It’s easy to lose track of time and tasks in today’s learning environment. Try these organizational strategies for teachers and students.
Since my school district embarked on distance learning, I’ve heard a range of feedback from students about how they are adjusting. One said he had regained the freedom to “work at his own pace”, while another admitted to being “very easily distracted”.
While acknowledging individual differences, it is also important to note that remote learning has been deployed differently from district to district, and the circumstances students face in their homes can also vary significantly. Keeping in mind the range of needs and conditions, here are some general ways to support students and colleagues in managing and organizing time during this time.
Help organize district and school information
If information overload was a problem during normal face-to-face times, it certainly is now. In casual conversations with teachers and students, I’ve heard that people are overwhelmed by the number of resources, documents, and links that are emailed and published.
Although conservation involves finding, evaluating and selecting resources, it also vitally requires organization. My fellow professor librarian Anthony Devine (@anthonyrdevine), from El Cajon (CA) Valley High School, has contributed to its school community by working with site managers to collect and organize key district, school, and teacher course information into a unique reference for learners. It is prominently displayed on the school’s website, where students and their families can now find information about remote learning in one place.
Provide custom templates for your distance learning plan
As a parent of an elementary child, I appreciated the simple delivery of remote learning content by a single teacher, with assignments posted on one platform and accompanied by a weekly checklist of daily items. .
Distance learning becomes much more complicated as students have multiple courses and have to keep up with work delivered in different ways by different teachers. Providing students with tools to organize their lessons is essential. Based on my district’s distance education plan, here is a sample guidance and digital student planner template I created.
One of my students immediately personalized their copy and said it helped them stay organized. Another didn’t know where to start, but I was able to help this student live in Google Docs while using the chat feature, and the updated scheduler now serves as a reference for regular check-ins.
Read: Six Strategies To Keep Homebound Students' Research on Track
Create structure and make the work tangible
Personally affected by the current lack of boundaries, both in terms of time and space, I created order using common organizing techniques, and shared these ideas with my school community at through a series of quick video tips.
- Do a brain dump.Take the time to write down everything that comes to mind. This can include things to do, shopping list items, email responses you’re expecting, orders you’ve placed, and more. I find that by writing I am able to release the anxiety that comes from just trying to remember. Here is an example of a printable form. However, you can use any piece of paper or type your list into a blank document.
- Organize your to-do list. After completing a brain dump, take some time to organize the items. Here is an example of a printable template. Customize your own copy with categories and line counts that match your typical workload. Alternatively, if you’ve typed your brains in, you can easily rearrange items into categories and prioritize them in your digital document.
- Create a schedule. Many students and teachers I know sleep later now and relish simple luxuries like being able to use the bathroom whenever they want. Still, creating a schedule for school days can be helpful. My 10 year old daughter has been my role model in this, creating this sample daily tasks and routine chart. Now I just need to create one as detailed for myself! One thing I implemented is to set multiple phone alarms. They aren’t just for waking up, but serve as reminders for events like my weekday Zoom office hours or alerts for when to take a screen time break.
- Make your work visible. While making efforts to get things done, it’s equally important to stop and take the time to write down everything you’ve accomplished, in a paper or digital journal. Since much of the work during distance learning is online and therefore ‘virtual’, keeping a journal creates a visible record of what you have accomplished and gives a sense of progress at a time when the days seem to melt into each other. Digital portfolios are a good option for students; see Devine’s advice.
Improve your skills in digital tools
Finally, I realized that many students lack practice in using general digital productivity tools. It’s not uncommon for me to meet high school students who don’t know how to send emails!
With students immersed in a much more digital learning environment than ever before, I’m excited to explore the possibility of offering mini-lessons such as how to use Google Calendar to create recurring events for office hours teachers with online participation links; use browser bookmarks to organize distance learning content into folders for easy access; and other basic but essential skills.
What other ways do you support students in managing and organizing time during distance learning? Share your tips and success stories in the comments.
Read: 10 Ways To Promote Ebooks and Audiobooks to K-12 Students
Suzanne Sannwald is a teacher-librarian at West Hills High School in San Diego County, where she draws on previous experiences working in education, libraries, and technology from middle school through graduate school, as well as than management roles. You can email Suzanne at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect on Twitter: @suzannesannwald