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Teaching time management to students

 For my library science class, I have a 15-page research paper due in a month. No, I haven’t started yet. But at least I know that I should be starting.

Most of my students, on the other hand, don’t know what’s due past tomorrow. Sure, I give them calendars and assignment sheets, but my students never look at them.

For my students, the world is now. Today is the future. Next week is far off, and next month is an eternity away.

But most worthwhile things in life — and most school projects — take time to complete. That’s why I need to teach my students better time management.

One way to do so is to break up a large assignment — say, reading a book — into smaller, more manageable parts, and then checking progress along the way. I suppose this is what project managers do in the corporate world. But my thinking is that this method doesn’t actually teach anything. Sure, I can cut up a product into parts, but can my students do the same thing?

Some teachers flip conventional practice and tell students to create their own schedule. This sounds good in practice but is difficult to implement. At best, this means I have to remember each student’s individual schedule, which is a little crazy (and undermines the whole-class community). At worst, students grossly underestimate the time each task takes, fall behind their schedule, give up early, and then require my assistance cheerleading them back.

The best thing I’m finding is to text my students about upcoming due dates and to encourage them to start early. Even if they don’t, they will have received the message. That’s what I did tonight: I told my students an upcoming essay is due at the end of the week.

At least three students texted me back. One asked, “What essay?” The other two asked, “When is the essay due?”

I wanted to respond, “Please check your calendar,” but I’ve found that withholding information just makes students mad. Giving them the answer, however, only enables similar behavior in the future. I’m not sure how to move students toward longer-term thinking and better time management, but at least I’m trying to see what works.

What do you think? 


    • Mark Isero

      Dear Tracy, thank you for the tip! Goalbook looks promising, although I think it might be a little too involved right now for what I’m trying to do. My students, in general, know how to set goals, and they even know what it takes to reach them. It’s the doing-the-work part that’s problematic, particularly after school.

Please share your brilliant insights!