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What Teachers Can Do to Help with Time Management

Gifted Research

This article, by Sandra Rief, M.A., focuses on how teachers can help AD/HD students build their organizational and time management skills. This advice can be applied to many students (2e or gifted) who face these types of challenges.

Author: Rief, S.
Publications: 2e Newsletter
Year: September 2006

[Please Note: Sandra Rief writes about AD/HD, but her advice applies to the many 2e students with and without AD/HD who are challenged by organization and time management.]

Time Awareness

Lack of time awareness is very common among individuals with AD/HD. They often underestimate how long it will take to complete a task or to arrive somewhere on time. In addition, students with AD/HD tend to be oblivious to deadlines and due dates. It’s important to remember that these tendencies are part of the disorder and not apathy or deliberate misbehavior.

To increase students’ awareness of time, teachers should make use of any opportunity to practice time estimation. For example, challenge students to estimate how long it takes to walk to the office and back (without running), or to do any other task. Make a game out of predicting, timing, and checking the students’ time estimates for various activities.

Encourage self-monitoring during independent seatwork time by asking students to record their start time on their paper. When the work period is over, have them record the time again, regardless of how much work they actually produced. This documentation is helpful with regard to how well the student is able to stay on-task and work productively.

Assignment Sheets, Calendars, and Student Planners/Agendas

Communicate and maintain the clear expectation that students will use their assignment calendars to record all assignments. Set aside time to lead students in recording assignments on their calendars, whether it is a few moments at the end of the subject period or at the end of the school day.

Teachers will probably find it useful to use a transparency of the calendar to model how students should record their assignments. To ensure that students write the assignments on the day they are due, walk them through recording on the correct date. Then regularly monitor the assignment calendars and help students who have difficulty recording assignments correctly. Also, routinely ask table partners or groups seated together to check each other to see that everything is accurately recorded on the calendars.

Assigning “study buddies” is another way to help students help each other. These partners can be responsible for checking each other to make sure assignments are recorded on calendars. When one is absent, the other can collect all handouts, notices, and assignments for the missing partner. Buddies exchange phone numbers so that one can call the other to communicate what was missed that day in class. When selecting buddies, be sure to pair a well-organized, tolerant, and helpful partner/study buddy with a disorganized one.

Keep a master monthly calendar listing all activities and assignments posted in the classroom. Have students transfer due dates of any projects, tests, class trips, or important activities/events onto their monthly calendar. Instruct students to keep the monthly calendar clearly visible and easy to locate in their notebook.


Establish a daily routine and schedule for the classroom. Post the schedule and refer to it throughout the day, pointing out any changes that will be taking place in the normal routine. With younger students, use pictures to depict the daily routine.

Have students who receive special education or related services, write down their weekly schedule and tape it to their desks. Keep accessible each of your students’ special schedules to help you keep track of the days and times they are pulled out of class, or when service providers are coming to the classroom to work with a student.

Encourage students and parents to carefully plan their weekly routine at home and to follow an established homework/study schedule. Ask parents to first help their son or daughter become aware of how much time the child spends in a typical day on all activities from school dismissal until bedtime.

Long-term Assignments

Structure any long-term assignments, such as reports and projects, by breaking them into smaller, manageable segments. Assign separate due dates for each segment, such as getting a topic approved, an outline submitted, research notes/resources listed, and turning in a first draft. Post the due dates and frequently refer to them as reminders.

Make sure parents are aware of a long-term assignment by providing them with a handout that explains the assignment and includes the timeline and scoring rubric. Suggest to parents that they closely monitor timelines and help with the pacing of the assignment by seeing that their student gets started promptly, goes to the library, gathers resources, and so forth. Consider providing some of your AD/HD students and their parents advanced notice about upcoming projects and reports, enabling them to have a “head start” (especially with planning and research). Monitor progress by asking to see what the student has accomplished so far, and provide a lot of feedback along the way.

Other Ways Teachers Can Help with Time Management

Some additional tips for helping students manage their time include:

  • Provide students with a course outline or syllabus and help them prioritize their activities and workload.
  • Teach the students how to tell time and how to read a non-digital clock as well as calendars and schedules.
  • Present ALL assignments, page numbers, due dates, etc., both verbally and visually; and post all assignments in a consistent place in the room, such as the corner of the board or on a separate assignment board.
  • Make use of “things to do” lists. Model for the class and teach how to write down and cross off accomplished tasks. In addition, you can attach a “things to do” list to students’ desks and monitor the practice of crossing off accomplished items.
  • Be sure to provide students with enough time during transitions to put their materials away and get organized for the next activity. Try using a timer for transitions. First make a statement to alert the students, such as: “You have five minutes to finish what you are working on and to put away your materials.” Then set the timer.
  • Teach students how to self-monitor on-task behavior so that they are using class time effectively for doing work.
  • If tardiness is an issue with a student, try an individual contract to motivate the student to improve behavior. On any home/school monitoring system that you might use, such as a daily report card or daily/weekly monitoring form, include an item that indicates a student’s punctuality, such as “seated by beginning bell time.”
  • Provide extended time as needed, and consider more flexibility with regard to accepting late work.
  • Use frequent praise and positive reinforcement. Reward students for meeting deadlines, finishing in-school assignments, etc.
  • Encourage students who take medication at school to have a beeper watch set for the time they need to go to the nurse’s office.
  • If writing speed is a problem, allow for bypass strategies.

Adapted from these books by Sandra Rief: The ADD/ADHD Checklist (1998), The AD/HD Book of Lists (2003), and How to Reach & Teach ADD/ADHD Children, 2nd Edition (2005). Sandra Rief is an award-winning teacher, consultant, and author. Sandra has served on the Professional Advisory Board of CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). She can be reached at

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