The art of knowing where to start

12 - 18 years
Father and son using laptop

Sometimes your teen may struggle to work out how to start an assignment. Here are some ways you can help them.

Talk it through

Help your teenager to write up a calendar or planner with the dates of assignments, tests and exams so that they can prioritise the areas they need to focus on.

Break it down

If your teen doesn’t know how to start an assignment, first make sure they understand what they need to do. If they have an assessment matrix or rubric, this will give useful information about the teacher’s expectations. If your teen is still unclear, encourage them to clarify any questions with their teacher.

Then help your teen break the assignment down into smaller tasks. These will vary depending on the assignment, but often include:

  • creating an outline
  • identifying resource materials
  • doing research (and compiling a bibliography)
  • creating a product, like an essay, a report or a creative response.

Set milestones

For longer assignments, it’s a good idea for your teen to set themselves some goals, for example, ‘Finish research by Week 6’, ‘Complete first draft by Week 8’. If the teacher offers the chance to hand in an early draft and get feedback, encourage your teen to do this. It’s a great way to make sure they are on the right track, and can avoid a last-minute scramble.

Keep on track

Keep touching base with your child to see how they are going. If they appear to be spending too long on one particular task, suggest they put it to one side for now, work on something else, and go back to it later. If their energy is beginning to flag, encourage them to do some tasks that need a bit less time and brainpower, for example formatting a bibliography.

And help them avoid the dreaded internet research trap—endlessly clicking from page to page on the internet, without a clear purpose, without taking notes, and without any real outcome. It’s an easy way to waste lots of time!

Print iconPrint
Last modified
21 April 2020