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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

To Do Lists: Simple Tasks Powerful Tools

In our busy lives, it is hard to remember all that we have to do.  A simple memory tool is the To Do List.  We jot them down on small slips of paper.  We tap our phones and create a memo.  Our calendars follow us where ever we go.  This very simple task helps us all accomplish a great deal during each day.

Students see their parents maintaining their calendars and creating their To Do Lists.  Many schools begin to teach this important organizational skill by asking students to maintain homework notebooks.  The To Do List is an important tool for helping students maintain attention.  It can be used in different ways to assist whole classes in maintaining the instructional focus.  It can be used with individual students who need more specific organizers to complete their assignments.

On a daily basis the teacher simply lists the tasks for the class.  As they are completed, they are crossed off.  Students with limited attention are able to persevere through a task when they know it will end soon.  Teachers can increase the effectiveness of this tool by adding a check-in time.  The students are given a specific time to work.  When that time is completed, the teacher checks-in with the students to see if additional time is needed. 

Students who require more structure and more specific direction can maintain a personal To Do List at their seat.  This list can be further modified by the teacher based upon the needs of the student.  Perhaps the student needs a single assignment broken down into smaller steps.  Instead of having a list detailing the morning schedule, the more individualized list would sequence the steps to completing one assignment.  The student would cross out the items on the list as they are completed. 

For example, the item on the class list is to begin persuasive essays.  An individual list may have these steps.  One, choose one topic from the list of four.  Two, make a list of what you know about the topic.  Three, make a list of the pros and the cons about the topic.  Four, choose a position (pro or con).  Five, begin writing the first paragraph that states your position. 

The To Do List is a powerful instructional tool because it is one that is used with adults.  The List helps to maintain attention, increase organization, and increase assignment completion.  It can be designed as a whole class organizer, a group organizer and an individual accommodation.  For teachers, the To Do List does not take a lot of time.  But, it does take a conscious effort to build the routine.  This simple tool will be a help to teachers and students alike!

What tools do you have that enhance organization and participation in the classroom? 

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