By: Heather O’Neill
I have spent most of my adult life working with adolescents. Mostly in areas of supporting them academically. We’re not talking actually teaching content like the Civil War, Pythagorean Theorem or Darwin’s Principles of Evolution – but teaching them how to organize their notebooks, manage their time and make sure they are completing all of the tasks they are supposed to.
It amazes me that adolescents can make it to their high school years and somehow not track their assignments.
These are skills that need to be taught …. not just taught but hammered down ….. in middle school. Middle school is typically when students begin changing classes and have more than one teacher. Middle school is usually the first time they have to manage different teaching styles and diverse learning platforms. Middle schoolers are also at a great habit-forming age! (We’re aiming for positive habit-forming and not the destructive habits)
Some schools will use a universal learning management system: Canvas, Blackboard, or Google Classroom, for example. Others give teachers the freedom to use what they want in their classrooms. There are pros and cons to both of these.
- Pro to using the same system: Students know how to access and where to find class materials. They should have daily practice in using this skill and be proficient by the middle of the first quarter—no matter what grade they are in.
- Con to using the same system: Not all teachers will use the system the same way or have the same proficiency. This does not prepare students for college as college professors are not mandated to use anything …. Even though it is highly encouraged.
One thing is certain, however, at least in my mind….. Students need to record their homework assignments!
It’s so important to me, let me repeat—Students need to record their homework assignments!
Now there are debates going around as to how essential homework really is—that is an entirely different subject matter. This blog post is discussing the dilemma that many parents, and educators, face every day when kids do not record their assignments, not the importance of it.
When I was in school …. Not THAT long ago, we had agenda books to actually physically write assignments in. Our school did not give us an agenda, we had to go out and purchase something to write in.
I remember a small 3×5 spiral pocket notebook I could put in my oversize purse …. I also remember losing this frequently 😦
As I got into high school I remember getting fancy colored ones that I would decorate with stickers and doodles and that had an actual calendar that I could record activities in, as well as write down daily assignments. (I also remember losing this one day and feeling like my life was over! Luckily I found it, but that terror stayed with me. There was always SO MUCH important information in there!)
As the years have progressed, so have ways in which to record assignments, thankfully!
Some schools (or parent groups at the schools) purchase agendas for their students with helpful information such as the school handbook, states and capitals, and mathematical formulas printed in them. These are great if your child uses it. It can be a great way to communicate with teachers and see what your child will write in.
My middle school son has one of these. We have a binder clip on each side of the book so he can open up easily to the correct day. His handwriting is not so great, so we work on writing inside the lines (some days are by far better than others). I also make him write in the word “NONE” when there is no homework for a class. It forces him to keep track of the agenda and get into the habit of writing something at the end of every class.
My high school students like to take a more electronic approach. In the school I am currently working in, teachers are not required to use the same learning platform. This can create chaos for students who are not in the habit of writing things down. I created a spreadsheet in Google Sheets that allows them to link in their class pages and also record what the day’s assignments are. They also need to “check-off” that it has been completed. They can add reminders for the weekend as well. Here is a quick sample:
I’ve also worked with students in Google Calendar where they set reminders and link documents right to their calendars. This is great for alerts and reminders!
There are numerous apps out there to help students record their homework. These are just a few samples.
It’s not too late to get your child to start recording assignments if they currently do not.
Ask them tonight how they record their assignments. I bet you’ll be surprised to see what their strategy is.