EF in High School: Finding a Calendar System That Works

Organization and planning are key aspects of executive function. Here are some tips and tools to help your high school students get — and stay — organized.

Find the Right Tool

Staying organized can pose challenges for students, and organization in school often focuses on what students are doing wrong. Keep the focus on students’ strengths by introducing students to different types of organization systems and helping them choose what works best for them.

As a high school teacher, I have supported students in using different mediums — from paper agenda books to apps — to track their assignments. Here are a few resources worth exploring:

  • Google Sheets Assignment Tracker: Among Google’s plethora of templates, this assignment tracker provides students places to map out estimated completion times and due dates for each assignment.
  • Google Calendar: Google Calendar can be helpful for working professionals and students alike. I have students make each assignment an hour-long “event” and set reminders for themselves days to weeks in advance of when the assignments are due.
  • Pencil Planner App: This calendar app syncs with Google Calendar and allows you to write notes with your finger, trackpad, or electronic pencil. I use this app to help my students plan when they will work on each assignment.
  • myHomework App: This app is streamlined and specialized for students. One drawback is it does not offer a note-writing feature like Pencil Planner.
  • Paper Agenda Book: For students who enjoy paper-and-pencil organizing, paper agenda books are tried and true. Students can explore different layouts (horizontally aligned, vertically aligned, monthly, weekly) to see what works best for them.

Start the Process

To help students get started, encourage them to begin with the basics. A back-to-school assignment organization routine could look like this:

  1. Gather all the syllabi for your courses. If a course does not have a syllabus, ask your teacher when important assignments will be due.
  2. Set aside 1–3 hours to complete an assignment tracker
  3. Add due dates to a Google Calendar
  4. Add other important times to your calendar, such as classes and extracurriculars. 
  5. Use the Pencil Planner App or print out your calendar to map out when you plan to work on each assignment

Calendar systems are not one-size-fits-all! Let students know that they should try different ways of planning deadlines to see what works for them.

Join us this November for the 36th Annual Executive Function Conference, which will focus on promoting resilience and equity for ALL students.

  • Taylor McKenna, SMARTS Intern

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org