Photo credit: Amy Lauren Smith

How to Get Your Students to Stop Procrastinating

By
Amy Lauren Smith

Editor's note: We're all guilty of procrastinating sometimes, but teens are especially prone to this bad habit. Choices teacher-adviser Amy Lauren Smith--a sixth to eighth grade health teacher at the Shanghai American School in Shanghai, China, and the brilliant mind behind our Teacher's Guide each month--has rounded up the resources you need to tackle this topic in class. 
 

My grades were due last week. We use a standards-based reporting system with no percentage grades, so it calls for a much more comprehensive narrative. For each of my 120 students, I must write at least a paragraph detailing their strengths, areas for growth, and next steps for learning. It gives students more to work with than the canned comments of the past, like "He was a pleasure to have in class!" and "Keep up the great work!"

But with more writing comes more margin for error, so our vice principal has us proofread the report cards for the students in our advisory group before they get sent home. Reading through the comments that my colleagues had written about my darling little seventh grade angels, one thing was abundantly clear. These kids were struggling with time management. Big time. The majority of them had comments from at least one teacher about putting things off until the last minute.

Now, this tendency for procrastination is nothing new for middle school students--or human beings in general--but it has certainly taken on a life of its own in the age of the internet. Procrastination can lead to stress, sleep deprivation, poor academic performance, and conflicts at home. It's important that we teach kids how to acknowledge and manage their procrastination habits now, before they're facing much bigger consequences.

Ready to take on procrastination in your class? These activities will help you make your point: 
 

1. WATCH: Tim Urban's TED Talk: Inside the mind of a master procrastinator

After reading through the report card comments, I approached my fellow seventh grade advisers with a plan. We gathered all of the kids together in one room and showed them this TED Talk.

Not only does Tim Urban do a fantastic job of explaining procrastination, he does so in a way that is relatable, digestible, and downright hilarious. The kids loved this talk, and now characters like the Panic Monster and the Instant Gratification Monkey have become regular parts of our seventh grade lexicon.
 

 2. READ: Choices Magazine: "Why Can't I Stop Procrastinating?"

In this quick read from Choices, there's a great flow chart that helps students identify what type of procrastinator they are. After, group them according to type and have them brainstorm a list of possible solutions that can help them deal with their specific style of procrastination.

Then, have each group share their ideas with the class and gather additional suggestions to add to the list. Once everyone has presented, they can create posters to hang up in the classroom to help keep everyone on track.
 

3. CREATE: The Infographic Project

This ready-to-go project was originally designed to help students analyze the influence of technology on personal health. They get to pick their topic, but without fail, the majority of them decide to focus on procrastination.

They'll find facts online about procrastination in the digital age, and identify some solutions for how to keep it in check. Then they use a free online program like Canva to create infographics that you can hang around the school to help the people who need it. (Like... say, everyone?)

Some of the projects are so good though, they never even make it out of the classroom.

"Why is my infographic up there next to your desk, Ms. Smith?"

"Well, believe it or not, Z, we teachers can procrastinate too."

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