05 Jul Teaching Executive Functioning to High School Students
TEACHING EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING TO HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
Strategies for Teaching Executive Functioning to High School Students
You’ve been wondering how to teach your high school students executive functioning skills for a good reason. These skills, like planning, organizing, and decision-making, will serve them well in life beyond the classroom. The good news is there are concrete strategies you can implement to help strengthen their executive functioning, even at this stage in their development. It may take practice and patience, but helping them build these skills now will set them up for success in college and careers. In this article, we’ll explore some practical ways to teach executive functioning to your high school students so they can thrive both now and in the future.
Identifying Key Executive Functioning Skills for High School Students
Focus on key skills to help your high school students strengthen their executive functioning.
- Planning and organization. Help them break down big assignments into manageable steps and determine what needs to be done. Teach planning strategies like creating to-do lists, schedules, and timelines. Show them how to organize their materials, notes, and workspace efficiently.
- Task initiation. Students need to learn how to start tasks on time, even if they don’t feel like it. Encourage them to dive in right away instead of procrastinating. Give them opportunities to practice starting tasks on their own. Offer guidance and check-ins to help build their confidence.
- Time management. Help students estimate how long tasks will take, prioritize important activities, and minimize distractions. Have them track how they spend their time to identify opportunities for improvement. Teach them strategies like using a schedule or timer to keep themselves on track.
- Working memory. Give students opportunities to practice memorizing and manipulating information. Play memory games, have them take notes without looking at the source material, and teach mnemonic devices like acronyms to help retain lists and sequences.
Here are some examples of executive functioning skills for grades 9-12:
- Create and carry out strategic plans to reach objectives or complete tasks, such as finishing and submitting complex assignments.
- Consider potential outcomes and implications while making decisions, especially those connected to assignment completion and submission.
- Constructively and adaptively manage and respond to emotional experiences.
- Using advanced time management and organizational abilities, demonstrate consistency and dependability in completing and submitting assignments on time.
- Demonstrate self-advocacy abilities, effectively communicating personal needs, negotiating solutions in complicated situations, and seeking assistance when necessary.
- Begin learning about potential professional and occupational paths, employing executive function skills to investigate, plan, and create personal career objectives.
- Demonstrate efficient inhibition of distracting technology use by prioritizing academic tasks and managing potential digital distractions.
With regular practice and reinforcement of these skills, your students will strengthen their executive functioning and develop skills that will benefit them beyond high school. Success in school, work, and life depends on the ability to plan, organize, start and complete tasks, manage time, and memorize important details. Focusing on these strategies will set your students up for a productive future.
Teaching Task Initiation and Time Management
Learning time management and how to get started on tasks are crucial skills for success in high school and beyond. Here are some tips to help teach your students:
- Help them break down big assignments into smaller steps. This makes the tasks seem more achievable and less overwhelming. For a paper, start with an outline, then do research, and write the intro, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Checking off each part builds momentum and confidence.
- Show them how to estimate the time required for each step. Have them map out deadlines for each milestone to keep them on schedule. Building in extra buffer days is also smart in case anything comes up.
- Demonstrate planning their schedule and to-do lists. Get them to review all their obligations for the week ahead on Sunday night and prioritize important work. Show them how to block off time each day dedicated to working on long-term projects.
- Encourage starting work, even if they don’t feel like it. The hardest part is often just diving in, so urge them to do 15-30 minutes to build up steam. They’ll usually end up working longer once they’ve begun.
- Set timers to make work periods feel more manageable. Start with 25-50 minutes of focused work, then take 5-10 minute breaks. This technique helps avoid burnout and keeps them motivated.
By developing good organizational and time management skills now, your students will reap the benefits for years. These essential habits will become second nature with your regular practice and support.
Promoting Flexibility and Problem-Solving
To help high school students strengthen their executive functioning skills, focus on building flexibility and problem-solving abilities.
- Explain that plans often change unexpectedly, and we need to adapt. Share examples of situations where flexibility was key.
- Provide opportunities for students to pivot in low-risk ways, like switching partners or seating arrangements during class. Discuss how they adapted.
- Praise students when they handle changes well. Say something like, “I appreciate your willingness to try a different approach.” This positive reinforcement will strengthen their adaptability.
- Present students with open-ended problems to solve, with no single “right” answer. For example, ask them how they would improve school culture or reduce environmental impact.
- Encourage students to think through problems out loud, so you can prompt their thinking with questions. Help them evaluate options objectively and consider consequences.
- Set up group problem-solving, where students work together towards a solution. Discuss how different perspectives and collaboration enhanced their effort.
- Share examples of famous people who overcame obstacles through determination and ingenuity. Discuss the problem-solving strategies they employed.
With regular practice, students can master the art of thinking on their feet and navigating challenges. Helping them build these skills in the supportive environment of high school will set them up for success in work and life after graduation. Stay patient through their struggles, offer guidance, and celebrate their wins, no matter how small. Developing a solid executive functioning skill takes practice, time, and experience.
Now that you know highly effective strategies to help your high school students strengthen those all-important executive functioning skills. Start small, focus on one area at a time, and provide lots of opportunities for guided practice. Be sure to give constructive feedback and help them set concrete goals to achieve mastery.
Patience is key here, as these skills take time and repetition to develop. But with your support and encouragement, your students will get there. Before you know it, they’ll be planning, organizing, problem-solving, and managing their time like pros. And when they head off to college or careers after graduation, they’ll thank you for giving them the tools they need to succeed.
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