The Not So Happy Trails

Many students often disrobe as they enter the house at the end of the school day. The backpack falls to the floor as they run to the fridge for snacks and a trail of belongings follows their path as the after school hours progress. The “Where’s my…?” begins when homework time starts and before anyone sits down to work, there’s more often than not a frustrating scene between parent and child. Psychologist Dr. Ken Shore confirms angst only contributes to low productivity and lack of learning.

Avoid the stress. Be Proactive.

  1. Set a definitive space where backpacks, jackets and sports equipment are to be placed every day before snack time begins. (Each family member can design his or her own box in which to drop supplies.)
  2. When homework is finished (in that well a defined work space – See earlier blog on Homework Space), all work, musical instruments, sports supplies, etc. should go back in the box making easy to find the next morning when racing to meet the school bus.
  3. I often suggest shoes be placed there as well.

The one glitch comes with bedtime reading.child-reading_2492898b

Often students like to save literature assignments for late night reading in bed. The chances of that book making it into the backpack in the morning are slim. But this does not have to be a problem. Simply ask to borrow or purchase a second copy of the book to be kept at home. Not only is it easier to find each day, but the students can annotate directly in their own copy of the book as they read.

Remember: Students need tools to build their success, not others to do the work for them.

Good luck and please let me know how this works of you. I welcome your comments, questions and suggestions of topics you would like me to address.

Next Post: Thursday, November 5, 2015




Often students are expected to take notes while teachers espouse important information in a lecture format. Some teachers may hand out guided notes to help students through the process.  While this is a handy tool, it may not help students develop their own  effective note taking methods.

The easiest method and best tool for test preparation is the Cornell Note Taking Method (CNM). It requires only a pen or pencil and a designated  70 page spiral 81cl0Z7ZHuL._SX425_notebook for each class. This helps to keep the notes from each subject separated and organized in sequential order.

Follow the simple steps below to build one more executive functioning skill.

  1. Hold your notebook so the spiral and binder holes are on the left-hand-side of the page.
  2. Imagine the paper divided vertically in thirds. Draw a line or make a fold to separate the first third from the rest of the page. (See picture of sample page below.)
  3. You are now ready to begin.
  4. Write the title of the unit at the top of the page. (i.e. Plants)
  5. As the teacher introduces new terms write the words in the left hand column of your page. (i.e. Roots)
  6. Use the remainder of the page to the right to note details regarding this term, 4fa910f1c98360bfdc61447b598e9d82 including pictures or diagrams that may aid understanding and later for memory. (i.e. Absorb water & minerals, anchor plant, store food)
  7. Draw a horizontal line across the page when notes for that term are complete.
  8. When the next new term is introduced, write the word below the horizontal line and begin again. Continue until lecture is complete.
  9. At the bottom of the last page of notes each day, leave space to write a brief summary of the lecture. This is also a good place to note where further clarification is needed and highlight (as a reminder) to ask at the next class meeting.

The CNM method is also a great tool when it comes time for test preparation. Simply fold the paper so only the terms can be seen to test memory of the details. Anything  forgotten will be right there for easy reference.

Good Luck!

And please let me know how this works for you. I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions of topics you would like me to address in future posts.



How long can we expect a student stay focused?


If your students start looking like the one above or like this, you know you have surpassed that student’s attention span.

Studies have shown that students stay focused anywhere from 5 – 30 minutes before their minds begin to wander. The usual 45 – 60 minute scheduled class period need not be considered too long if used effectively.

Tips for teachers to help students maintain focus and retain information.

  1. Prior to class write down your goals. What is it you want the students to come away with from this class period? (i.e. What is the difference between a fruit and a vegetable?)
  2. List key words on the board related to your discussion topic (i.e. roots, leaves, photosynthesis, flowers, pollen, ovules, fruit, seeds, pollination). Explain that students should write these terms in their notebooks as each one is introduced in the lecture and add important details as they are explained.
  3. Mark a check next to each term as you finish discussing it.
  4. Lecture for 10-20 minutes (adjust time depending upon student age and focusing ability)before pausing to get student responses. Ask questions to be sure students are grasping the content and have recorded enough details for their later reference (when preparing for a test).
  5. Take a 5 minute break. Students should be encouraged to get up, walk around, get something to drink, etc. As the teacher, you may even lead the class in a stretching exercise.
  6. If time allots repeat step 4.
  7. Leave time to summarize and ask questions to ensure you have reached your goal.  (i.e. Hold up a tomato, stalk of celery, a carrot, etc.  Call on different students to identify fruits or vegetables. Ask another to explain where plants get energy to produce food for growth? What is the difference between a fruit and a vegetable?)

While you might not complete the explanation of all the terms you have listed on the board, you will feel more confident that the students have remained focused and taken away the information you wanted to impart. There’s always tomorrow to continue.

Good luck! And please share your comments, questions and suggestions.

Next post: Thursday, October 22, 2015




Overwhelmed with piles of mail? Annoyed by interest on late bill payments?

 This week I received a request from a woman trying to manage her piles of mail. I assured her she was not alone. According to the National Association of Professional Organizers we lose one year of better spent time searching for lost items, and Harris Interactive reports 23 % of adults claim to pay interest on late bill payments.

If you recognize yourself in these statistics, read on and begin to free yourself from  mail clutter and unnecessary interest payments.

Step 1: Purchase three stackable 9″ x 14″ trays, a file box and a home paper shredder. Label them Bills, ShredFile. (Shredding is for mail unnecessary to save, but includes personal information.)

Step 2: Set aside a few minutes each day to focus on the mail.  Discard the junk mail, open and sort the remainder into the appropriate trays.

Step 3: Select one day each month to pay bills. After payment is made, mark it paid and date it before moving it to the file tray.

Step 4: Select another day each month (after bill paying day) to file and shred.

Enjoy! Soon you’ll no longer be excusing the stacks of papers cluttering your counters and table tops, bills will be paid on time and friends will be asking for your organization advice.


Please send me your questions, comments and any topics you’d like me to address.

Next post: Thursday, October 15



Often students and parents complain about hours spent on homework. It has been proven that working when most focused greatly diminishes homework time and improves memory of content.  (Why Can’t Students Just Pay Attention?)

How to diminish homework time by increasing your focusing time?

  1. Finish a snack before beginning homework.
  2. Set out one assignment at  a time.
  3. Set a timer for a number of minutes you think you can work without being distracted. (20-45+ minutes)
  4. Work until the timer rings. If you have been able to work with full attention during that time, great! Take a short break. (5-10 minutes) And repeat the process adding a few more minutes (5-10+minutes) to your timer until you have completed your assignment.
  5. If you became distracted before the timer rang, stop! Note how long you were able to remain focused and after a short break (5-10 minutes)  reset the timer for your focused time. Begin again. Repeat the process until you have completed the assignment.
  6. To increase your focusing time, add just 1-5 minutes every day until you have reached your optimum time.


Note: Often parents are reluctant to see their children take breaks from homework. It has been proven that these breaks help productivity in ALL workers. (To Stay on Schedule Take a Break)