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6 Strategies for a Positive School Year

by Mary Mazzoni on September 1, 2013


How does your child feel about the new school year?

As the buses start rolling again, many students feel anxious. Especially if they’ve struggled with school in the past.

Here are specific strategies to help your child make this the best year yet – while learning self determination skills needed for success in adult life.

One Pager

Self advocacy is an essential skill. But the idea of talking to an unfamiliar adult about personal interests and needs can be daunting. Especially at first.  And some students may have limited communication skills.

The One Pager is a great tool developed by the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Education “I’m Determined” project.

Click here for a free One Pager App and template, and resources – including videos of elementary and secondary students using a One Pager to communicate their strengths, interests, preferences, and needs using pictures and/or words.

What does your child want new teachers to know about who she is? Empower her to speak up for herself with a One Pager!

Good Day Plan

Our kids’ school day schedules are jam-packed – from the time they wake up, to the time they go to bed. Transitioning back to the school year routine can be difficult. Kids often feel that there’s no time for what matters most to them.

The Good Day Plan is a way to engage your child in planning daily routines that work for him. The idea is for him to identify the ingredients of a “good day” – and to make time for activities he cares about.smileywhite7769266568_ce9454c85d_n

For example – what if an essential part of a good day – from your child’s perspective – is playing with the family dog before school? How would you help him plan his routine around that? Would it impact the time he gets up, or how he prepares for school the night before? How could you involve your child in planning his routine around his important “good day” activities?

The idea is to engage your child in planning routines that allow time for both responsibilities and favorite activities. It’s meant to be an empowering, positive tool. Revisit the Good Day Plan together every once in a while – so your child can make changes based on current priorities.

Check out the Good Day Plan resources at

You’ll find this tool is great for both supporting positive everyday living and preparing for successful adult life.


Do you find yourself nagging your child about the same things over and over? Do you want to increase her independence, decrease day-to- day friction, and help her build skills for success in adulthood? Unleash the power of checklists!

Whether you use paper and pencil checklists or any of the popular checklist apps for cell phones and tablets – you’ll be amazed at how checklists can transform the way your child tackles multi-step routines.

Click here to learn more.

Goals and Action Plans

Check and Connect – a well-researched model developed by the University of Minnesota - shows that a simple strategy can dramatically increase positive school engagement for struggling students of all ages.

The idea is to connect with your child once a week – at a consistent, predictable time. Make it something she can count on. Take a few minutes to help her set one simple goal-of her choice-for that week. Then, help her make an action plan of do-able steps to achieve the goal. Be sure to  check to see how she did with her goal for the previous week. Celebrate her progress toward her goal. If she didn’t attain it as planned – help her to think about why. Did she follow the steps on her action plan? Are there ways she could change her action plan for different results? Make it a positive experience. Help her understand that you, too, need to change your plan of action sometimes.

Parents and teachers who have tried this strategy are amazed at the positive impact – not only on the specific goal that a child has set for the week – but on the child’s overall engagement in school. Discipline referrals decrease, participation in class and completion of assignments increase. It’s a kind of halo effect.

Setting goals and making plans to achieve them is a key skill for success in adult life. Kids need our support to learn how to do this.

Click here to learn more – and to download a free graphic organizer that you can use with your child.

Problem Solving

Despite carefully planned routines and the best laid plans – your child will bump into problems. We all do.Rubikhuangllahul 3127634297_2180c55b39_z

You and I use problem solving skills every day. And we know our child needs to learn how to solve problems. But how can we teach this essential skill?

Sometimes we adults talk too much. We explain how we would have solved the problem if we were in our child’s shoes. But to be honest, this isn’t helpful. Problem solving is a complex multi-step skill. The best way to teach it is to use a graphic organizer with modeling and lots of practice.

Click here to download a free graphic organizer and learn how you can support your child in learning problem solving skills.

Positive Communication with Teachers

Children thrive when parents and teachers communicate and collaborate to support learning. Be sure to email teachers whenever you have a question or concern. Often misunderstandings can be avoided by asking questions or providing information about your child’s needs.

As your child grows older, support him in advocating directly with his teachers by helping him compose his own email or role play how he can ask questions in class.

Be sure your child knows that you respect his teachers and that you are working together with them to support his success. Address concerns directly with the teacher, being mindful of how you speak about or to teachers in your child’s presence. Conflict between a teacher and parent is very stressful for a child.

Here are some resources for nurturing a positive relationship with your child’s teachers:

Your Turn

Do you have questions or comments about these strategies? Want to share ideas of your own? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

If you found this post helpful – please share it with others. Thanks!

May this be the best year yet for you and your child.

Image Credits – flequi at Flickr, jetheriot and Flickr, huangjiahui at Flickr

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