Our latest blog post for Edutopia explores the importance of the brain's executive function and describes how teachers can help students direct their thinking and cognitive abilities toward setting goals and planning to achieve them, establishing priorities, getting and staying organized, and focusing attention on the task at hand.
Entitled "Strategies for Students With Scattered Minds," the post describes "workouts" that allow students to practice pausing, prioritizing, improving their working memory, and mapping their options.
As a former classroom teacher and school psychologist, I worked with many youth who had difficulty with various executive functions, such as the ability to inhibit behavior, initiation and planning behavior, working memory and the ability to selectively maintain attention on information needed to complete a learning task, as well as cognitive flexibility.
Based on this experience, I found that explicit instruction about executive function and how to improve it is especially useful for students with learning challenges.
In our latest Edutopia post, Marcus and I provide information on such executive function "workouts" as:
- "Just a moment, let me think," which emphasizes the need for additional adult support to help students who exhibit poor impulse control.
- Start with the end in mind, which stresses the importance of helping students develop initiative by guiding them to establish their clear intent for a learning project as the first step in setting out a concrete plan to complete the task.
- Learn to remember, which emphasizes strategies for building a better working memory.
- Consider more options, which helps students develop cognitive flexibility in the form of higher-order thinking.