I’ve shown a video to my classes at the beginning of each semester since I first saw it.
LOL! (Seriously – if you didn’t watch, you missed a funny video.)
We all procrastinate. But chronic academic procrastination will impact a student negatively. It will increase stress, create conflict at home with grades drop, and possibly take a student off-track to graduate on time.
There is a lot of research out there on this topic. A recent study I found was a bit of a dense read, but the gist is that they found that the students who self-reported that they were supported at home, felt empowered, had clear boundaries and expectations, and knew how to use their time constructively, tended to not procrastinate their academic tasks and had a high commitment to learning.
Well, gosh. That seems a bit obvious, doesn’t it?
Parents want to support their kids and they want them to do well in school. But we are all busy and we all procrastinate to some extent. What are some specific , realistic actions that parents take to minimize student procrastination without it becoming a source of conflict every evening?
*** DISCLAIMER ***
It’s not your job (or the teacher’s job) to make your student do their work and turn it in. If you think that, you’ve got to let that go.
Some teenagers are happy to let adults take control of their academic organization for them. It may have been necessary when they were little, but now it’s enabling and keeping them from developing the skill to organize a task or project that they will need later.
That said, we do need to help kids learn how to prioritize, organize, and get stuff done. And that’s a little harder than just getting in the habit of reminding them or handling it for them.
Customizing a strategy to help your student be more organized, is part of what I do as your student’s tutor, but I don’t do it for them. I coach them on what they need to do and I hold them accountable to do it.
SUPPORTIVE or CONTROLLING? How You Say It Is Important!
Teenagers are supposed to rebel a little. It’s age appropriate for them to need to control their environment. The way some kids exert their control is to not comply by choosing to not do school work. If you decide to help your student with procrastination, it will be more successful if your goal is to empower them instead of control the situation. How something is presented to any of us can determine whether we’ll be open to cooperate, right?
“We’re going to work together to make this organization thing easier for you.”
“You’re doing it wrong. This is how you’re supposed to do it.”
Take a moment to think about how to bring this up with your teenager in a way that will sound like a good idea to them without triggering a defensive response.
HOW TO MAKE A STUDENT PLANNER MORE USEFUL
Many schools provide planners like this one…
Most students at our school use the planner only for the hall passes. The basic planner can be a “tricked out” with a few printable inserts to make it a little more useful. (A link to download PDF printable inserts is at end of this article.)
The weekly layout in our school’s planner doesn’t leave a lot of room for writing assignments.I created this insert for my students that can be printed and attached at the top of a weekly page so it can be flipped up to see what’s written underneath.
The planner is also a communication tool between the teachers and parents. It also needs to be a shared document between you and your student otherwise the accountability component is lost.
Set up a procedure at home where kids know they need to leave their planners open to the current week on the kitchen table where you will see it.
Clarify that you aren’t checking up on them, but just want to help them establish the habit of filling in assignments with start dates and due dates.
Adults do something similar when we hire a personal trainer – it’s easier to stay focused on a goal if we have someone set up to hold us accountable.
If there was no assignment for a class that day, the student can ask the teacher to sign off on the planner to verify that for you.
HOW TEENAGERS USE DUE DATES
It’s a DUE date, not a DO date!
After 20+ years of teaching, I’ve learned that many teenagers interpret the concept of a “due date” as a “now I have to DO it” date.
Some kids literally had no idea something was “due” until it was put into the gradebook as “missing”. I get it. They probably didn’t write it down anywhere. And if they did, there is only one date associated with that task – and once that date arrives, it’s too late to do it and turn it in on time.
I included the “Start Date” and “Days I Need to Do It” columns on the weekly assignment planner insert. Granted, a hard-core procrastinator can still ignore these dates, but writing these dates down in the planner might just engage the Rational-Decision-Maker in the brain.
STUDENTS NEED TO USE TEACHER WEBSITES
If the teacher has an active website, assignments may be posted there, too. Ask your student to copy their teachers’ websites onto one page of their planner. (There is a planner insert for that, too!)
HOW TO HANDLE MISSING WORK
Students (and parents) already check grades online frequently. If you check and see something, causally (even though your Panic-Monster is probably fully engaged) ask your student to check.
“I think you’re missing some things in your math class. You might want to check online and check your planner.”
“How are you going to handle that?”
Resist the urge to tell them how to handle it. Ask questions instead. Leading questions, maybe, but use questions to coach them to formulate their own plan.
The goal is to teach them how to put together an action plan on their own so they can feel confident about their ability to dig themselves out of hole they created. They know you are there to support them, but you aren’t doing it for them.
Missing work may be due to a learning gap on that skill, not procrastination. As their tutor, if I know there is missing work, my first response will be address the problem as a potential learning gap, not as an organizational issue.
Once the learning issue is addressed or ruled out, I’ll reteach the new organizational habits to support what you are doing at home.
An advantage of using school planners is that they have the “End of Grading Period” dates printed in them. Most teachers make those dates “firm” due dates, so your student needs to be aware of them.
If a teacher accepts late work, they need time to process it. Many teachers will use weekends to catch up on grading. Others will make sure their grades are current before they leave on Friday afternoon.
A good approach is to ask your student to set a personal due date to turn in late work on Wednesdays or two days before the “absolute late work due date” set by the teacher if they set one.
Why two days?
Because of the DUE vs DO teenage-brain-habit of thinking. If a teacher is accepting late work, that last due late work date is firm. Teachers have to cut off the flow of papers landing in their inbox because they have their own firm due dates for entering grades.
NO LATE WORK ACCEPTED? DO IT ANYWAY
OK – this next point may be controversial, but it’s critical for breaking the habit of procrastination.
If the teacher doesn’t accept late work, your student needs to do it anyway.
I’m serious about this – and it’s not intended as a consequence for a bad decision. Students cannot skip assigned work. The expectation must be that all assigned work has to be done, even if it won’t be graded.
Three reasons why this expectation is critical…
- The skills on that assignment are part of the curriculum and will be on the next exam, the final exam, and possibly on high-stakes exams like the SAT or ACT. NOT doing assigned work, especially a math assignment, may create a learning gap that will become a bigger problem later. (Honestly, as a tutor that specializes in closing these gaps, you’d think I wouldn’t suggest this, but honestly, I’d prefer it if your student didn’t need my services. That would mean they have no learning gaps, are confident learners, and are on track to reach all their academic goals. That is what I want for all my students. THAT is what I want for your child.)
- If a student knows they will have to do the assignment anyway, for no credit, it’s a loose-loose for them. They loose free time AND they loose points. It’s likely that they will do assignments on time in the future.
- The ability to follow-through is valuable a character trait to nurture, even if it won’t be graded. Completing the task is what’s important.
After the work is finished, ask your student if they are willing to turn it in the teacher with an explanation that they know it will not be graded.
If they are uncomfortable with it, don’t push it, but ask each time there is an assignment that is too late to grade. When they are willing to do it, this is an empowering activity. That’s when you know your son or daughter has taken ownership over their academic work.
If you have a question about how to customize a plan for your student, please leave it below.
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Thank for reading!
The PDF printables are in my free Resources Library!