Monthly Tips

Each month, a Thinking Organized tip is emailed to our growing list of educators, parents and students who want to improve their executive functioning skills.

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smortoMonthly Tips

Tackling Exams with Technology

It’s that time of year again, the time of year when only one thing is separating students from the final school bell and the promise of a relaxing, pleasant summer…exams. For most students, being assessed on a high volume of material across subject matters is overwhelming and stressful. When do you start? What and how do you study? How do you fit study time into a schedule already packed full of other academic and extracurricular activities? Luckily, there are some great task managers out there that are designed to streamline the planning and studying process for students at all levels.

There are many benefits of using online tools to manage study habits. One major advantage is accessibility. Students can have their study materials and schedule with them at all times so that they can use their free time wisely anywhere they go. Studying works well in short, focused bursts over an extended period of time, so having everything at the touch of a button can really maximize the quality and quantity of study time. Another plus of using technology is the advanced features that it can provide to help students visually track their progress and maintain a collection of tasks or study tools.

There are thousands of apps and websites out there to help students manage their study habits. Some are primarily geared toward task management, while others are designed more for assessing knowledge of the content. We found two newer programs that serve each of those purposes: GoConqr and My Study Life both help students stay on track and take an active role in the studying process as they look ahead toward finals.

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smortoTackling Exams with Technology

Research Paper Rx

As the end of the school year approaches, many students find themselves inundated with research papers, projects and large-scale essays. Although these culminating assignments may be good methods for assessing progress, they can present many challenges, particularly for students who struggle with time management. A deadline that is several weeks away is an enticing invitation to procrastinate. Teenagers are especially prone to the feeling of having plenty of time ahead of them and often do not recognize the need to start early. However, long-term assignments can be time consuming, taxing and unpredictable endeavors. Often, at least one part of the process will take longer than planned, or require a different approach than originally envisioned.


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smortoResearch Paper Rx

Empowering Your Student

Assertiveness and self-advocacy are not always innate. Some children are naturally shyer than others, and many people (adults included) find it difficult to speak up for themselves. However, being a good self-advocate is an important skill at all stages of life. In school, children benefit from asking and answering questions, protecting themselves against bullying and learning to negotiate everything from the bus ride to the first date. When students practice assertive behavior, they learn life-long strategies that allow them to maximize their strengths, develop healthy relationships, and become successful, independent members of society.

Unfortunately, individuals who have learning disabilities, executive functioning weaknesses, ADHD or related disorders are sometimes least likely to effectively self-advocate. The ability to recognize a need, formulate a request and ask someone of authority a question is a difficult set of tasks for these children. However, practicing methods of self-awareness, self-determination, self-confidence and self-advocacy will provide students with the strategies necessary to achieve their personal and academic goals.
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smortoEmpowering Your Student

E For Effort

Along with just about everything else, report cards have changed. Many schools are rolling out mid-year report cards that are more aligned to Common Core Standards. Parents who are accustomed to the traditional presentation of single grades in the basic subjects may be in for a surprise. With the evolution of universalized standards and increased rigor in education, how are parents supposed to determine if their children have achieved proficiency, or if they need some extra help and guidance?

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smortoE For Effort

Taking Advantage of Technology

“If we teach today what we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.”
– John Dewey

Parents and teachers are always on the lookout for new ways of using technology to enhance their students’ organizational and academic routines. While most of us know that technology offers a multitude of benefits, it can be a challenge for even the savviest techie to sift through the millions of options available. With all the websites, devices, and apps claiming to help students manage time and organize their lives, how do we know which truly provide some value?

After delving into the depths of the app store, we’ve arrived at a list of the top four criteria to use when considering a technological trend:

  1. Accessibility
  2. Organized display
  3. Setting reminders
  4. Centralized location

The myHomework App is a tried-and-true technological resource that meets all of these criteria, which parents can trust to help keep their tech-savvy students on track.

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smortoTaking Advantage of Technology

Extending the Learning

Most parents appreciate the value of classroom learning to their children’s long-term educational development. However, the most successful students take the knowledge they’ve acquired in school a step beyond the classroom.

Parents can help their children extend their learning, which both reinforces the material they learn in school and encourages higher-level critical thinking skills that will make schoolwork meaningful and relevant.

There are many ways that parents can help students take that extra leap.

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smortoExtending the Learning

Studying? What’s that?

Academic success comes easily for some students, but for most children, learning how to study is an educational process in itself. How can parents help their children study effectively and succeed in school?

Setting up some basic structures helps students know what is required, plan their time, and learn how to learn.

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smortoStudying? What’s that?

Change Is The Only Constant

From the child being carried off the playground kicking and screaming to the mother taking her “baby” to college, transitions are just plain hard. However, change is inevitable both in our daily schedules and in larger life events.

Adults often struggle with the anxiety of forsaking familiar routines and replacing them with an unproven structure. Although children make many transitions each day, change can seem unpredictable and overwhelming, especially when they are not ready to move on to the next place or activity.

Some children respond with challenging behavior when they feel unable to control their timetable. Teaching strategies to better manage anticipated and unpredictable changes is a life skill that benefits both you and your children, now and in the future.

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smortoChange Is The Only Constant

Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan

The joys of summer! Hopefully by now everyone has recovered from the stress of exams and the panic of impending deadlines…WAIT! There’s only one month left to complete all this summer reading? Some schools have now added on math, science or history assignments as well. Is your child taking an AP class? Then he’s pretty much guaranteed summer work.

Most parents were enjoying a welcome break from the pressures of an academic cycle filled with stress and nagging. What’s a laidback summertime mom (or dad) to do?

Follow these helpful tips to get all the assignments and summer reading accomplished in these last few weeks, without feeling like a nag.

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smortoPlan Your Work and Work Your Plan

Savor the Summer

Right about now, the idea of summer vacation sounds pretty sweet for most parents. No more getting up before dawn, packing lunches, stressing over grades or repetitively nagging, “Did you do your homework? Do you have your binder? Did you lay out your clothes for tomorrow? Is your gym bag packed? Are you ready for exams? Who’s driving car pool?” No wonder so many of us are dreaming about a family vacation, trips to the pool and leisurely mornings without alarm clocks.

However, it doesn’t take long for the change of routine to become exasperating. If your teenager sleeps until the afternoon, then eats you out of house and home while leaving his dishes stacked to the ceiling, all while his primary goal is to beat the next level on his video game, it can wear you down pretty quickly. Sometimes it seems that we can actually see brain cells stagnating when children don’t want to do their summer reading, or practice math, or anything that seems remotely educational. Couple all that with the usual whining, (“I’m bored,” “It’s too hot,” “There’s nothing to do,” “Are we there yet?”) and many parents start longing for the school year to begin.

Children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or weaknesses in their executive functioning skills provide even greater summertime challenges. These kids become bored more quickly, but seem less able to develop and execute their own plans for entertaining themselves. Additionally, with nothing to do, these sensation-seeking, impulsive, creative bundles of energy are likely to get into trouble: cutting down the neighbor’s tree to see what’s inside, baking cookies but then forgetting them in the hot oven or gluing fake eyelashes on the cat are just a few of the reported results of too much time and too little structure.

So how to avoid these summertime blues? The wise parent develops a plan to keep children active, engaged and educated, while still making it feel like vacation.


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smortoSavor the Summer