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Monday, June 30, 2014

Executive Functioning: The Truth About Planning, Time Management and Organization

Did you know that the ability to plan, organize and manage time is not fully developed until individuals reach their early 20s?  In fact, many students require structured instruction and scaffolding to learn these skills.  Executive functioning, or the "Grand Central Station" of the brain, is a common term that is used to describe these areas of cognitive functioning.

Planning, Managing Time and Organization:  How Difficult Can it Really Be?
When I first began working with young learners that struggled with executive functioning, I was surprised how challenging executive functioning skills could be for some of my bright learners.  What seemed to be clear and obvious was obscure, taxing and problematic for for many learners. 

Misunderstood Students:
Instead of understanding and assistance, students that have difficulties with planning, time management and organization are often intimidated with discipline.  For example, students often report that they are given detention or that they miss recess when they fail to turn in an assignment.  In addition, many are misunderstood resulting in negative labels and inconsistent methods that result in poor grades. These students continually report that they are called lazy, unmotivated and careless, and this can result in frustration, anger and even helplessness.  

Getting school districts to offer accommodations for students that struggle with executive functioning challenges is difficult, and at present, with technological advances, each teacher seems to have their own way of reporting and collecting assignments.  Consequently, this population of learners experiences additional pressure due to the lacking structure across teachers and their need for consistency. 

Executive Functioning Deficits: What are the Signs?  
They often:
1.   lose attention.
2.   lose assignments.
3.   complete assignments at the last minute.
4.   underestimate the time it takes to complete a task.
5.   forget to record homework assignments.
6.   forget materials at school.
7.   forget materials at home.
8.   avoid test preparation.
9.   struggle with the management of long-term assignments, tasks or goals.
10. neglect to prepare for midterms or finals.
11. forget appointments.
12. miss important directions.
13. lose mental stamina and fail to complete a task.
14. misplace needed materials.
15. rush through work.

So How Can We Help?
1.   Set a good example.
2.   Exhibit metacognitive skills by thinking through your own mental processes aloud. 
3.   Maintain a homework plan. 
4.   Break big assignments into manageable activites.
5.   Generate to do lists.
6.   Instruct students about study skills.
7.   Demonstrate note-taking skills.
8.   Teach test taking and memory strategies.
9.   Ignite student motivation through positive reinforcement.  
10. Generate and use graphic organizers for writing.
11. Use a structured daily routine.
Where Can I Purchase Ready-Made Materials?
To learn more about strategies and more, I have a 116 page publication on CD or digital download that offers materials and methods that structure, guide, and support students in time management, planning and organization.  These comprehensive materials include questionnaires, agendas, checklists, an organizers for reading, writing and test preparation.  You will also find additional advice and materials in math, memory, setting priorities, motivation, and creating incentives programs.  These materials are varied and assist learners from elementary to college.  Finally, you can also get a free sample, passive vs. active learner assessment, from the publication, and you can view a free video on executive functioning.  Click Here  

Cheers, Erica

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  

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