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Plan a Meaningful Project


^Music, Art and Makerspaces ^21st Century Skills Social-Emotional Learning ^Extra-curricular/At-Home Middle/High School Strategy


Self-regulation Organization

Plan a Meaningful Project

If your child doesn't already have too many activities

How To Apply It!

  1. When your teen identifies an area of true interest or passion, encourage him to engage in a meaningful long-term project that will require organization and planning.
  2. Let the teen take the lead on exploring an interest for the project. If you want them to truly care about a successful outcome, it needs to be their area of interest, no one else's.
  3. Help the teen identify a specific goal. If it requires too little effort, she won't learn much. If it is too challenging, she might end up discouraged and unsuccessful. Finding a good-fit goal requires careful guidance from an adult who understands the student well.
  4. Agree on an appropriate start date. Starting a project at the beginning of the school year when there are many other stressors might not be a good idea. However, starting during winter break when there is some downtime might be a great way to keep your student motivated through the winter months.
  5. Create a plan. While your teen might say, "I know what I need to do," this is probably the time to be firm. Agree to provide the support she needs, but only if she has a plan you can both agree on. And that plan should be on paper where you can both look at it. The plan could be a checklist with dates, a calendar with milestones highlighted, or an accordion file with tabs marked for the deliverables. As a general rule, paper-based organizational tools work better than digital tools for students with weaker executive function and organization skills.
  6. Let them own the plan. The goal is for your teen to have ownership of the process and feel the accomplishment of completing the work independently. However, adults will want to provide gentle check-ins to ask how things are going and offer appropriate levels of support or encouragement to be sure they are meeting their objectives.
  7. Reflect afterwards. After the project is completed, be sure that your teen reflects on the process and what went well and what might have been disappointing or frustrating. If your teen is sensitive about the outcome, give him an appropriate amount of time before discussing. However, this is an essential step in the growth process so do not skip it or wait too long even if it is not easy.

The Science Of Learning (why It Works)

It is essential that adolescents learn good planning and organization skills before they go off to college. The best way to learn these skills is through meaningful practice. Parents often assume that school projects will help students develop organization and planning skills. However, if the student is not inherently interested in the project, they might simply put in the work needed to get the desired grade. Unfortunately, in those cases, they are often not developing the effective long-term planning skills of having a meaningful objective and developing a plan that will enable them to produce their best work.