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Academics and Organizational Help for Tweens/Middle School Students

Updated on September 16, 2014

Is Your Tween Ready for Academic Activity?

Make it a point to prep your tween for a successful year with some important organizational strategies.
Make it a point to prep your tween for a successful year with some important organizational strategies. | Source

Disorganized Tweens

Is your middle schooler ever the picture of disorganization? Do you have a hard time getting your tween to complete homework? And when it's finished, does it get turned in?

Life as a tween is difficult, but for the middle school parent, it's just frustrating, wondering if that child will ever become responsible. Even the best intentions can often be thwarted by absentminded middle schoolers, whether they are caught up in the latest school event, or caught daydreaming. How did we ever survive, and how do we survive parenting through that stage?

As a middle school student, I was plagued by disorganization...unfortunately, I still am. However, with some diligence, I manage staying up to date on my own responsibilities. As a middle school teacher, however, I observed that few students were very organized, and lost homework was more the rule, than the exception.

During those years, we emphasized some strategies to help our students stay more organized, but without a parent on the home side of that instruction, many students continue in oblivion. It's a collaberative effort, to be sure, but I dare say that parents really need to take the lead in instructing their middle schoolers in organizational skills. It's not all that complicated, but some basic tools and routines can help tremendously.

Tools are Part of the Plan

Good tools can help your tween to be more organized, but tools alone won't solve your child's challenges. Follow through by teaching your youngster to use those tools correctly!
Good tools can help your tween to be more organized, but tools alone won't solve your child's challenges. Follow through by teaching your youngster to use those tools correctly! | Source

Jansport Backpacks and School Bags

Jansport Catamount Outdoor Backpack (Black)
Jansport Catamount Outdoor Backpack (Black)

Jansport is a top producer of backpacks and schoolbags for kids, and for adults. A sturdy backpack can last for years. There are fashionable versions, and there are a variety of solid colored packs for kids, as well.

If your tween is going to keep track of his or her school supplies and materials, the pack is important. However, help your child to understand how to keep things organized. Otherwise, it will be an endless disaster. Establish some routines at the start of the school year, and at the outset, take time weekly to go through the pack together, getting rid of junk, straightening up, and discussing school in general. As your child sticks with the routine, you can be a little more hands off. But at the outset of middle school, it's good to get some routines established right away.

 

Good Tools

A craftsman, a cook, and a gardener all have something in common: tools. Good tools equip the individual to accomplish a task, and no less is true with the tween. Good tools equip a tween with the ability to stay organized. For example, a backpack is important for transporting school supplies and books to and from school. Furthermore, they assist the middle schooler in having the correct books in class.

Tools, however, do not do the job. The job is done by the user of tools. So it is with the tween. The backpack cannot be blamed if your tween forgets to put the correct books in it. Use of word pictures can be helpful in conveying such a point, when the time comes. Place a saw on top of a piece of wood. Tell it, "Saw, get busy. Cut that piece of wood!" Obviously, nothing will ensue. Do the same with a blender full of smoothie ingredients. Fill the blender, and speak: "Mix that smoothie, now!" Your tween may roll his or her eyes, but the point will be communicated. Use this to emphasize to your disorganized child that the end result depends on the person, not the tool. You can't really make a good smoothie without a blender, but without the person correctly using the equipment, there still will be no smoothie.

Feel free to vary this as you need, but you get the point, Mom and Dad! Your child needs good tools to organize well, and you need to help your tween understand his or her responsibility in the process.

Word pictures are great ways of conveying information in a tangible way. I find that imagery can be a creative and interesting way to communicate an important idea or principle to my children. I even use this to talk to my husband, when it helps in understanding!

Vaultz Pencil Case

Vaultz Locking Pencil Box, 8.25 x 5.5 x 2.5 Inches, Black (VZ01479)
Vaultz Locking Pencil Box, 8.25 x 5.5 x 2.5 Inches, Black (VZ01479)

A middle school backpack takes a beating, and while there may be a zipper pouch, perfect for the storage of pens, pencils, and calculators, the pouch is usually at the outside of the bag, where it gets the brunt of any bumps or falls. Protect those essentials with a solid pencil case, such as the Vaultz model featured here.

At the beginning of the year, stock your child up with sufficient supplies, and help review the supply at the end of the week. Wind up your Friday with a review of things, so that you can put most school concerns out of your mind for the weekend. As your tween shows more and more responsibility, you can become more hands off, in the background over reviewing supplies.

 

What is your favorite organizational tool?

Your own organizational choices may help you to share strategies and options with a child. Do you prefer

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Trapper Keeper

Mead Trapper Keeper Sewn Binder, 3 Ring Binder, 1.5 Inch, Blue (72177)
Mead Trapper Keeper Sewn Binder, 3 Ring Binder, 1.5 Inch, Blue (72177)

Trapper Keepers have been around for decades, and really strike me as the precursor to the dayplanner craze. The closing binder system is helpful for middle school students in providing a safe place for papers, with customization possible via hole punched folders.

 

A small notebook, or assignment book, is important for helping your middle school student to be organized. Have your tween write a summary of each class, whether there is a given assignment, no homework, or other activities that took place. Make sure that your child labels each entry with class name, and date. Spot check here and there, to see how he or she is doing. If you get indication of poor grades, you will have this record to refer to. However, just as the saw won't cut the wood without an operator, so the assignment book won't fill itself in. This is why parental involvement is key.

Tweens can be notorious bluffers. Several entries of "no homework" should be suspicious. Question your child about lack of homework, and if you aren't satisfied, touch base with the teacher. You may find that calling a bluff once or twice is key to stopping the behavior. It's not unusual for tweens to shirk, but if the parent shirks their responsibility in following up, the outcome will be predictably negative.

Set Up a Comfortable Study Space

Create a spot at home that is conducive to study - minimize distractions, and keep the space relatively uncluttered.
Create a spot at home that is conducive to study - minimize distractions, and keep the space relatively uncluttered. | Source

Use a Kitchen Time to Keep Your Tween on Task

Studying at Home

Creating a good study environment is helpful in equipping your middle school student to succeed. Whether it's a desk, or table, plain or decorated, you need to help your child identify an area that is suited to homework. Knowing your child's strengths and weaknesses, as well, can help you in adapting the environment. If your child is an auditory learner, for example, you may want to allow background music during study time. On the other hand, if your child is distracted by background noise, then you need to take this into account.

A tactile learner may have a hard time sitting down to hours of homework, needing to move frequently. A small timer can help. Try setting it for 15 minute intervals, and after 15 minutes of work time, allow your child a 5 minute break. Work on lengthening the study time eventually.

Routines can help your middle schooler to stay on task, both in terms of homework, and in getting things together before school.

Find a good dry erase board...

Universal Melamine Dry Erase Board, 36 X 24 Inches Satin-Finished Aluminum (43623)
Universal Melamine Dry Erase Board, 36 X 24 Inches Satin-Finished Aluminum (43623)

Make this a top priority, in order to keep household routines and school routines running as smoothly as possible.

 

Establish Routines

As a parent, you can help your tween to establish good study and school routines at home. List the things that need to happen at different points in the day, and help your tween learn to review that list, and make sure that things are completed.

For example, create a homework list, which allows your child to visually and manually review what is to be done on a given night, or weekend. Establish a routine of writing this information down on a dry erase board immediately upon getting home. As the studen writes this information down, it is refreshed in his or her memory. Checking the information off when tasks are complete is a helpful reinforcer.

List household chores, and other responsibilities, as well. List a morning checklist, whereby the child reviews the contents of the backpack, makes sure assignments are included, and that any other needed items are packed and taken. These skills will benefit your child into adulthood, so take time to set a good precedent with your tween.

Your involvement with your tween now will go a long way in establishing good study skills for years to come, and good organizational skills for life!

Assignment Book

ACADEMIC WEEKLY ASSIGNMENT BOOK BLK
ACADEMIC WEEKLY ASSIGNMENT BOOK BLK

A small notebook, or assignment book, is important for helping your middle school student to be organized. Have your tween write a summary of each class, whether there is a given assignment, no homework, or other activities that took place. Make sure that your child labels each entry with class name, and date. Spot check here and there, to see how he or she is doing. If you get indication of poor grades, you will have this record to refer to. However, just as the saw won't cut the wood without an operator, so the assignment book won't fill itself in. This is why parental involvement is key.

Tweens can be notorious bluffers. Several entries of "no homework" should be suspicious. Question your child about lack of homework, and if you aren't satisfied, touch base with the teacher. You may find that calling a bluff once or twice is key to stopping the behavior. It's not unusual for tweens to shirk, but if the parent shirks their responsibility in following up, the outcome will be predictably negative.

 

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    • JK Sterling profile image

      Jim Sterling 6 years ago from Franklin, Tennessee

      Thanks for this lens, our principal has a table in his office where he keeps things our 13 year old leaves laying around each day.

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