Homework & study skills

9 Simple Steps for Breaking Down Assignments

By Amanda Morin

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Figuring out how to get started on a big project or coming up with a plan for seeing it through can be hard for many kids. That’s especially true if your child has executive functioning issues or weak organizational skills. These simple tips can help him break down projects into manageable chunks.


Figure out how much time your child has.

Count backward from the project’s deadline to see how long your child has to complete it.


Decide how long your child should work at each sitting.

Estimate how much stamina he’ll have for the kinds of work involved.


Calculate what he’ll need to do each day.

Compare how much time your child has with how long he can work at a stretch. This assures that he’s “chunking” the work, or doing a bit each day.


Make a list of the materials he needs.

Gather them in advance so your child won’t have to stop working to search for supplies.


Break the work down.

Work with your child to write down on note cards every task the assignment involves, from going to the library to designing the report cover.


Put the task cards in order.

Help your child decide what comes first, second, etc. For instance, doing research comes before proofreading the paper.


Note questions.

For each task, ask your child what questions or concerns he has. Write them down on the back of the relevant card.


Assign a deadline for each task.

Work backward to come up with reasonable due dates. Address your child’s questions as you create the schedule.


Review his progress.

Check in regularly to see how your child’s doing and if he’s on schedule. If he’s not, help him revise his plan.

About the Author

Portrait of Amanda Morin

Amanda Morin is a parent advocate, a former teacher and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Ginny Osewalt

Ginny Osewalt is certified in elementary and special education, with experience in inclusion, resource room and self-contained settings.

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