Homework: Chunk and Time It, Use Visual Structures – Organizational Skills Part 3

This is part 3 of Marcia Garcia Winner‘s article on Teaching Organizational Skills to Individuals with  autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Her article benefits all students who lack this much needed skill not only students with autism spectrum disorder; therefore, teachers, parents, and all who live or work with an individual who needs to learn organizational skills that include Executive Functioning will benefit greatly from Garcia’s sound and sage advice. Part 3 has tips on how to self-organize to complete homework on time for students with weak organizational skills who and are unable to interpret and predict deadlines.

Many students now have electronic gadgets that have features to help them with schedules. However the homework still has to be done and done on time; therefor, Marcia Garcia Winner’s advice on how to tackle homework one small segment at a time to meet deadlines is very much needed.

The complete article appeared in an Autism and Asperger’s Digest entitled Homework & Organizational Strategies.  Reprinted with permission of publisher. We added the photos.

First, Marcia  explained what is  Executive Functioning (EF) , why it is important, and how to develop this lifeskill.

Then the author guides you with 10 Steps to Foster Organization Skills.

But first, Who Is Marcia Garcia Winner? Click here to read this on part one.

Part 1 (here) What is Executive Functioning (EF) by Marcia Garcia Winner

Part 2 (here) dealt with the following three steps:

  • Step 1, Clearly Define What Needs to be Done
  • Step 2. Move It with Motivation
  • Step 3. Prepare the Environment

Part 3 Homework: Chunk and Time It,

Use Visual Structures

Step 4 Chunk and Time Homework

Assignments that sound coherent and structured to teachers can still overwhelm a student with Executive Function challenges. For example: “write a report focusing on the economy, culture, weather and climate of a specific country.” Clear enough, you think? Maybe to us, but not to them. Make sure the student understands how to “chunk” an assignment (break it down into smaller pieces) and how the individual parts create the larger whole.

teen girl with computer for homework scheduleFor example, not all students will know their report needs four sections, essentially “mini-essays” worked on separately and then joined together. Furthermore, once they “chunk” the project students also need to predict how long each chunk will take to complete. The majority of our students with poor organizational skill have a resounding inability to predict how long projects will take across time. In fact, they tend to be weak in all aspects of interpreting and predicting time. Consider this: Is there anything you do without first predicting how long it will take? We “time map” everything, gauging how the task will or will not fit into what we’re doing now, an hour from now, later in the day or later in the week.

Homework functions in much the same way. Students are more willing to tackle homework when they can reliably predict how long they will have to work on the task. For example, a student will usually calmly do math if it should only take 5-10 minutes. However, for those spectrum students who can’t predict time, the nebulous nature of the activity incites anxiety such that they may cry 45 minutes over doing a 10-minute math assignment. When the student does not – or cannot – consider time prediction as part of his organizational skill set, he is likely to waste a lot of time rather than use time to his advantage.

Step 5 Use Visual Structures like Bar Type Graphs

gantt-chart-for homeworkAs the school years progress, homework shifts from mostly static tasks doled out by one teacher to mostly dynamic tasks assigned by many different individuals. We expect students to self-organize and know how to juggle the many pieces of learning that make up each class, grade and level of education. Yet, this valuable skill is never directly taught! Visual long-term mapping charts, such as a Gantt Chart, (www.ganttchart.com) can help students plan and monitor multiple activities. These bar type graphs allow a student to visually track multiple projects across time, determine when they are due and how much time is available to work on each.

For example, a history paper may be assigned in February and due in late March; a line would run from early February to late March to indicate the time allocated to the project. A math project assigned in early March is also due in late March; another line would represent this project. Visually the student can see that two big projects are due at about the same time, and both are worth significant grade points. This then helps the student understand why he should not wait until the last minute to start one or both assignments. Gantt charts are frequently used in business, but have yet to make it into student software for school/homework planning. However, they are easy to create and use at home or in the classroom. For students with ASD, they are invaluable tools for organization.

Visual structures can represent entire projects and then also be used for individual chunks, creating the visual organizational framework students with EF deficits need. Once assignments are understood as needing to be worked on across time, we can encourage students to chunks tasks to be worked on during specific weeks, then make related lists of things to do on specific days.

Drop by soon for more steps of Marcia Gracia Winner’s 10 Steps to Foster Organization Skills.

Part 4  (here) Homework: Prioritize, Plan, Follow Instructions – Organizational Skills 

  • Step 6. Prioritize and Plan Daily
  • Step 7. Hunt and Gather
  • Step 8. Consider Perspective

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