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The Benefits of Teaching Students to Use a Paper Planner

The Benefits of Teaching Students to Use a Paper Planner

Many students wait until the last minute to do assignments, prepare for tests, start major projects and write papers. As a result, they are NOT: getting enough sleep; well prepared for classes; turning in their best work; and learning material in a meaningful way. All of this has a negative impact on their academic performance and overall mental health. Furthermore, sleep deprivation can degrade a student’s ability to retain and recall information and lead them to feel more depressed and anxious. Yet most students are not taught the foundational skills of executive function—planning, prioritizing, time management and organization. 

Students need these competencies to be successful in school and life. On top of this, the prefrontal cortex, which manages our executive function skills, is not fully developed in the adolescent brain. Thus, students require both instruction and support to learn these key skills. Schools have the opportunity and obligation to provide their students with tools to teach these skills and a school planner perhaps one of the simplest and most effective products. 

The best school planners are designed to help students plan. They include designated space for majors assignments and ongoing projects, so students can break down their responsibilities into much smaller tasks. This provides a clear path forward and eliminates the stress of getting started. With a little pre-planning, students don’t have to worry about how to begin; they can simply dive in. Providing students with a school planner and teaching them how to use it helps them to perform better in the classroom and have a more balanced life for the following reasons. 

Using a paper planner cuts out distractions 

Paper planners provide students with a distraction-free method of managing everything they need to do. Even as adults, most of us are guilty of taking out our phones to look at the calendar and getting distracted. Middle school, high school and college students are no exception to this. In fact, they are more likely to have their devices out and be actively interacting with them while doing homework. This not only distracts them from their assignments but also increases the amount of time spent on it. Multiple studies have found that students who have technology available to them while doing homework take longer to complete assignments and have increased anxiety about completing tasks. Using a paper planner to help manage the nightly homework list rather than a smartphone allows students to remove their distracting device from the room. 

See everything in one place

Teaching your students how to manage school and life beginning in middle school helps them become more successful and independent as they take on more responsibilities outside of school. As students get older, they can struggle to balance school, sports, appointments, social activities, and often work. When using school websites, they can see due dates, but they only see a partial picture of their out-of-class obligations. There’s no place to record play practice, after school sports, or a work schedule. To effectively manage their entire life, students need a bird’s eye view of their commitments so that they can see when they have a busy after school schedule or a big day of tests so that they can plan accordingly. A well-designed paper planner allows students to see everything going on in school and their life all in one place. When looking at the complete picture, they are better able to see potential conflicts and develop a plan to manage them.

Once students get into the habit of using a planner, they’re going to find it easier to balance their academic obligations with their personal life. After prioritizing their tasks for each day, they can block out free time without worrying about any assignments falling through the cracks. They can also track things like doctor’s appointments and sports practices, which aren’t possible to log on digital school portals. 

Better manage big assignments

Teens get overwhelmed by long homework to-do lists but even more so by big projects, major papers and final exams. Breaking down large tasks into more manageable chunks is incredibly beneficial for middle school, high school and college students. As educators, one of the key skills we can teach our students is how to do this and a paper planner is a great tool to do so. Many teachers help students map out big assignments or create a study plan for a big test. By asking students to then transfer that plan to their planner helps them to visualize the different components, see how much time is between them and get an overall picture of what they need to do by when. Students will feel a sense of relief when they transfer a long list of tasks across multiple days in their planner as the project will start to feel more manageable. 

Learn how to plan

Adolescent students need more than a to-do list to be successful; they need a plan. A paper planner goes far beyond a to-do list. Cramming for tests and staying up all night to complete assignments will allow students to check items off a list but is not an effective way to learn. When you teach your students to use a paper planner they learn the skills of prioritizing things they need to get done, planning how tasks will be accomplished, and determining the amount of time those tasks will take. Students learn how to break down seemingly overwhelming tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks reducing the anxiety of a busy life and promoting more effective study habits. Once your students learn to use a planner, they can set goals and plan action steps to accomplish these goals. These skills set your students up for greater success as they continue their education and beyond.

Beat the urge to procrastinate 

Students procrastinate for various reasons; however, they procrastinate less when they see all their commitments in one place and how they overlap (or not). Because the teenage brain mostly focuses on the moment, a filled out planner with all their deadlines and out of school activities can help them to better see and understand the immediate and short-term future. This helps create urgency and motivation to complete assignments. The thought ”I’ll do it later” becomes less of an option when the reality of their busy schedule is written out in front of them.

Help Your Students Succeed with the Best School Planners!

At ClassTracker®, you’ll find paper planners designed specifically for keeping up with the demands of middle school, high school, and college. Founded by teacher, tutor, and academic coach Lesley Martin, ClassTracker’s ultimate mission is to help students succeed. To learn more about placing a bulk order for your institution, check out our website.


Lesley Martin works with students privately as an Academic Success Coach and is the CEO of Class Tracker, a company she founded that creates academic planners for middle school and high schools and college students. Lesley has published two books: Where’s My Stuff: The Ultimate Teen Organizing Guide and Make the Grade: Everything you need to Study Better, Stress Less, and Succeed in School.