Executive Functioning

Executive functions are the brain skills that everyone needs and uses to complete tasks in our daily lives. They are the processes of the brain that allow us to plan, organize, and manage our thoughts and actions.

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What skills Does Executive Functioning Effect that Impact Students in School?

  • Planning
  • Time Management
  • Organization
  • Working Memory
  • Self Control
  • Flexible Thinking
We are not born with executive functioning skills. They develop and strengthen over time if we strategically exercise them (just like going to the gym to strengthen other muscles).

School Related Executive Functioning Difficulties

  • Inability to focus
  • Adapting to change
  • Trouble with friendships
  • Slow processing speed
  • Not following instructions
  • Difficulty with transitions
  • Requiring a high degree of positive feedback
  • Limited planning and follow-through
  • Task completion difficulty
  • Poor impulse control
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Planning is the ability to figure out how to accomplish our goals. It includes analyzing what you need and what steps you'll need to take to undertake and complete the task.

Habits and Routines To Help With Planning

  • Use a calendar to record important dates. Check it every day!
  • Have a daily planner to carry with you all the time
  • Use a homework log to record homework every day and in every class.
  • Take time to plan for the week by considering important dates and events
  • Use lists to plan for projects
  • Take time to consider what materials you need before you leave home or school
  • Plan a positive homework space where you can get work done effectively
  • Consider your short-term and long-term goals ahead of time.

Goal Setting

    In order to write goals the correct way, you need them to be “SMART”. That means:
    • Specific – to the point about what you really want to get done
    • Measurable – something you can actually tell you have accomplished
    • Achievable – something that you can actually get done in that time frame
    • Relevant – important to your own life (otherwise, you wouldn’t be invested)
    • Timely – give a time to review and when you plan to meet that goal

    Click below for templates and strategies you can use to strengthen your planning skills

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    Organization means being able to develop and maintain a system to keep materials and plans orderly.

    • Keep separate binders for different subjects
    • Clean out your backpack and workspace on a weekly basis
    • Color code your subjects
    • Make sure you are doing a weekly binder check
    • Make a checklist
    • Use highlighters to emphasize important information
    • Create different google folders in your google drive for each class and store all information needed in designated folders.
    • Create different electronic or paper copies of organizers that you can use

    Click below for templates and strategies you can use to strengthen your organization skills

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    Time Management is having an accurate understanding of how long tasks will take and using time wisely and effectively to accomplish tasks. It includes pacing yourself and meeting deadlines.

    • Estimate how long it will take you to complete a task
    • Pace yourself
    • Know when to take a break
    • Meet all deadlines and due dates
    • Have a healthy work/life balance
    • Prioritize what you need to get done
    • Set goals
    • Minimize distractions

    Click below for templates and strategies you can use to strengthen your time management skills

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    Working Memory is the mental processes that allow us to hold information in our minds while working with it. It is important for remembering information, following directions, and completing academic problems.

    • Write down oral directions – You will work on remembering as you write and you will have a record of it for later.
    • Take a picture of long-written directions (such as on the board) – This ensures you get all the directions clearly without missing anything.
    • Repeat essential information back to yourself – Repeating important information at least three times can help your brain remember it.
    • Make a meaningful connection to the information – When studying science terms, such as the esophagus, try making a connection: “The pizza I had for lunch went down my esophagus and then down to my stomach”.
    • Paraphrase information – After reading or hearing something, try putting it entirely in your own words.
    • Break things into smaller chunks - when you break a large assignment into smaller chunks it can help you tackle the assignment better.

    Click below for templates and strategies you can use to strengthen your working memory

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    Metacognition is knowing what you know, and what you don’t know. In other words, it is having an accurate understanding of your own knowledge for any given topic or task.

    Learning Styles

    There are several different ways that people learn best. Everyone is a mix of learning styles. Understanding your own learning styles can help you improve your learning and know yourself better.

    Visual Learner

    • Learns best using pictures, images, and graphic organizers to learn
    • Can memorize pictures better than words

    Auditory Learner

    • Learn best using music and sound to learn
    • Can remember songs easily
    • When you hear something, it sticks with you

    Verbal Learner(Linguistic)

    • Learns best using words: both in speech and in writing
    • Enjoy reading and writing to learn
    • Word-based games are fun for you, such as tongue twisters and riddles

    Physical Learner(Kinesthetic)

    • Learn best with hands-on projects
    • Often need to be moving while learning

    Logical Learner (Mathematical)

    • Learn best using logic to understand new problems
    • Want to understand the reasoning behind information
    • Use a scientific approach to learning

    Social Learner (Interpersonal)

    • Learns best working in groups
    • Prefers study groups to studying alone

    Solitary Learner (Intrapersonal)

    • Learns best working on your own
    • Prefer studying alone to study groups

    Click below for templates and strategies that can strengthen your metacognition skills

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    Self Control is the ability to regulate yourself, including your thoughts, actions, and emotions.

    • Know your triggers
    • Stop and Think (What is the actual problem? How big is the problem? Is it just a glitch or is it really a big deal? How can I solve the problem?)
    • Use "I" Statements
    • Be solution-focused
    • Breathing exercises
    • Reminder cards
    • Self-talk
    • Exercise
    • Listen to music
    • Ask for space

    Click below for templates and strategies that can help you strengthen your self control skills

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    Sustained Attention is being able to focus on a person or task for a period of time. It includes avoiding distractions and being able to shift your focus when needed.

    • Identify your distractors and avoid them
    • Use a fidget - Fidget pencil toppers are cheap and can keep your hands busy while listening or working on a task.
    • Doodle – For some people, doodling during lectures help ease their mind, making it easier to concentrate.
    • Ask for notes – Having written notes to follow along with may help your mind as your teacher talks. Talk to your teacher and see if he/she can provide them for you sometimes.
    • Take frequent breaks – Talk to your teacher about asking to get a drink when you need to get up and stretch. Sometimes just a short physical break can help you stay focused for the remainder of the lesson.

    Click below for templates and strategies to help strengthen your skills to pay attention

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    Flexibility is the ability to adapt to new situations and to deal with change. It also includes perspective-taking, and making decisions to fix a problem.

    1. How to Deal with Change
    • Acknowledge your feelings. It’s okay to be scared, nervous, or upset about the change.
    • Identify the positive. There is always something positive you can highlight.
    • Use self-talk. Remind yourself that things will get better.
    • Accept uncertainty. It’s okay if you don’t have all of the answers.

    2. Manage Your Stress

    3. Use Problem Solving Skills

    4. Consider Others' Perspectives

    • What would you feel like in that same (or similar) situation?
    • What would it feel like to be “in their shoes”?
    • How might that person probably feel right now?
    • What might they be thinking?

    5. Be Brave and Try New Things

    Click below for templates and strategies you can use to strengthen your flexibility skills


    All information gathered from http://www.thepathway2success.com/