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The Time Management Model
By: Upper School Director Gail Clark
Helping children manage challenging, long-term assignments requires planning, organization and an understanding of time. There are several skills that are required in order to successfully execute a task. One of these is time management. It takes parents and teachers working together to help students comprehend how to look at an assignment and decipher what it is asking and how to complete it by a certain date.
In a recent Rossman School faculty workshop, clinical psychologist Barb Talent discussed ways to help a child learn to manage his or her time through a model of connecting (through conversation), chunking (breaking down assignments), and shaping (personalizing the process).
One way to connect with your child each week is to have a conversation about his or her responsibilities over the next seven days. Reviewing a family calendar is a good way for young children to see what they will be doing on a daily/weekly basis. Conversations with older children should revolve around the following questions: What is it that they have to accomplish? What materials do they need? When is it due? And, what extra activities outside of school do they have in their week ahead? Make a list of responsibilities and prioritize them. For example, if a child has a test coming up as well as a birthday party, make a list of what he or she has to do and when in order for both to happen. Making such conversations a routine is key.
Multiple-step projects can be overwhelming. As a result, a student may seemingly procrastinate, not knowing where to begin. Chunking assignments, or breaking them down into parts, will make them seem less daunting. The chunks required for a long-term project or daily studying for a test should be written down in an assignment book for each day, not just on the day it was assigned. Colored sticky notes can be used to make specific parts of an assignment stand out. The hardest parts of the assignment should be done first. When planning, your child should work backwards, beginning at the deadline, in order to have time to finish the project. As each day’s work is accomplished, check it off.
Young children can start grasping a sense of time through various activities. Let them see what it feels like to do two minutes of jumping jacks or time how long it takes to ride their bike down the street and back. Make cookies and let them set the timer to see how long they take to bake. If they want to make spaghetti, help them determine the ingredients to buy at the store, how long it will take for the water to boil and the spaghetti to cook. Many timed and multi-step activities can begin to give young children a sense of time, early on. Through repetition of the process, children will learn the “feel” of passing time. The ultimate goal is to help children build an internal sense of time and a capacity to manage themselves.
The third part of the time management model is shaping. Working with a child on time management takes time and effort to mold their routine and their style together into strategies that will work for them. Picture a ball of clay to represent your plan. Pieces of the clay will be pushed and pulled as you and your child work on forming his or her time management process. One child may need to set an alarm every half hour and have a treat or short activity before moving on to the next assignment. Another may develop his or her strategies intuitively. Every child needs to develop a sense of his or her individual task pace. Each child’s “ball of clay” will look different.
Time management is really just a fancy way to describe balancing more than one responsibility at once. It won’t be perfected in one day or one week. Planning and getting into the routine is like stepping on rocks one at a time. Sometimes you fall off the rock, and then you have to start again with a different strategy. During your weekly conversation with your child, make sure you are looking at what went right with their time management strategies instead of what went wrong. Reflect on how the week went and give specific praise for a step well done and on time.
Teachers can guide long-term assignments from school, but it is the parents who must consistently help children to balance assignments and other activities in their lives at home. Responsibilities are less stressful when students can see a way of managing their demands. Give your child the gift of self-management skills.