Have you experienced a 1st grader that gets frustrated and gives up without asking for help or a 4th grader with a messy desk and backpack? Maybe you work with older students that might have a hard time starting a big project or has trouble working in groups. These could indicate a problem in their executive functioning skills.

Executive functioning skills include planning, organizing, setting goals, avoiding distractions, and monitoring progress. Understood.org offers this explanation, “Executive function is a set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. We use these skills every day to learn, work, and manage daily life. Trouble with executive function can make it hard to focus, follow directions, and handle emotions, among other things.”

There is no executive function diagnosis, and while many symptoms are normal in children, if issues persist, they could indicate a problem.

Learning support specialists and classroom teachers are learning how to scaffold and reinforce executive function skills as children learn to manage time, plan ahead, organize belongings, and complete assignments.

Edutopia offers a variety of resources to foster the skills students need for long-term success. Using Technology to Support 10 Executive Functioning Skills

Eight Ways to Bolster Executive Function in Teens and Tweens

Understood.org shares checklists and videos that explain executive function, lists signs of executive functioning issues, and evidence-based behavior strategies for educators.

The Child Mind Institute offers help to parents on how to partner with teachers to identify concerns, get support at school, and reinforce skill building at home. Their School Success Kit helps kids get organized, focused, and out the door on time with practical tips and strategies.

SAIS will welcome more than 200 educators to Charlotte, NC, January 23-25, for the Academic Support Conference. Executive function expert Marydee Sklar (pictured at left) will present The Missing Link for Student Success: Executive Functions as the Tuesday morning keynote. Attendees will develop a clear knowledge base for the scope of executive functions and how they relate to time management, planning, and organization. With this foundation, participants will gain specific strategies and tools to support their students and themselves. 

As an educator in private practice, Marydee Sklar has helped families struggling with time management for over 20 years. Her unique approach to teaching time management comes from two perspectives. As a reading specialist she knows the importance of teaching concepts in a hands-on, visual, sequential, manner. Her own brain has significant executive function deficits, so she understands the challenges from the inside. Once she solved her own time-management issues, she developed a course to help others.

She is the author of 50 Tips to Help Students Succeed and the founder of Executive Functioning Success. She loves helping students understand how to support their time-challenged brains to get things done.

In a recent blog post, Marydee writes about something many of us are attempting this month, setting up a new calendar or planner for 2022. She writes, “Plan? How can I plan? This crazy pandemic world jerks me around like I am on the end of a yo-yo. Some days I confidently move forward with plans, feeling grounded in the new normal. But before I know it, I have accidentally listened to the news and I want to hide in my kitchen, listen only to classical music, and never leave my house.”

If we, as adults, feel the stress of the unpredictability of our world, imagine what our students are feeling. Marydee shares this advice, “Always create a plan A and a fallback plan B. Your preferred plan A might actually happen, so plan it so you can do it. While plan A might get ditched, you are still ready with your plan B.”

We hope that you are planning to join us later this month for the SAIS Academic Support Conference where you can learn more about executive functioning, reducing student anxiety, authentic assessment, and more.