5 Tips on Tackling Big Goals

At times, all children need some help to achieve big goals.  Whether it be a lofty IEP goal that you inherited, a large project the student needs to complete or a complex motor skill often times it is easier to break it up into smaller, more manageable chunks.  Teachers call it scaffolding and therapists sometimes call it chaining (or backwards chaining if you work backwards).  Whatever you want to name it, sometimes a project needs to be accomplished in smaller pieces.  Here are several tips to make it easier:

1.  Before you break it up into smaller chunks, demonstrate what you need accomplished as the final result.  If it is a large project, make sure the student sees the end result of what is expected.  If it is a complex motor skill, demonstrate it so the student can visually see it.  If you can not demonstrate the skill, find a peer who can.  Even better, video tape the skill and send it home with the child so they can review it whenever necessary.

2.  Ask the child for input to create a timeline to achieve the goal.  Let the student help map out how to break up the skill.  Ask questions to help prompt the child if necessary but do not just provide the solution to the problem.  If the student is able, write down a timeline of when each part will be completed.  For example, if the student is learning how to climb stairs in a crowded stairwell, then the timeline could include activities such as climb the stairs independently with visual distractions in the stairwell, climb the stairs independently with one other student in the stairwell and finally climbing the stairs with many students in the stairwell.  Set dates for each skill to be accomplished.  If the student is tackling a big academic project, encourage him/her to set specific dates with specific directions for each part of the project. 

3.  Stop, reflect and review.  When you are moving through each “piece” of the overall goal stop, reflect and review.  Is the student able to repeat what was previously learned and show 100% achievement of that “piece”?  Ask the student if they need to change the timeline or any strategies that have been employed.  Inquire if he/she could do it better the next time?

4.  Teach the child to offer suggestions from peers and to ask for suggestions from peers.   Once the child has a plan in place encourage them to discuss the plan and look for feedback.  

5.  Create step by step visual pictures if needed.  If the written timeline is not sufficient, perhaps take pictures of the steps needed to complete the overall goal.  The student can move through the visual schedule to help to complete the project.

What strategies do you use with your students to tackle big goals?