School Closings and Student Time Management | Steve Barkley

School is Closed. Is It an Opportunity to Develop Students’ Time Management Skills?

I have been working to record some podcasts for parents during the school closure and lockdown time. My focus has been on parents seeing their role as supporting learning rather than being the teacher. One of the areas I am exploring is how parents might engage with students during this time to strengthen “soft skills.” I recorded one spot on building student time management skills. I thought if I posted my thoughts you might want to share them with teachers to pass on to parents or build into their own online conversations with students. Hope it’s helpful.

While students’ online tasks or packet assignments that some schools are providing are likely to address literacy, mathematics and other important curriculum content, the imposed home study and lockdown time might be put to good use to develop students’ valuable “soft skills.” These skills are critical to future success and often missing from learning in classrooms. Extra-curricular activities are frequently an opportunity to practice these skills. An opportunity that students are also missing now.

Father helping son to do homeworkManaging one’s time is one of the most important soft skills.

The usual school structure tends to manage learners’ time. Periods and bells during the day, time requirements set by the adults. Even in high school, larger projects are often broken into smaller parts with separate due dates. This is done to promote the greatest possible student success with the required curriculum.

With schools closed, it might be a great time to develop time management skills. Chances are good that there is more freedom for trial and error and learning from experiences. Usually, family schedules are so tight with parents’ and kids’ responsibilities and activities that parents need to control the time management issues. The homework is due in the morning. Baseball practice is 6-7:30 pm. So, the homework must be finished before dinner in order to leave on time for practice. Often this meant a parent looking over the child’s shoulder checking what was accomplished since the last time it was checked. Now, with children’s and parents’ activities limited, the pressure can be less for short time task completion.
Conversations around planning and refection are key to learning from experiences. Have a discussion with your child about tasks that need to be completed and their thoughts about how to manage their time. The more advanced your student’s time management skills are, the more this can be their presentation of their plan to you.

Children developing their time management skills will need your questions to guide their planning. The younger the child, the shorter the chunks you would plan at a time.

Planning Questions:

  • What are the different tasks you want to complete?
  • Are any of these harder or easier?
  • Which will take more time? Less time?
  • Is there anything you need to “psyche” yourself to do?
  • Is there something that will be fun?
  • Are some things more important than others? Why?
  • What will you do first?
  • How long do you want to spend on that?
  • What do you think you will have done in that time? (Learning to estimate the time required is an important part of time management)
  • Will you take a break after that or go onto a second task?
  • If a second task, which one? For how long? What will you plan to have done at the end of that time?
  • When what was planned has been executed, a reflection conversation will support learning.

Reflection Questions:

  • You decided to do this first, for this time, and you wanted to have this outcome.
  • Were you able to concentrate on it that long?
  • What did you accomplish?
  • What made your decision a good idea?
  • Was there anything that you would decide to do differently next time? Why?

What’s Next?
Boy sitting outside with laptop

Your ongoing conversations should lead your child to continue making the next decisions based on what they are discovering from earlier choices. We all have different ways to manage our time that work best for us and learners need to discover theirs. Some of us do an easier task first and gain motivation to tackle a more difficult task next. Others tackle the challenge first and when completed are motivated to finish others.

Look to describe a time management decision you are making as you start a day. What questions are you asking yourself? What have you learned from past experiences that work best for you?

The questions you pose to guide the planning and reflection are important as they are the questions your children will learn to ask themselves as they become increasingly independent in managing their time. A critical skill for success in college, career, and life.

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3 Responses to “ School is Closed. Is It an Opportunity to Develop Students’ Time Management Skills? ”

  1. Amanda Campbell Says:

    I love this post. Thank you for this and the others that have been specifically focused on school closure. Now that the dust is settling (a little) and we’ve figured some things out, I am catching up a bit. I am calmed and encouraged by your words.

  2. Steve Barkley Says:

    Amanda– thanks for the kind words. The key as we struggle through this crisis is to see what learning and practices that prove valuable we can carry forth, advancing learning for all

  3. CATCO Says:

    Well worth a read. Got great insights and information from your blog. Thanks.

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