Breaking Down a Task

magnifying glass

Our previous tutor tip defined scaffolding and gave examples of how to use it to support struggling students. This week's post is a re-post from two years ago called Breaking Down a Task.  Read on to see an example of how to use this skill to assist students in a lesson on reading bus schedules. 


Tutors are often asked to assist students with a challenging task. The students are confused, but why?  Breaking down a task can help a tutor predict challenges students may have, find sources of confusion, and prepare students for more challenging tasks.

When we learn a new skill, we don’t usually jump in and start trying right away. Instead we try small steps. A new driver drives around an empty parking lot to focus on the mechanics of operating a vehicle without navigating traffic laws or busy traffic.  Then the driver will try driving on quiet residential streets before going out into busier areas.  Look for equivalent middle steps when asking students to solve problems or try new skills.

Tasks that are now automatic for tutors may be more complicated than they initially realize.  A great way to break down a task is to use a bubble map.  Here is an example of breaking down the task of reading a Metro Transit bus schedule. For space reasons this map is incomplete.

bubble map

The next time you are getting ready to help a student (or students) with a task, try breaking it down into very small steps so that you will be more prepared to help them meet challenges. 

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