Tried and True: The Benefits of a Paper Planner

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Does your child struggle to manage time or keep track of due dates at school or with life in general? A paper planner might just be the essential tool he or she needs to stay on task, especially if your child struggles with executive functioning skills.

At SOS4Students, we find many students try to make a go of school without a functional planning system of any kind. That’s a clear recipe for disaster.

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Schools used to distribute paper planners every year, but many have stopped, leaving it up students to buy one or to rely on their smartphones or the school’s online homework platforms. 

In our experience, such an approach does not work. When students are taught first how to use a paper planner effectively, they benefit greatly compared to using a smartphone, tablet, or online system from the outset. The key is to start building a strong foundation of planner use in late elementary school, reinforcing the practice through middle school as activities and responsibilities increase.

To help you decide on whether a paper or digital planner would work best for your child, let’s take a look at some of the benefits and drawbacks you should consider.

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Why Relying on Smartphones Often Doesn’t Work

As a distraction, smartphones are far too tempting, especially for younger students. Further, students generally are not supposed to be using their phones in school. This is a major issue.

  • Sometimes teachers do allow students to take pictures of the classroom board, but that doesn’t help students plan or prioritize the information presented there. They simply end up with multiple photos of whiteboards on their phones and no plan of action to visualize.
  • Unless they are using an app designed to help organize tasks and deadlines, such as Todoist, students tend to create unwieldy “to-do” lists on their phones, with little organization and no indication of deadlines.
  • Many students make the mistake of thinking they can keep track of everything in their heads without recording it somewhere. When they use their phones, keeping track of what they need to do and by when often gets lost in all the digital overload.
  • There is a learning curve to using Google Calendar or Outlook effectively as homework planners, and schools rarely take the time to give instruction.
  • Google Classroom, however, is being widely used and can be taught quickly so that students can integrate assignments with their calendars, so there is some hope!
  • Many middle school students are just learning how to use smartphones, and few are very good at self-regulation. Many parents don’t feel their 6th-graders should need to have phones for school. Most prefer waiting until 8th or 9th grade. 
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Summer is a great opportunity for students to work with an SOS4Students coach to prep for the next school year, review and change habits that have been counterproductive, and/or target skills that need to be tweaked or built from the ground up. You can go online right now to pay for and schedule sessions with one of our coaches. Coaching is offered at our offices in Montclair Village (Oakland), Walnut Creek, and online. Register

Benefits of Paper Planners

SOS4Students believes paper planners make the most sense for all students, especially middle schoolers.

  • Students can keep paper planners on their desks open or bookmarked. It gives them something immediate, flexible, and tangible, which is essential to forming good planning habits.
  • Planners can be basic or stylish, and they can allow creative or visual learners to highlight, use stickers, or use washi tape to provide visual cues as to what’s important. (Many of our students love the planners offered by www.erincondren.com, which offers them an outlet for personal expression.)
  • Paper planners don’t offer distractions.
  • Paper planners make it easier to break up projects into more manageable chunks, especially for younger students.
  • Students can add stickies to their paper planners with extra information about an assignment, and many planners have extra to-do pages as well.
  • Paper planners also benefit students with dysgraphia who can first take pictures of the classroom board and then go back to their planners and write in their homework at their own pace, without the pressure of having to get it all down quickly at the end of class.
reading Recommended Reading

I came across this article, 8 Paper Planners That Will Change Your Life. It talks about how the right paper planner can make a world of difference in keeping us organized, on time, and productive. It’s a fun, quick read, with lots of good information, especially for families, students, and adults living with ADHD.

When to Use Digital Planners

High school and college students can benefit from using digital planners, especially when they use specific apps or platforms. To be most effective:

  • Students need to learn how to use their digital planning apps, and they need to use them consistently.
  • Students need to be proficient in using Google Calendar (or similar) without prompting. It should become second nature.
  • When a parent makes an appointment that involves the student, he or she should send an electronic invitation to the student so the student can add the event to his or her calendar.

And the Decision Goes To . . . 

There are many benefits to using digital platforms, especially as we depend more and more on technology. However, when it comes to planning, middle school students should build a foundation of good planning habits first by using a paper planner. As they become savvier with their own time management and planning, they can eventually transition to digital platforms.

We're Here to Help

If your teen is facing time management problems, SOS4Students can help. We offer a number of Summer Workshops that focus on writing, note-taking, organizational skills, and study strategies for both middle school and high school, and our Summer Coaching is tailored to meet the specific challenges of students, such as reading comprehension, time management, organization, note-taking, writing, and more.

Signing up for an SOS4Students Workshop or Summer Coaching is easy and can be done online. Our workshops tend to fill fast and start dates will be here sooner than you think, so act now.

summer workshop menu

  • All workshops are held at Lafayette Library (Oak Room) Lafayette, CA.
  • Summer coaching is available at our Walnut Creek and Montclair District offices, or online.

Middle School Workshops

6thgrade bluebulletMastering Middle School empowers students entering sixth grade. Students learn invaluable skills to tackle the demands of multiple teachers and more complex assignments.

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6th - 8th GradesWrite On esnures your child is prepared for the essay-writing challenges ahead by covering essay fundamentals for middle school students.

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7th & 8th GradeMiddle School Blitz gives your students the strategies they need to have control over their time and workload. Prepare your student to balance classwork, homework and outside activities.

Learn More & Sign Up Today


High School Workshops

9th GradeNailing Ninth Grade prepares your student for a successful transition to high school. Students come away with an invaluable toolbox of study strategies they will use every day.

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9th-11th GradeWriting RX teaches students an easily replicable system for expository essay writing. Students leave confident and prepared to tackle the complex writing assignments that high school demands.

Learn More & Sign Up Today


9th-12th GradeSecrets of Successful Note Taking demystifies the note taking process. Students learn techniques to take effective notes and use their notes to prepare for tests and papers.

Learn More & Sign Up Today


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6th-12th GradeCOACHING REGISTRATION NOW OPEN!

Can't make the workshop you need? Does your student benefit from more individualized attention? All ages and abilities benefit from the one-on-one summer coaching sessions with our seasoned coaches.

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The Real Cost of Digital Learning: Reading Comprehension and Note-Taking Negatively Impacted

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It will probably come as no surprise for most parents to learn that reading comprehension is negatively impacted in today’s digital age.

What’s the main culprit?

While digital devices tend to make it easier for us to speed read through content, digital devices also make note-taking more difficult. For example, exactly how are students expected to take notes when they’re reading online textbooks on their iPhones or tablets? Remind me again how to use a digital highlighter to identify key content?

You get the point.

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Now combine everyday note-taking challenges with students who deal with executive functioning issues and it becomes readily apparent how some students can really struggle in classes where much of the content is delivered via online textbooks or videos.

Here are some of the comprehension and note-taking issues SOS4Students sees with students:

eBooks

  • Comprehension can be compromised when reading on digital platforms.
  • When it comes to the classroom, instruction on note-taking is infrequent.
  • Handwritten notes tend to be more concise and focused, while retention suffers when notes are typed or copied and pasted on a smartphone, laptop, or tablet.
  • Scrolling content on a digital device leads to students losing track of what they’re reading, which can lower comprehension.
  • Online math is especially difficult, as students must transpose problems to paper, which can lead to copying errors, extra work, frustration, and overwhelm. 

Video Instruction

  • Overreliance on videos in place of in-person teaching can downgrade the quality of instruction.
  • Students are asked to “take notes” on video content without any templates or scaffolding to show them how to do so. This is especially problematic for middle school students.
  • Students do not have a clear understanding of what they are supposed to take away from instructional videos, unless their own teacher does the presentation and clearly articulates expectations.
  • Tempting online distractions before, during, and after video instruction mean key points often escape the attention of students. Many students don’t even finish videos or remember what was in them!

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Contrary to popular belief that our digitally savvy students find online learning easy, SOS4Students finds that many complain of being confused about what to focus on and scattered in their ability to learn from and keep pace with online books and videos. Logging in to scroll and navigate through different platforms can actually be quite overwhelming to many students — especially those with ADHD and visual processing issues. They take short cuts and miss information.

At SOS4Students, we are keenly aware of these issues, as many students who experience them walk into our offices daily! Helping students navigate the pros and cons of digital learning is a big part of what we do.

  • If your high school student is struggling with online learning and needs to better understand how to take notes in all forms, you’ll want to register him or her for our summer workshop, Secrets of Successful Note Taking.
  • For middle schoolers about to enter 9th grade, they can jump right into the digital world and learn strategies to organize information effectively online as part of our Nailing Ninth summer workshop.

We're Here to Help

If your child is falling behind the digital curve or faces other challenges in school with his or her studies, SOS4Students can help. We offer a number of Summer Workshops that focus on writing, note-taking, organizational skills, and study strategies for both middle school and high school, and our Summer Coaching is tailored to meet the specific challenges of students, such as reading comprehension, time management, organization, note-taking, writing, and more.

Signing up for an SOS4Students Workshop or Summer Coaching is easy and can be done online. Our workshops tend to fill fast and start dates will be here sooner than you think, so act now.

summer workshop menu

  • All workshops are held at Lafayette Library (Oak Room) Lafayette, CA.
  • Summer coaching is available at our Walnut Creek and Montclair District offices, or online.

Middle School Workshops

6thgrade bluebulletMastering Middle School empowers students entering sixth grade. Students learn invaluable skills to tackle the demands of multiple teachers and more complex assignments.

Learn More & Sign Up Today


6th - 8th GradesWrite On esnures your child is prepared for the essay-writing challenges ahead by covering essay fundamentals for middle school students.

Learn More & Sign Up Today


7th & 8th GradeMiddle School Blitz gives your students the strategies they need to have control over their time and workload. Prepare your student to balance classwork, homework and outside activities.

Learn More & Sign Up Today


High School Workshops

9th GradeNailing Ninth Grade prepares your student for a successful transition to high school. Students come away with an invaluable toolbox of study strategies they will use every day.

Learn More & Sign Up Today


9th - 11th GradesWriting RX teaches students an easily replicable system for expository essay writing. Students leave confident and prepared to tackle the complex writing assignments that high school demands.

Learn More & Sign Up Today


9th - 12th GradesSecrets of Successful Note Taking demystifies the note taking process. Students learn techniques to take effective notes and use their notes to prepare for tests and papers.

Learn More & Sign Up Today


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6th - 12th Grades

COACHING REGISTRATION OPENING SOON FOR 2019!

Can't make the workshop you need? Does your student benefit from more individualized attention? All ages and abilities benefit from the one-on-one summer coaching sessions with our seasoned coaches.

Learn More