. It’s a way to get your daughter on a path to success — so don’t be too concerned about the label.

Neither you nor your daughter is alone in this, says Morin. “Learn what the experience may look like through your child’s eyes at understood.org,” she says. “Connect with other parents on the site. They can share experiences and tips that can help clear up confusion and make your journey easier.”

Our son is having a rocky start in middle school. It’s thrown him completely off balance. He forgets assignments and can’t manage time. The counselor thinks he needs better “executive functioning skills” and says to work with him. What are they?

Executive functioning concerns the “numerous mental processes and skills (that) help us plan for — and respond to — the tasks, challenges and opportunities we face,” writes Kristen Stanberry, an education writer who became interested in the topic after helping her son navigate the demands of high school.

Students with strong executive functioning skills have impulse and emotional control and can keep track of time, prioritize, plan and finish work on schedule. They can apply previously learned information to new problems. They’re good at analyzing ideas. They know where and when to look for help when they get stuck.

For an in-depth look at these skills, go to Stanberry’s excellent article, “Executive function: a new lens for viewing your child,” at GreatSchools.org.

A rough transition to middle school isn’t unusual, says Jan Abraham, a Naples, New York, middle school math teacher who has taught in the U.S. and abroad.

First, she says, “Determine where your son needs help. For some, it’s as simple as establishing and practicing routines that make days go smoothly. For example, getting ready at night for the following day (i.e., preparing his backpack with his homework in the proper folders, putting his trumpet next to his backpack for band practice, setting his alarm and so on).”

Some students are overscheduled and parents need to discuss prioritizing time: What choices will they make if priorities compete?

Others need to learn how to use the school’s web portal and school planner. “I ask students to add to their planner everything they know they’ll do during the school year, from Grandma’s birthday party in December to robotics on Tuesdays in January and February,” explains Abraham. “We discuss how to record and monitor assignments. They need to know and own their schedule.”

Many students benefit from explicit instruction in how to plan. “They are surprised to learn that there are actual steps to follow to get things done — whether it’s writing a report or building a fort,” Abraham says.

She teaches six steps using real-life projects that match students’ interests:

1) Analyze the task. Describe what needs to be done.

2) Plan. How will you handle the task?

3) Get organized. Break down the plan into steps.

4) Figure out the time needed. Plot hours, days or months for each step. Set aside the time on your calendar. Set alerts.

5) Make adjustments. Stuff happens; be flexible and regroup.

6) Finish the task in the time allotted. If you can’t, analyze why not. Was it poor planning, or factors outside of your control? How would you do it differently?

Projects can be as simple as planning a movie outing or as complex as that of an avid skateboarder who wants to build a half-pipe.

“A disorganized student doesn’t become an efficient whiz overnight,” says Abraham, “but if you model and make him practice, he’ll master skills that will give him a leg up all his life.”

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