7 Steps to Getting Your Child on Track in Middle School

Adapted from the Great! Schools website at www.greatschools.org

  1. Offer hands-on guidance.

If necessary, advocate for your child with teachers, counselors and other staff at the school. Even better, guide your child to advocate for themselves. Give generous guidance, including monitoring their homework, while remembering that it's their homework, not yours. You can help by asking questions that lead them to their own solutions. For example:

  • What information do you need to do the assignment?
  • Where are you going to look for it?
  • Where do you think you should begin?
  • What do you need to do next?
  • Can you describe how you're going to solve the problem?
  • What did you try that didn't work?
  • What did you try that did work?


  1. Help them get organized.

Organization is the key to middle-school success. Help your child develop a system to keep track of important papers. If they tend to forget to turn in homework or can't quite keep track of how their doing in a class, it might help to get a binder with a folder in the front for completed work ready to be turned in and a folder in the back for papers returned by the teacher.

Make sure your child has - and uses - a planner to keep track of assignments. Help your child get in the habit of writing down each daily assignment in each subject and checking it off when it's complete.

Communicate with your child's teachers. If your child is struggling with organizational skills, talk to the school counselor or teachers about what might be causing the problems and brainstorm approaches to solve them.

  1. Teach time-management skills.

First, make sure your child refers to their day planner/calendar on a regular basis. Teach them to divide up their work over the number of days allotted for the assignment. This will create smaller, manageable subtasks out of the larger, more daunting tasks. Large projects can create anxiety for students who are new to the process. A big research project will seem less overwhelming and will be less likely to be left until the last minute if it's done in chunks, each with its own deadline.

Encourage your child to estimate how long each assignment will take. They can then plan a realistic schedule, building in study breaks after subjects that are most challenging. Helping your child keep track of time spent studying - rather than staring at a blank page - will help generate reflection on how they spend their time. If your child is spending too much time on a subject that might be a signal they need extra help or tutoring.


  1. Develop note-taking skills.

Taking good notes requires students to evaluate, organize and summarize information. It's a key survival skill your child will need through high school and beyond.  These tips may help your student as he develops theirs own system:

  • Start a new page for each new class each day.
  • Take down key words and concepts, not sentences. Develop your own system of abbreviations or symbols (such as w/ for with or math symbols such as > or =) to take down key points.
  • Listen for word clues from the teacher. Teachers often signal what's important to note.
  • Review notes after class to make sure they're accurate and complete.

Many experts advise students to pre-read a textbook chapter to get an idea about what it is about, rather than simply wading in. Students can grasp the main themes by first reading the introduction text, subheads, graphics, photo captions, summary paragraphs and study questions at the end.

  1. Help hone your student's budding study skills.

Studying for tests is a skill. Some tips to remember in helping your child:

  • Your student can practice active learning when studying - highlighting theirs notes, using Post-it’s to mark key textbook passages, making study cards, and mapping and diagramming concepts.
  • Some students focus better in the morning, others at night. Help your child find the times that theirs efforts will be most effective.
  • Sometimes we just have to memorize. You may have used a mnemonic like Roy G. Biv to remember the colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, and blue, indigo, violet). Inventing your own silly mnemonic together works just as well and can lighten up a study session.


  1. Meet with the teacher or teachers.
  2. If all else fails, it might be time to request a tutor.