Executive Functioning Strategies for Middle School


Executive Functioning Skills - what are they and should you be teaching them in your middle or high school classroom?  #strategies #skills #activities


Executive Functioning Skills - what are they and should you be teaching them?  The #2ndaryELA community worked out the details in the most recent Twitter chat.  Read on to get some of the best strategies for your classroom:

Q1: How do you define Executive Functioning Skills (EFS)?
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A1: I would say that Ss with good EFS are those that can meet clear age appropriate classroom expectations a majority of the time
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I realize I didn’t define it. More often than not can control emotions, can pay attention to directions
A1: I define Executive Functioning Skills as things like time management, self-control, perseverance, & listening skills.
A1: Executive Functioning includes anything needed to plan, organize, and manage assignments, prioritize tasks, self-regulate, etc.
A1:EFS are thinking things out, planning, and organization (amongst other things).
A1: I think, especially for ELA, those EFS hone in on the ability to prioritize and manage time.
Q2: How do EFS impact your lessons?
A2: I specifically teach students how to study. Too often Ss come to middle school thinking studying is reading. Then they do poorly on assessments which causes them angst and then parents email concerned and it becomes a "thing". So I head it off at the pass!
A2: I always try to take into account “ages and stages” when assigning projects. Definitely give them timelines to help them have boundaries. We, as a school, are working on building organizational skills through a Learning Strategies class.
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A2: Ss with good EFS make it easier to plan Project Based Learning Projects. Even if a teacher has a majority withgood EFS a PBL Project is doable.
A2: I would say effective lesson planning includes considerations for EFS, including chunking assignments into manageable steps and also providing time for teacher check-ins to make sure Ss are on track.
Q3: How do you help students organize their materials and their time?
A3: I post materials needed for every class daily. We do organizational checks on Friday in LS class, focusing on one area (locker, backpack, student planner, binder). It’s been pretty successful so far.
A3: I help students to plan and organize by providing time within the classroom structure to ensure Ss are aware of timelines, deadlines, and supports. Helping Ss to plan ahead and encouraging self-advocacy is critical, as well.
A3: I have a place for everything in my classroom, send home weekly bullet point digital updates, and will chunk projects with many small due dates.
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A3: I give a rough breakdown on how long a section should take to finish. For projects, I give due dates for the different stages so the final date doesn’t sneak up on them.
A3: for the past few years, we've used the Google suite and Ss needed help making folders. I also loved showing them Keep to manage group projects.
When using hyperdocs, I put approximate times in sections. And I almost always have students reflext on academic behaviors after assignments.
A3: I always provide time to write in planners. For bigger assignments, I chunk the process/steps into mini due dates.
Q4: How do you help students increase their ability to actively listen?
A4: Active listening is a big deal. I prove it with a scenario where observers listen to a situation that 4 of their classmates don't hear. As I ask the classmates about the situation, the observers provide information and we see how active listening...
A4 con't:...makes or breaks whether accurate information is given. Then I build on that with how to actively listen - hearing before responding - and using methods.
A4: students have to use questions to anticipate what they will get by listening. So setting a purpose is key.
A4: Active listening is something I like to check for by looking for body language, asking prompting/clarifying Qs, etc. I also hope to set clear expectations before directions: "I'll start when I see pencils down, lids closed, etc."
A4: I utilize radio programs/clips for active listening activities. I usually give a guiding question before so the purpose is there, but by just using audio, it allows scholars to not be distracted and really listen.
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NPR is the best for this! There is a story that I use every year from a program no longer on (The Story) about a man who lives in a woman’s attic. The kids love it!
Q5: Share your best tips, tricks & resources to incorporate EFS into the classroom.
A5: Honestly, I say make it part of your regular lessons! Teach the Ss the strategies WITH your content. So when I teach study skills, I show them how to study for the quiz using their notes from class.
A5: Time Management is a biggie, so I start with creating after school schedules. First Ss show what they do after school for a week. It’s eye opening when they see how much TV or computer tome they use. Then we create a new schedule, adding HW time each day.
A5: LS class has been a game changer for our school. They are getting “study skills” within a class and being able to apply them instantly.
A5: Modeling is huge here. Many assume that study skills are just something that Ss know inherently know. I think it's important to build in EF time into your lessons, especially when discussing HW, upcoming assessments, etc. Ss need time to process and ask Qs.

A5: try the lessons yourself first and see how long it takes you, what you did to do it in that time, and predict how your students may function with it. Then revise and move forward.
Now it hopefully seems clear what executive functioning skills are and that yes - they need to be taught!  Without them, students will struggle.  For me, the tricky part is figuring out what the students really do and don't know in these areas.  

All too often, students say they know how to study on a survey or in a discussion but then come to find out out, they really don't.  So my plan is to embed executive functioning skills into my lessons.  My first one is "How To Study" and if you click on the link, you'll get a free video that you can show your own students.  :)

Thanks for catching up with the #2ndaryELA nation and we hope you'll join us over at our Facebook group where we keep the conversation about executive functioning skills and all other things ELA going 24/7.  

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