Building Executive Function

Executive function is the set of skills that enable students to manage time and self-regulate learning. They are a set of essential tools that empower students to perform at their best. According to scholarly research, executive function may be a better predictor of school readiness and academic achievement than IQ. (e.g., Blair and Razza, 2007, Eigsti, Zayas, Mischel, Shoda, Ayduk, Dadlani, et al., 2006) Executive function is at the heart of our lives when we learn, play, and work. 

Unfortunately, gaps in executive function skills have become increasingly apparent during distanced learning related to COVID 19. Decreased interactions with teachers have placed the role of managing learning with students, and some are struggling to make good decisions about time management and self-regulation. How can we help them?

Seven Strategies for Success

  1. Calendars- Time organization through the use of calendars is a life skill. Encourage students to keep a master calendar with due dates for assignments for all classes.
  2. Lists- Encourage students to use checklists to set priorities for the day. The calendar will help them to see upcoming due dates. If you provide checklists initially, students may learn to build them on their own.
  3. Chunking- When students have a large assignment, encourage them to break it into manageable “chunks.” They can add “chunk” due dates to their calendars to break up a project and avoid procrastination.
  4. Prioritizing learning- Before beginning an assignment or task, give students guiding reflection questions or cues. Help them to understand the goal of the work they are undertaking. This step can help them to build skills for evaluating the key goals of assignments and tasks.
  5. Organized note-taking- Teach students to use a logical approach to organizing new information so that it makes sense to them. There are many options that may serve individual learners best. Some include Concept Mapping, Outlining, Making Charts, and Close Reading strategies.
  6. Self-Monitoring- Encourage students to set a timer and check their progress at various points. Are they getting tasks done? How can they change their habits for success?
  7. Reflection- At the end of each unit, encourage students to reflect on their efforts. What activities were most helpful in learning? How can they change habits to improve learning? Taking the time to evaluate their role in managing the learning process empowers them for lifelong learning. In Mind Missions, reflection is the last step in our 7-Step process for developing strong problem-solving skills. By reflecting on our experiences, we continue to grow! 

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