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7 tips for teaching your child how to tackle school projects

Updated on June 5, 2012

By LESLIE A. PANFIL

Complex, multi-step projects allow children to learn how to budget their time, follow through, comprehend instruction and apply what they are learning in the classroom setting. But, they can throw your household into chaos. These 7 steps will help you and your child can reduce the stress of school projects and just may help them improve their grades.

Due Date. I encourage parents to teach their child to keep their own calendar. It’s a life lesson that they need to master. If you haven’t instituted this discipline, now is a great time. Circling the due date of the project gives you and your child a visual perspective of the amount of time they have to complete the project. Including other activities on the calendar teaches them that they will have to work around their other obligations. This also gives them a more realistic view of how much (or little) time they really have.

Define the Project. Help your child break down the assignment into steps. Don’t be overly concerned at first about getting all the steps in order however, it is important that you prompt them consider other steps or what may have to come before or after a step. Once you and your child have brainstormed all the possible steps, it is time to put the actionable steps in order. Your child may find it helpful to put the steps on slips of paper and then order them. This will give your child a rough “to do” list.

Goal Setting. It is important to chunk a project down and spread the work out over time. To make sure your child starts their project in a timely manner and makes progress toward its completion, they need to set goals. For example, by tomorrow they need to select a topic. Using their calendar and “to do” list; help your child work backward from the due date. Each “to do” task should have a goal date. Be sure to consider other activities; upcoming tests, sports or family functions. If it appears that your child has a step that is too large, help them break the step down into a smaller goal. For example: instead of identifying the 5 articles they need to reference, have them find 2 tonight and 3 tomorrow. It is really important if you have a child who is a natural procrastinator or who struggles with academics that you make sure they are chunking the project down into small enough pieces. Being realistic in the amount of work they can accomplish will cut down on frustration. Be sure your child isn’t setting a deadline too close to the completion date. They should allow for a day to review their project making sure that they have met all of the requirements.

Supplies. Probably the most frustrating thing about take home projects for parents is the supplies need to complete the project. Let’s face it, we have all been told at 9:00 pm at night that our child needs poster board. Part of the process of defining the project should be the creation of a supply list. Gather up what you have on hand and have your child make a shopping list of the things that need to be purchased. Review your child’s goal list so that you have an understanding of when the supplies will be needed.

Contact Sheet. If the project is a group effort, be sure your child has contact information for their partner(s). Have your child write this information on piece of paper and keep it with the rest of the project material.

Project Central. Have your child create a folder, binder or box for the project, supplies, contact sheet and reference material. The type of container will be dictated by the nature of the project. Help your child determine not only what would make the best container but where the container should be kept for easy access and safe keeping.

Review Check List. It’s a day or two before the project is due. This is the time you should go back to the original assignment and determine how well your child met the requirements. Is there anything that they could strengthen? Have they left an element out? This step teaches children to check their work and the importance of polishing their final product. It is not about just getting it done but the quality of their work.

You will find that the first couple of times you go through this process with your child, that you may have to do a lot of prompting but, it won’t be long before they are doing these steps on their own.


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