Back to School Executive Function Skills: Establishing a Routine, Planning, and Managing Time

Posted by Erica Warren on

Having a great school year is largely determined by a student’s ability to plan out their day, manage their time, and stick to a routine. In other words, they need to have well-developed executive functioning skills.

What is Executive Functions?

Executive functioning, or what I like to call the Grand Central Station of the brain, is the complex cognitive process of managing a crowd of sensory input and output and applying meaning, all while maintaining one’s “train” of thought. Although many teachers and parents can not fathom how apparently simple tasks such as using an agenda or turning in an assignment can be difficult, the truth of the matter is, the part of the brain that manages executive functioning, is not fully developed until individuals reach their mid 20's. 

An unlocked brain because it has executive functioning strategies

14 Common Signs of Executive Functioning Weaknesses  

1.   Losing materials.
2.   Forgetting to turn in assignments.
3.   Leaving things to the last minute.
4.   Underestimating the amount of time it will take to complete a task.
5.   Failing to record homework assignments.
6.   Leaving needed materials at school or at home.
7.   Neglecting to prepare for tests.
8.   Failing to break down long-term assignments into manageable tasks or goals.
9. Losing focus and missing important notes or directions.
10. Losing mental stamina.
11. rushing through work.

EF gamesStudents with Poor Executive Functioning skills are Often Misunderstood.

It is important to realize that weak executive functioning skills are NOT the result of laziness, lack of motivation or carelessness. In fact, criticizing these learners and providing negative feedback and pressure, worsens these difficulties and can trigger feelings of helplessness.  


So What Can be Done to Assist these Students?

1.   Maintain a structured daily routine.
2.   Teach how to set priorities.
3.   Generate a consistent homework plan.
4.   Break large assignments into manageable tasks.
5.   Make to do lists.
6.   Teach study skills.
7.   Illustrate note-taking skills.
8.   Demonstrate time management skills by generating self-imposed deadlines.
9.   Teach test-taking strategies.
10. Provide incentives and positive reinforcement.  
11. Utilize graphic organizers for writing.
12. Teach metacognitive skills by thinking through the process aloud.


Executive Functioning CoachingWhere Can I Get Resources and Game that Can Help Develop These Skills?

  • Developing Executive Functions and Study Strategies: A Comprehensive Approach: This course offers comprehensive executive functioning coaching training as well as many assessments and resource materials for working directly with students.
  • Executive functions Resource Library: This extensive resource library provides over 650 activities that teachers, practitioners, and therapists can use in online and in-person sessions. 
  • The Executive Functioning Cognitive Remedial Bundle offers a comprehensive approach to improving a student’s planning, time management, and organization abilities.  This bundle offers a discounted suite of downloadable activities, games, and handouts that were designed to help learning specialists, educational therapists, and even parents assist students in developing executive functioning skills.  To get a free sampling of activities from one of the publications in the bundle, Click Here  

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I hope you found this helpful! Please be sure to share this blog/video, and share your thoughts!!

Cheers, Dr. Erica Warren

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator, and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning. She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.

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