10 How Many Things is School? Organizing at Different Time Scales

School is a very big part of your life.  To do well at school, you need to be organized.  But getting organized for school can be hard because school work and activities take place at many different time scales that need to fit together.  This is the “how many things is this?” question we discussed already, and there are many competing ways to answer it.

Many schools organize using time scales of one year or longer;  you might say “I’m in fifth grade” or “I’m in middle school.”  Big changes happen at this time scale.  When you move up from elementary school grades, you often change the school you attend, and instead of having one teacher for most subjects, you might have a different teacher for each subject.

Everyone also thinks of a school year as being divided into parts smaller than a calendar year.   Many schools divide the year into two semesters with a long vacation break in the summer and shorter vacation breaks in the winter and spring.  Many subjects are taught in semester-long courses, so the mix of subjects or courses you take might differ a lot between semesters.

During a semester or a course, you will have a mix of readings, assignments, projects, and tests that carve up the time into smaller pieces.  You might have weekly assignments or tests, but a longer project might have many parts where you do one part a week.

The next smaller time scale is the school day.   Many school or after-school activities take place on particular days of the week. You might study Art on Tuesdays, and your soccer practices might be on Monday and Wednesday afternoons.

Finally, the smallest time scale divides the school day into periods that are usually 45 minutes to an hour long.  You might have three or four morning periods for different subjects.  These are followed by lunch  periods, with a few more subject-based periods in the afternoon.

Activity — The Time Scales for Organizing School

    • Make a list of the subjects you are studying this term (or this year, if your year isn’t divided)
    • Are you doing any projects or activities that will take longer than a week to do?
    • Are there events scheduled weeks or months in the future (a school play, music performance, sports tournament)
    • Does your daily schedule depend  on what day it is?  Do you have different subjects or activities on different days of the week?
    • What is your daily schedule (divided into subjects or time periods)


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"The Discipline of Organizing" for Kids Copyright © 2022 by Robert J Glushko is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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