Executive Functioning

Diving Deeper into Practical Life

Practical Life Extended

The December blog post explored the meaningfulness of practical life activities in the Montessori classroom. This blog post also explores practical life but with an emphasis on its relation to executive functioning. Read on to learn how practical life at IMS connects to executive functioning, a set of longitudinal life skills needed well after a student attends IMS and becomes an active global citizen.
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What is executive functioning?

Executive function refers to cognitive abilities typically developed during childhood and continuously used throughout adulthood. Executive function involves working memory, cognitive flexibility, and self-control. The ability to maintain, process, and utilize data or facts in daily life and problem-solving is referred to as working memory. Furthermore, cognitive flexibility refers to beginning and switching tasks. Finally, self-control refers to curbing impulsive behaviors and emotions. These functions are interrelated. How does executive functioning influence academic performance?
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Academic Benefits

Well-developed executive functioning is academically beneficial. Strong working memory helps a student recall and synthesize information. A student’s cognitive flexibility may help them lead a group, start a project, or alternate between such tasks. Self-control is significant to a student’s self-awareness and self-regulation as well as interpersonal functioning in the school environment. How does this connect to practical life?
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Connections to Practical Life

Working Memory

To develop working memory, older students plan service projects while younger students navigate hands-on materials. First, students are guided to follow systematic processes (like washing a window) that eventually lead to independent planning (like engineering a garden bed). Additionally, students of all ages encounter classroom systems that also guide working memory such as keeping their classrooms tidy and their belongings organized. These activities support children’s and adolescents’ abilities to process information and solve problems.

Cognitive Flexibility

Likewise, cognitive flexibility is supported by switching practical life tasks. Some classes have classroom jobs like sweeping the floor or watering plants. When a student is absent, another student will assume the absent student’s responsibility. Furthermore, students regularly ask each other for help before requesting an adult’s intervention. Often, a student will politely and voluntarily shift their focus to help a classmate; then, happily return to their original task. These activities support children’s and adolescents’ abilities to switch gears.


Moreover, the attraction of practical life materials and activities stimulate self-control. Our culture of grace and courtesy instills patience and sharing. Therefore, a student will wait for another student to finish using a beautiful practical life work and return it to its exact place on the shelf before they choose the work for themselves. Sometimes, students observe in the foreground, waiting in awe until the work is available to them. Older students will team together and excitedly share responsibilities instead of shirking or monopolizing intended group work. Often, their participation is naturally elicited by the appeal of the task itself rather than the coaxing of an adult guide. These stimulating activities support children’s and adolescents’ abilities to self regulate.

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The World Beyond

Across our spacious and inviting campus, throughout our tidy and beckoning hallways, in every airy and bright classroom, practical life works and activities help prepare IMS students for future responsibilities. Executive functioning is significant to not only academic benefits but also practical responsibilities well beyond students’ time at IMS. IMS students and alumni are longitudinally supported by the dedicated service of our teaching staff and administration.

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2021-2022: Year of Roots

Each school year, Island Montessori School (IMS) focuses on a school-wide theme. This year, IMS is reflecting upon our roots: our school mission and Montessori practices. You can join us by visiting the school website and reading the head of school's newsletter and instructional coordinator's academic blog.

Island Montessori School

The mission of Island Montessori Charter School is to enable children of diverse backgrounds to learn and grow at their own pace by offering a developmentally appropriate and challenging academic Montessori environment that models grace and courtesy and fosters a peaceful community of lifelong learners.