For Educators: Helping Students with Executive Functioning Issues
In our last blog we discussed what executive functioning skills are and how struggles with these skills might manifest in the classroom and at home. In addition to specialized tutoring with an executive functioning expert, there are things classroom teachers can do within their spaces to help students who might be struggling in these areas. In this blog, we've put together 6 ways educators can help students with executive functioning issues. If you would like to go more in depth on executive functioning coaching and outcomes, our Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Jordan Wright has published a white paper that you can download it here.
1. Break Assignments and Projects Into Smaller Chunks
As students get older and start tackling more advanced assignments and long term projects, it's important to remember that scaffolding and chunking are extremely beneficial to students. This is especially true for those who are still developing their executive functioning skills or have learning differences. As educators, there are a few approaches you can take, whether that be breaking down the assignments into smaller benchmarks yourself or modeling this for students until they are at a point where they can independently look at a larger project and decide where and how to break it down for themselves.
2. Utilize Check-Lists and Rubrics
One of the most helpful things you can implement regularly in your classroom practice that goes hand in hand with chunking assignments, is incorporating check-lists and rubrics where applicable. Not only do they offer students a visual representation of individual steps and tasks, they offer transparency into how assignments will be graded and assessed.
3. Provide Clear Structure and Routines
For students who are finding self-organization and management more challenging, having classes and work spaces which are well organized, having an easy to follow structure, and having a predictable routine can have a hugely positive impact. Every few weeks take a pause and reflect on how visible and easy-to-follow the structures and routines are in your classroom. A few questions you might ask yourself are:
- Are schedules and expectations visible and easy to follow?
- Are materials easily accessible?
- Are assignments and projects posted well enough in advance and explained clearly?
- Are students aware of routines and expectations?
4. Offer Content in Different Ways
One of the things lower grades teachers do really well is teach to multiple styles of learning (visual, kinesthetic, hands-on, auditory). Unfortunately, as students get older, content delivery in many classrooms can become more and more homogeneous. Finding ways to mix up instruction or deliver the same content in a variety of modalities can make a big difference to students who might struggle to comprehend content.
5. Model Good Organization and Planning Strategies
Sometimes we forget that like academic content, organization and planning are skills that need to be explicitly taught and like any other content area, some students will find those skills naturally easier than others. We can't just assume that students will automatically know how to prioritize assignments, study for tests, and organize their binders and desks. Periodically spending class time modeling and helping students flex these muscles is time well spent that will benefit all involved.
6. Conference About Timelines and Assignments
Taking it a step further, some students may need more individual support. Just like you would have 1:1 conferences over classwork, consider meeting with students to offer more structured guidance on planning, organizing, and assignments. If this isn't feasible with your class size or schedule, check in with your school's learning specialists who are experts in this area for suggestions and support. They will also be able to help you assess the situation and determine if a conversation with guardians around outside support might be warranted.
With live-online services we are able to find related service professionals that will not compete against your ability to hire individuals in-district. We can reach IEP and 504 students from multiple sites, and offer flexible scheduling and pricing options.