Elementary school teachers and special education teachers often use task analysis to help students break down complex instructions or multiple-task directions into smaller steps. Young students and students with learning difficulties often struggle to accomplish their goals when tasks are overly complicated and seem overwhelming. Use task analysis to help students complete academic assignments, organize their supplies, understand classroom procedures, transition between classes and perform daily opening and closing activities.
Use task analysis when explaining classroom assignments to ensure your directives are clear, concise and manageable. Practice the activity yourself or rehearse it in your mind so you can see how it breaks into smaller components. For example, if you want your students to do an oral book report, break the activity into pieces: Direct them to choose a book, take notes on each chapter as they read, write down important character traits, list major themes, write a three-paragraph report and include their personal assessment of the book. Don't just instruct them to write a book report without detailing your requirements in a step-by-step format.
Use task analysis to help your students stay organized. Telling your class to "clean up" after art class, snack time or recess is too vague and doesn't clearly explain what you want them to do. Break the job into smaller components, such as "Throw your paper scraps away and rinse out your paintbrushes. Then, put your artwork on the drying rack and hang up your smocks." Create step-by-step checklists and post them around the room so students learn to complete organizational tasks quickly and efficiently.
Policies and Procedures
Implement task analysis to help your students understand and follow classroom procedures. Use short phrases to help them process your directives. For example when your class is preparing to go to the gymnasium, say, "Turn your papers over, stand up, push your chairs in and quietly line up at the door." Don't say, "Let's head to the gym." Clearly articulate your step-by-step instructions so they learn what's expected. Task analysis eliminates confusion.
Use task analysis to help with transitional periods between subjects or classroom activities. Students need to know what to do when they finish their project or assignment. For example, you might say, "Once you've completed your math assignment, place it in the homework bin, put your math book in your desk and work quietly on your math flashcards." Effective task analysis ensures that students remain productive throughout the entire class period. Always use familiar vocabulary so students don't have to try to interpret or decipher your meaning.
Beginning and Ending Activities
Incorporate task analysis into your beginning-of-the-day and end-of-the-day procedures. Students don't automatically know what to do when you say, "Let's get ready for school," or "It's almost time to go home." You must spell it out for them -- at least until they've done it enough times to memorize the routine. Use enumerations to identify steps: "First, hang your coats and backpacks in the hallway; second, put your lunches in the blue tub; third, listen for roll call; and fourth, take out your spelling book." Follow the same step-by-step process at the end of the day. You might have to repeat your directives several times throughout the class period to ensure students remember your instructions.
- University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders: Task Analysis -- Steps for Implementation; K. Szidon and E. Franzone
- Indiana University, Bloomington: Applied Behavior Analysis -- The Role of Task Analysis and Chaining
- Classroom Management: A Practical Approach for Primary and Secondary Teachers; Harry Ayers and Francesca Gray
As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.