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Guess Actual Timesheet

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Learning how to manage your time is a crucial component of success in any activity.

If you’re struggling to complete your work on time, try using our Guess/Actual worksheet!

First, guess how long it will take you to complete each task on your to-do list.

Then, time yourself to see how long it actually took you each task.

Finally, if there were any large discrepancies between your guesses and actuals, identify why that happened: did you get distracted? Was the task easier or more complex than you thought it would be?

When you can figure out how long it realistically takes you to finish tasks, you can better plan out when you should begin working on something.

Download it here!

Erica MechlinskiGuess Actual Timesheet

What’s TO Reading this Month?

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With thousands upon thousands of books out there, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to decide what to read next. Fiction? Some short stories? A memoir? The complete run of Wonder Woman? Ahh! Luckily, Thinking Organized is here to help. Here’s what’s on our reading list this month; check them out, and let us know what you plan on reading next!

Jessica: I recently read A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman after it was recommended to me by my mother, who was suggested to read it by her fellow teachers at her middle school. The fictional book follows the daily life of a middle-aged man who’s a bit of a curmudgeon (well, more than a bit!). Ove is a man of strong principles and strict routines, and he does not hold back when forcing his views onto everyone in his neighborhood within earshot. In each subsequent chapter, Backman reveals more of Ove’s backstory, including the trials and tribulations he faced during childhood and marriage, making Backman’s story much more compelling as you start to have sympathy for the bitter old man by the end of the book. A Man Called Ove is an easy read, but a thoroughly entertaining one at that, and I recommend the book to anyone interested in a pleasant escape from the daily grind of work or home life.

Kristin: I just finished re-reading Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s novel Good Omens. There’s a TV adaptation coming out next year, so I wanted to refresh my memory so I could see how well the show adapted the book. Gaiman and Pratchett have very distinct writing styles, so it’s fascinating to see them combine their talents (plus, it’s fun trying to figure out who wrote which parts). Good Omens follows an angel and a demon as they attempt to thwart Armageddon, but their plans are slightly spoiled when they realize they don’t even know where the Antichrist is. Gaiman and Pratchett create vibrant characters, and I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for something witty and funny.

Mallory: I am reading Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. It is a beautifully-written book about an impoverished, fiercely loyal family facing Hurricane Katrina. Ward writes with a poetic, almost lyrical prose, binding love, resilience, and disaster from the perspective of a poor, pregnant teenage girl. I chose this book because I volunteered in Biloxi, MS post-Katrina and was touched by the courage and resilience of the families I met. Salvage the Bones is moving, at times heartbreaking, and reads like a song.

Stephan: Recently I have been reading a number of novellas by one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman. Gaiman has an incredible ability to build worlds that balance fantasy elements with relatable and intensely human characters. Odd and the Frost Giants is the story of a young Norse man who has lost his father and has been permanently injured in an accident. When he leaves his mother’s home to escape his stepfather, he encounters a group of animals who can talk. After discovering that they are gods who have been thrown out of their home, Odd sets out on an adventure to return them to their home and rightful bodies.

Erica MechlinskiWhat’s TO Reading this Month?

What’s TO Reading this Month?

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With thousands upon thousands of books out there, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to decide what to read next. Fiction? Some short stories? A memoir? The complete run of Wonder Woman? Ahh! Luckily, Thinking Organized is here to help. Here’s what’s on our reading list this month; check them out, and let us know what you plan on reading next!

Jennifer: I recently read All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely after one of my students was assigned the novel for summer reading. This book focuses on the topics of racism and police brutality, and it became the most powerful book I read all summer. The alternating perspectives of Rashad and Quinn are explored as they navigate the consequences of a violent event that divides their community.

Kristin: Right now, I’m reading David Quammen’s new book The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life. Quammen is one of my favorite science writers, and I’ve been waiting months for this book to come out. It looks at the development of the concept of the tree of life and the changes it’s undergone thanks to breakthroughs in science. This book gives us a comprehensive look at the scientists responsible for altering our understanding of evolution, as well as what impacts this understanding has on our lives.

Mallory: I’m reading Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. I am absolutely loving this book. It explores the biology and history of humankind, from the Stone Age to the 21st Century. While the content is dense and mystifying, Harari writes with a clear, engaging style. I often find myself thinking about the content hours or days later. I chose to read Sapiens because I am fascinated by the human mind and human behavior. There is even a whole chapter dedicated to the evolution of language, so the nerdy-SLP side of me loved that.

Michael: I’m reading The Mountains of California, by John Muir. It’s a work I’m reading in preparation for my doctoral exams on nineteenth-century American literature. In it, Muir tells about his travels throughout the Sierra Nevada mountains. He explores the land and its history, as well as the wildlife and plants he finds there, and does so in lively prose that does a great job of communicating his own enthusiasm for the natural world.

Tara:  I’m reading Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler. It is a social psychology book that explores the way society makes various choices and provides suggestions for helping people make the best possible choices for themselves. I have always been drawn to these types of books, starting with Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s Freakonomics and Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. I am fascinated by people’s thought process and the various influences that affect them. As someone who spends a lot of time with teenagers, I am always looking for ways to help my students make the best choices for themselves and their future.

Erica MechlinskiWhat’s TO Reading this Month?

Test Anxiety Tips

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Many students with executive dysfunction struggle with test anxiety. This challenge can manifest itself in both physical and psychological ways, making it seem almost impossible to take an exam. If your child struggles with test anxiety, check out these tips on what to do before and during an exam.

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Erica MechlinskiTest Anxiety Tips

Our Picks: Three Summer Learning Apps/Games for T(w)eens

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Let’s face it—teens love their screen time. But, it doesn’t need to be wasted on Netflix or Fortnite. Check out our top three summer picks for games and apps that will keep your teen interested (while building executive function skills at the same time!).

  1. Pixton
    • This website allows kids to make comics they can print or share online. Pixton is a great tool for practicing creative writing skills and developing social skills. The website is available in any web browser and is very user-friendly!
    • Price: FREE
  1. Middle School Confidential 1: Be Confident in Who You Are
    • This is a great tool to prepare your child for the social challenges of middle school! This app is presented as a graphic novel and helps kids navigate the social issues of middle school through stories, tips, and quizzes. Topics include self-esteem, making friends, and fitting in. The app is available for iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, and Nook HD.
    • Price: $2.99
  1. Instructables
    • This app/website is FULL of DIY projects for teens! Many of these projects are great for developing organizational and planning skills, as well as improving attention. Sit with your child and select a summer project.
    • Price: FREE

What are your favorite apps/sites for the summer? We would love to hear your feedback!

Erica MechlinskiOur Picks: Three Summer Learning Apps/Games for T(w)eens

The Process of Decision-Making

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By Kristin Backert

We’re faced with a myriad of decisions every day, and most people prefer to use the same tactic to accomplish any task they encounter. However, it’s important to be flexible when faced with a new task so you can effectively complete it. According to a recent study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “People often take different approaches to decision-making. They might apply different strategies, consider different elements of the problem or assign value to the options differently.” For example, you might decide to study for your Spanish test by using flashcards while you might decide to study for your World History exam by creating a timeline of important events. When deciding how to tackle an issue, you need to take a variety of factors into consideration before you make a decision. With the Spanish and World History tests, for instance, you have to think about the type of material you need to know. If the Spanish test is focusing solely on new vocabulary words, then making flashcards best enables you to recall the information. If the test had been on past and future tenses, then flashcards might not be the optimal studying tool because they don’t allow you to practice creating sentences and envisaging scenarios when it’s appropriate to use a given tense.

Whether you’re choosing a studying method or trying to figure out the best way to travel somewhere, you use past experience to help inform your decision. If, for example, you made a timeline for your last World History test and passed, then it makes sense to use this strategy again for your next test! If, though, the timeline did not help, then the decision you make for the new test will differ because you have learned from your past decision.

The most important thing to remember about making decisions is that you need to be flexible. Instead of stubbornly claiming that there’s only one right way to accomplish something, you should instead consider a variety of paths you can take and weigh the pros and cons of each one. When you’re more aware of your decision-making process, you can ensure that you choose the right strategy for the task at hand!

Erica MechlinskiThe Process of Decision-Making

How to Deal with Writer’s Block

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By Kristin Backert

Picture the scene: You’re at the computer, sitting in your favorite chair. You open Google Docs in one tab and the directions for your paper in another. You put your fingers on the keyboard, the ideas rolling in your head. And then…nothing. You draw a blank, and everything you knew about the topic is off vacationing in Paris. And now, you’re stuck in front of the computer with a blinking cursor mocking you from a blank white page.

Writer’s block is a common yet unfortunate problem that many students have faced. Whether it’s a short response paper, a critical paper, or a dissertation, it can be extremely hard to know how to get started. Luckily, though, there are a few strategies you can use to get past this struggle:

  • Talk it out. Whether it’s to a friend, a relative, or a stuffed animal, talking out loud can help light a spark. It’s important to get out of your head, and by talking it out, you’re better able to focus on the ideas you want in your paper. If you talk to a real person, they can even act as a sounding board and help you clarify the points you want to make.
  • Dictate your ideas. Do you ever have that feeling where you know exactly what it is you want to say but you can’t translate your thoughts to paper? If that sounds all too familiar, then you may benefit from dictating your ideas. You can ask a friend or use a voice software program that will type out what you say, making it easier for you to focus solely on your ideas.
  • Skip the introduction. Introductions are the hardest part; it’s difficult to introduce the main ideas of your paper when you have yet to write the body paragraphs. Instead of trying to write your intro first, jump straight to the body paragraphs.
  • Walk away from the computer. Mindlessly staring at the computer won’t make words appear on the page. If you’re stuck, walk away from the computer and take a break. Go outside or go in another room and take a deep breath; a change of environment can help you refocus.
  • Use a timer. The idea of sitting in front of a computer for several hours to work on a paper doesn’t sound appealing, and that fear can deter you from writing. To make writing more bearable, try using a timer. Work for a short time (15-20 minutes) and then give yourself a 5-minute break.

Writer’s block is an enemy of students, but it doesn’t have to be YOUR enemy. Try using these strategies the next time you’re working on a paper, and let us know how they go!

Erica MechlinskiHow to Deal with Writer’s Block

The Relationship between Executive Function Skills and Language

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By Jennifer Sax & Mallory Rotondo

Language is not limited to what we speak and hear. In fact, it plays an integral role in our ability to complete many executive functioning tasks. The relationship between executive functioning and language is reciprocal, meaning each skill set is dependent on the other for success.

While it may not be an obvious connection, language is essential to success in executive function (EF) tasks such as turning in homework on time, morning routines, or following complex directions. In these examples, language serves as our “internal script”, guiding us as we monitor, plan, and execute tasks. This internal script is called metacognition. As adults, our internal thought process is natural and automatic. However, for those with EF weaknesses, mental language skills may be underdeveloped.

To illustrate the reciprocal relationship between language and EF skills, let’s consider Johnny, a 13 year old student, and how these skills work together in different areas of communication.

Oral Language
When Johnny wants to tell a story about his weekend, he has to mentally plan and sequence events (metacognition) before speaking. This mental organization allows his story to make sense to a listener. Without the EF skills of planning and organization, his story may lack structure and/or important details. As Johnny speaks, he must determine whether his listener understands his story and adjust accordingly. This requires intact self-regulation skills.

Written Language
Johnny’s teacher has assigned a 5-paragraph essay on the First Amendment. Before Johnny starts writing, he must use the EF skills of prioritization and long-term planning to research the topic and select the most important information to include. Then, Johnny needs to integrate this information into an organized outline, creating a plan for his paper. From there, he must sequence and organize this information into well-structured sentences, and incorporate transitions to write paragraphs that flow from one to the other. Throughout the process, he must utilize self-monitoring and problem solving skills to edit and evaluate his work.

Auditory Comprehension
In science class, Johnny is listening to a lecture on the respiratory system. As his teacher speaks, Johnny must sustain attention to her voice while inhibiting background distractions, a foundational EF skill. Johnny’s working memory is active as he processes language and determines what information is important to include in his notes. Throughout the lecture, Johnny utilizes metacognition and self-awareness to monitor his understanding of material and ask questions when necessary.

Reading Comprehension
Johnny is reading The Outsiders for his English class. While he is reading, he needs to sustain attention to the text and utilize working memory to decode, or sound out, new words. His working memory is also actively integrating world knowledge (what he already knows) with new information to make sense of the text. Johnny’s cognitive flexibility and problem solving skills allow him to make inferences and predictions about the novel, as well as use context to define unknown vocabulary. Finally, Johnny uses metacognition to check for understanding as he reads.

It is essential to understand the reciprocal relationship between language and EF skills to help students succeed both academically and in life. A certified Speech Language Pathologist is often the best resource to help parents and students understand that connection, and provide treatment when there are difficulties.

Erica MechlinskiThe Relationship between Executive Function Skills and Language

Managing Anxiety: Quick Tips to Support Your Child

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By Mallory Rotondo, M.S., CF-SLP

All behavior is a form of communication. There are many reasons why a child may become disruptive or have a tantrum, and it can be challenging to identify the underlying cause of this behavior. When anxiety is fueling negative behavior, it is particularly complicated to figure out.

The National Institute of Mental Health (2017) reported that anxiety affects 31.9% of adolescents (ages 13-18) in the United States. While anxiety is not formally considered a learning disability, it certainly inhibits a child’s ability to learn. When a child is experiencing anxiety, they have poor regulation skills, limited executive functioning, and develop rigid social thinking that prevents them from taking another person’s perspective.

The key to supporting a child with anxiety is to identify and prevent anxiety triggers and build social-emotional skills to cope when anxiety arises.

Katrina Schwartz, of MindShift, a company investigating and reporting on trends in learning, wrote an excellent article summarizing tips to support children with anxiety in schools (Check out the full article in the link below).

While Schwartz’s article is directed toward teachers, here are 5 great ways to support your child with anxiety at home:

  1. Take breaks. But make sure they are cognitively-engaging. Breaks are important for a kid with anxiety. But if the break isn’t paired with a cognitive distraction, it may leave the child ‘stuck’ in their negative thought process. Encourage breaks which occupy the mind (e.g., crossword puzzle, sudoku, reading a book for pleasure).
  2. Avoid countdowns. Counting down doesn’t help the child who feels anxious about finishing. Instead, find a functional stopping point. For example, “Let’s finish the problem you’re working on” or “Finish that paragraph and then join us for dinner”.
  3. Help your child recognize the signs. Talk your child through a ‘body check’. What does their body feel like when they are getting anxious? Get specific, and write it down. Self-monitoring is important to anticipating moments of anxiety.
  4. Reward practice. When a child utilizes a skill or self-calming strategy, reward the practice! Even if it didn’t work perfectly, praise him for his attempt to take control.
  5. Use a dry erase board. Does your child fear they will mess up or write the wrong thing? Try utilizing a dry erase board, where mistakes are easily erased. This may reduce some of that stress during homework time.

For more great tips, visit Katrina Schwartz’s article at: https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2016/04/21/20-tips-to-help-de-escalate-interactions-with-anxious-or-defiant-students/

 

Erica MechlinskiManaging Anxiety: Quick Tips to Support Your Child