Here’s EXACTLY what to do to help students finish the school year strong

Here’s EXACTLY what to do to help students finish the school year strong

Living in the Chicago area, we know all too well how difficult it can be to weather (no pun intended) the remaining months of winter (technically it’s spring, but it feels like winter).

As spring break comes to an end, we settle into a long string of weeks without really any days off of school and with everyone setting their minds (myself included) a bit early on the warmth and fun of summer.

Unfortunately, this scenario generally also results in a decrease in motivation, occasional periods of frustration or annoyance with school and workloads, and often, a lot of procrastination and some poor choices. (“I just don’t FEEL like doing it”…“I’m ready for break”…“I just got back from break”…“I have so much to do, this is probably good enough”…”I’m just ready for summer”).

Have no fear! We’re here to help.

The great news is that after sixteen years of helping students through these seemingly endless stretches, we’ve figured out exactly what steps they can take to either turn things around or propel students forward and keep the momentum going so that grades don’t slip, stress doesn’t spike and finals do not become “make or break” or a mad scramble.

Even better news…we’ve put it into on online course.

Better yet, we’ve included detailed instructions for how to walk students through these steps.

AND, we’ve even included blank templates for use and student examples too.

Finally, the BEST news of all is that we are going to offer it this year for FREE. Yes. You read that correctly.  I’ve been at this a long time and know just how much of a toll the stress around grades and exams can take on a student’s psyche. So, this year, in the spirit of wanting to help alleviate that for as many students as humanly possible, we are releasing the course for free.

Our only request is that we’d love to hear your feedback.

These key steps to finishing the school year strong include:

  • Learning to calculate and predict grades (making projections)
  • Analyzing grades and making necessary adjustments to figure out what will take to reach goals
  • Creating a process for semester exams
  • Planning for how to get everything accomplished that needs to get done
  • Getting motivated
  • Specific study skills and ideas
  • Using teachers to support your efforts


Watch our 30 minute video below (or through our facebook page) which includes great visuals, tips and strategies for a strong finish to the year.

The entire course can be accessed through the link here, and the downloads are linked both within each step and also as a complete download on the main page:


The course is geared towards high school students, but most of the pieces are fully applicable to junior high or college students, and many work for the elementary level as well.

Please do let us know what you think, and most importantly, get started SOON!

You can have students start thinking about these now, and most definitely, on their return from spring break.

We can’t wait to hear about how strong of a finish you have this year!

Let us know if you have any questions:  [email protected]


Why assignments don’t get turned in

Why assignments don’t get turned in

Wait, what?!  We had to turn that in ONLINE?  We had a book report due? But, Mom, the teacher didn’t check my homework…I was supposed to show it to her anyway?

A very HOT TOPIC and common theme with all of our students has become the challenge of managing not only papers, but all of the different ways information is communicated and assignments are completed these days.

Students not only now have to adjust to the different expectations and structures of various teachers and subjects, but also have to navigate where all the information is found for every class as well.

It’s not uncommon to have 4 or 5 (or more!) different websites to work with, on top of traditional paper based assignments and work. Some teachers only announce homework/assignments aloud in class, some write on the board or hand out a calendar, many use a website, some post on Google Classroom (where the long term assignments can get buried on the list of tasks) or use some combination of the above.

Imagine this….

In social studies class, assignments are announced by the teacher out loud in class and “posted online” (but not really until a few days after they are due because the teacher is really busy). You are expected to turn in paper assignments to the teacher in class, but the assignment sheets and worksheets are to be found on the teacher’s personal website (not the teacher’s school site- but you CAN get to it through the link on that page if needed) and then printed to complete at home.

In English, all assignments are posted through Google Classroom and are to be submitted online. The due dates and requirements are listed on the home page for the class and available as links to download – except journal entries, where the template can be downloaded and printed, which are to be hand written and turned in during class. Quizzes in this class are given using an online site, but tests are traditional paper/scan-tron given during class.  Major research papers need to be submitted as paper copies in addition to turning them in through by the deadline.  Rough drafts, though, are submitted via Google Classroom.  Students must hit “submit” for the assignment to be submitted and counted on time.

In Spanish, all materials are given out in packets and checked during class. There are no online materials available, except the teacher does post links of helpful websites on her school based site.  She writes the homework on the board daily but doesn’t post online.

Science class this year is taught all online through an online learning site. It has a separate log in and is set up with videos of all lectures/lessons, plus comprehension checks that must be completed online by a due date and passed at over 70% to get points for the homework.  All review materials/exercises, tests and quizzes are found and completed on this site as well. There is no hard copy textbook, but online text chapters are linked within individual sections. The teacher does not announce homework in class or write on the board. Students are expected to check online daily.

Math class has only an online text book, but most of the homework is done on worksheets that are handed out in class. A calendar is handed out on paper at the start of the unit. Homework is checked daily for completion as the teacher walks around the room.  

The health teacher posts daily hw handouts and schedules through a link on the teacher’s school website. Students need to download and print these each time they are do so they can be completed and turned in during class.  The link is hard to find, but it’s out there.


That’s a LOT, and now with more and more information presented digitally and online for each class, it’s only become trickier for students to manage all of this = executive functioning nightmare.

Have no fear!!!

A quick and easy (plus visual!) solution is to consolidate all of the expectations/guidelines/policies and protocols for each class in one place by creating a sort of MASTER Information Chart (see example below).


This can alleviate a lot of confusion and stress around remembering all of the different rules and procedures for each and every class.

Make it your own and consider all important pieces of information you would need to include.  **We strongly recommend you use a larger paper size so that you have it all in one place, but you can certainly do this class by class as well.  

That said, the TOP reasons assignments do not get turned in include this lack of awareness of what was even assigned, where to find it, and having too many ways the information is presented, plus…

  • Forgetting to write it down
  • Not checking the calendar or site (didn’t even realize it was assigned)
  • Not allowing enough time to complete the assignment
  • Unsure of how to do it, so pushing it aside or avoiding altogether
  • Not opening or checking the planner even if it WAS written down
  • Nervous about asking for help or clarifying
  • Losing it entirely (poor organization)
  • Doing it, but forgetting to turn it in (organization issue + lack of systems/routines for checking these things)
  • Forgetting to hit “submit” button
  • Was absent and lost track or no planning/assignment management system
  • Overwhelmed and just giving up entirely or upon realizing it wasn’t done, just shutting down/feeling like it’ll never get done, so why bother
  • Did the assignment, but didn’t make sure the teacher saw it and gave credit
  • Thinking teacher is not going to give credit
  • Mad at the teacher for assigning it
  • Feeling it is a pointless or a “dumb” assignment

Generally NOT the reason (but often given by students):    “I am lazy”.

Regardless of the reason, it’s MOST important that we figure out what is truly happening in each case, look for patterns, and develop strategies and plans for addressing the underlying reasons so that the pattern can change. If it is due to lack of recording assignments/using a planner, find one and create a system that works (be specific by writing each step/task for every project, assignment, and quiz/test in the days prior). If it’s due to not being sure HOW to do the work, problem solve around what it will take to truly understand (see the teacher, learn to email effectively, have a plan to learn on your own). If it’s due to frustration, brainstorm ideas for managing this and working through it so we can shift the mindset and get the work done. If it’s due to losing materials/papers before they arrive home, try using a “dump” or “drop” folder approach…get one folder where ALL papers go throughout the day (no matter what class or type), and begin a routine of opening that first thing after school to sort and file (or set aside to complete for HW).

We have many more fabulous ideas for addressing all of the areas above (the solutions have to make sense and work for the individual student). If you’re anxious to get started, feel free to reach out to us or check out our School Success Plan, Manual for Student Success or our NEW complete bundle of products (student planners, 3 full success plans – Quiz/Test Success, School Success, Writing Success – plus our complete Manual for Student Success) offered at a 30% discount!   *All products available as downloadable pdf files OR spiral bound paper copies.

Also, be sure to follow us on facebook and instagram. We will be frequently posting videos and interviews with practical and easy to implement ideas and strategies, so be sure to visit often! 

Links to materials:

NEW Mega Bundle  <– 30% discount!

All Other Products

Start the conversation with your student today, and let us know if you need any help.



3 Reasons Parents and Kids Butt Heads During the Year

3 Reasons Parents and Kids Butt Heads During the Year

(and what you can do about it)

1. Miscommunication – For example… because parents often check, talk about or ask about grades, students frequently interpret this as meaning that grades are the only thing parents care about. 

Most parents agree that while grades are important, their top priorities are more related to students taking ownership of their work, following through, and overall making good and responsible choices. Let them know what matters most. Assumptions like these work both ways. Frequently, we see students upset because their parents have grounded them or become angry about zeroes or online grade book issues.  It’s important to remember that those grades don’t always tell the full story. Teachers are human and make mistakes, in addition to sometimes using the 0 as a placeholder for an assignment that hasn’t yet been graded.

Before anyone reacts, clarify the situation. Students can advocate for themselves with teachers and explain to parents what really might be going on (and if it IS that they lost an assignment or forgot to turn it in, then that can be dealt with as well).  Sometimes it’s helpful for students to send the teacher an email (copy or forward to parents) to confirm the conclusion/resolution and show they can take ownership.

We encourage students of all ages to regularly check their OWN grades and update their parents about the details. Parents checking grades on a daily basis generally causes undue stress on both the parent and the child.

2. Lack of clear expectations – Is your child aware of your expectations and what is truly important to you? Is it grades? Planning? Follow through? Responsibility?  Make that clear, and be sure to let them know what being successful looks like. Are these realistic? Is your child capable of these yet? or capable of doing more?

Check out our blog “Get On The Same Page As Your Student This Year” for a free downloadable tool and an example to help guide you! Map out a plan and have these conversations now to avoid stress and arguments later.

3. Lack of self regulation – Now, of course, I am generally talking about students here; however, will say that most parents (myself included) find consistency and follow through to be incredibly difficult given the busy nature of our lives.

Students may have the best intentions and plans; however, taking the necessary steps and following through can be challenging.  Prepare for what might get in the way (procrastination, overwhelm, avoidance, frustration, distraction/lack of focus, not caring) and have conversations now about what can be done should those situations arise – and help hold them accountable. 

This may be the hardest part, but the student who has trouble getting started on homework or who waits and scrambles the morning of might need some external supports such as gain or loss of privileges (ie. “If your planner is updated, homework is complete, the backpack is packed up, and clothes are laid out for the next day, you’ve earned some screen time!” or “If you aren’t completely ready by the time we need to leave or the bus comes, you’ll need to walk to school or find your own way).

The more visual and specific the expectations (ie. homework will be done by 10pm, planner will be updated with homework, tests and what you will do to study, chores will be done by 5pm – here’s the list), the better chance for success – and less stress for everyone! Create a daily routine checklist and post (or better yet, put in a frame or laminate so items can be checked off along the way and erased for the following day) – be sure those deadlines and reminders are on there too!

For templates and structures to help guide you (and examples to follow), check out our Manual for Student Success: Practical strategies for how to REALLY succeed in school and our School Success Plan (plus other great products in our shop).











Get On The Same Page as Your Children This Year

Get On The Same Page as Your Children This Year

It doesn’t matter if your kids are entering 3rd grade or sophomore year of college.

Take a few minutes TODAY to get on the same page and set them up for meeting both your and their expectations for this year, and for doing it well!

Grab a sheet of paper (OR check out our FREE downloadable planning worksheet).

Jot down your goals; ask about theirs.  Think about what these mean and how important they are – are they worth fighting for? (or avoiding the fighting for!)

Make notes and group into 2 or 3 main goals for the year.

Talk about what reaching each goal ACTUALLY LOOKS LIKE to you and to them – in other words, how will they SHOW you?

What do they need in order to be successful – from you and to do for themselves? What might get in the way? HOW can that be addressed that should it happen?

Talk about and create any necessary routines, checklists or reminders.

Do they need rewards or consequences? How will they make sure to follow through and be consistent?

Don’t hesitate to hold them accountable or to let them falter a bit so they have the opportunity to become independent and take ownership. Most of us crave boundaries and structures – whether we’d like to admit it or not.

Be sure the plans and ideas are functional – the last thing any parent needs these days is more stress about keeping track of too many checklists or charts.

Keep in mind our top three observations about why parents and students clash over school.

Download and print our “Get on the Same Page” FREE planning guide, and check out the included example for ideas and to guide you!

We have great ideas and examples to help decide what strategies to use and HOW to make these things happen. Many of the tools we use and find success with in helping students manage these areas can be found in our School Success Plan and complete Manual for Student Success – Practical strategies for how to REALLY do better in school.
















3 Steps to Less Stress and More Success

3 Steps to Less Stress and More Success

Tired of the “what do you have for homework tonight” battle?


Are the last minute scrambles to finish work, stressing about tests or forgotten assignments getting old?


No worries. Your answer is here.  Find an EFFECTIVE planner (not one with just one box per day to “write down” homework assignments) and you will reap the benefits!

3 Steps to LESS STRESS and better grades…

1 – Find an effective planner.

Students thrive most with a week view, Monday through Friday (left to right, as time flows) and morning through night (top down) approach – as it is most logical.  A one day plan is too zoomed in for most, and a monthly is not specific enough – not that we don’t have our uses for those (stay tuned to future blogs).

Our number one most common piece of feedback from students “When I use my planner consistently, my grades are better. When I don’t, the grades come down. It’s hard to take the extra few minutes, but it’s worth it.”  Set reminders or alerts in your phone to help you prioritize.

2 – USE your planner efficiently.

Key factors in planner use:

  • Due dates/deadlines ON the day they are due (then break down into mini deadlines and to-do items)
  • Be SPECIFIC – instead of “study”, write out each exact step in days prior (make own study guide, search extra images, complete review packet, make flashcards, quiz self, re-do review packet, etc.)   BONUS! This helps reduce procrastination because it makes each piece seem more manageable instead of something large and vague to avoid (“write paper” or “study”) – think of how these phrases makes you feel!
  • Build in “cushion time” – aim for getting long term tasks done a couple of days early, so if something comes up, pushing it back one day won’t be a big deal.
  • Include non-academic and fun activities in your planner to see the big picture and plan ahead (plus get motivated)
  • Estimate times (this can take practice) for how long each will take, then write out a quick plan for how everything will get done that evening or day – working around set appointments or activities.
  • Take a minute to update the planner with what did or did not get done to be sure it is still accounted for- we get it, life can be busy!

3 – Make planner use a daily thing.

Last, but NOT least, PRIORITIZE your planning as part of a daily routine. Taking 10 minutes to update the planner and map out the night can save hours of work and loads of stress!  Be sure you know where to look for all of the relevant information – many teachers use multiple ways of sharing assignments (online sites, board at school, verbal instructions… find a friend or student you can check with to be sure you didn’t miss anything).

Check out some great options (and see student examples) here:

OR search online for a planner that includes each of the features above.

You can even scroll down and download our free sample to give it a try!

Happy Planning!



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