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Breaking Large Tasks into Small Pieces


We understand that large assignments can overwhelm students with executive function challenges. When faced with a big task, students may feel stressed and procrastinate until the last minute. This makes it difficult to complete the work effectively. However, by teaching your children to break down assignments into smaller, manageable pieces, we can support their planning, task initiation, attention to the material, and work completion. 

There are countless ways that you could use to break down large tasks. While many approaches can work, some of the most helpful include backward planning, making a timeline, and allotting extra time. 

Backward Planning: This method begins by discussing the end goal of the assignment. For example, suppose your student has a history project due in two weeks. In that case, they should review the rubric and instructions beforehand to understand what is expected of them by the deadline. Then, students will identify each component or step required to reach the end product. For instance, research may be necessary before developing a thesis. Following this logic, the first step would be for the student to compile research articles they can use. By breaking down the assignment into smaller steps, they can approach each one systematically and avoid feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude. 

Creating a Timeline: A timeline is a valuable tool to help your child organize their tasks and avoid feeling overwhelmed by the high number of small jobs that they identified. Sitting down and establishing a goal for when each of the smaller tasks needs to get done will help the child tackle each step one at a time. For example, you can agree that they will complete all research by Wednesday and they will write the thesis by Thursday. This approach promotes accountability and prevents procrastination. 

Allotting Extra Time: It is important to account for extra time before the assignment deadline. This buffer allows your student to accommodate any unexpected challenges or busy days when they may not have time to work on this project. Additionally, having time for a final review ensures your child can submit their best work. By incorporating extra time into the timeline, your child will feel less rushed and be better prepared to handle the assignment.

Do you know what is so unique about these strategies? Parents get to be involved at every step of this process! Modeling this behavior is one of the most beneficial ways to help your student develop their time management skills. We recommend sitting down with your child to plan the schedule together.

Consider their academic and non-academic activities, such as practice or household chores. By involving your student in this process, they can see what they need to do regularly and eventually develop the skills to plan their week independently. 

During these planning sessions, make sure to “think out loud.” By verbalizing your thought process, your child gains insight into understanding the thought process behind planning for a big task. These are also skills that students will develop and utilize with time. 

Finally, remember that mastering time management skills takes practice and patience. Your student may only acquire these skills after some time. Still, modeling and providing guidance can accelerate the learning process. 

Key Takeaways

By helping your child break down big tasks into smaller, manageable steps, you can empower them to overcome the challenges posed by executive function difficulties. Encourage your child to apply the strategies discussed and remember that modeling practical time management skills is essential to their development. 

Parenting a child who struggles with executive function can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to navigate this journey alone. Let Untapped help!

For More: 

The Power of Modeling

Break large tasks down into more manageable pieces

How to break down large projects & tasks into bite-sized tasks

3 Basic Steps of Backward Design Lesson Plans 

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