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The Resilient Student - Teaching Executive Functions to Promote Student Agency

“ ...improving executive function seems like a potentially promising vehicle for narrowing the achievement gap between poor kids and middle-class kids...if we can improve a child's environment in the specific ways that lead to better executive functioning, we can increase his prospects for success in a particularly efficient way.”

Paul Tough  How Children Succeed

Welcome! We are excited you are investing in yourself and your students to learn about how to teach Executive Functions to promote agency in your students. There are strategies to teaching executive functions: Being explicit, creating a routine, and modeling their use for students.

What are EF's and Why They are Important Now

Executive Functioning Skills (EFs) are the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. EFs lay the foundation for academic success. As students progress through their K-12 experience schoolwork gets harder and more complex while students are asked to be more independent learners. Young people with weak executive skills fall further and further behind.

Additionally, recent studies analyzing the impact of the pandemic on young people suggest that executive functioning plays a key role in protecting against risk factors of depression and anxiety. Therefore, there is no better time that now to model and teach EFs for the sake of your students' academic success and personal wellbeing.

Thank you for the training, I will definitely be passing it on. The more I work, read, and explore, the more I am convinced that executive functioning and social skills are the two most important things we can teach our students.

Zachary Walker - University of Central Florida

Executive Dysfunction?

Before we dive into EFs, let's pause to consider Executive Dysfunction. Your students may have problems with executive function if they have trouble: 

  • Planning activities, projects, or assignments
  • Comprehending how much time a project will take to complete
  • Struggling to communicate details in an organized or sequential manner
  • Memorizing 
  • Retrieving information from memory
  • Initiating activities or tasks independently
  • Retaining information while doing something with it
  • Getting and staying organized

Create a Routine

EFs are learned best with a model or example of them being employed. We have found that the best way to model EFs is through a predictable learning routine that gives students practice with these skills. We will teach you how to do this in this course.

One thing to always remember, consistency is king! For the sake of your students, create a daily learning routine and stick to it, each and every day! As Doug Lemov states in Teach Like A Champion, "Consider one unmistakable driver of students’ achievement: Carefully built and practiced routines…”

In most lessons you will see a section called "Routine". This section reinforces our suggested daily routine and gives you tips in the "I Do" "They Do" boxes. We recommend the following daily learning routine:

Begin Class: Student Reflection (Lesson 1)
Step 2: Introduce Your Plan (Lesson 2)
Step 3: Update the Table of Contents (Lesson 3)
Teach Your Lesson
End Class: Student Reflection (Lesson 1)

A Binder to Model EFs

Binder Video Here

Throughout this course we will reference student binders as well as your Class Sample Binder. We believe that a binder is the tactile tool that will help students learn EFs more effectively. A binder works because it is the physical resource to visually cue students to engage in your learning routine and while doing so they gain practice with EFs. We will let you on on the yearlong portfolio creation that will occur as a result of this routine, stay tuned for that lesson, it is powerful!

Because EFs are best learned through modeling, we encourage you to maintain a Class Sample Binder. To create your Class Sample Binder simply update it each day before class, just as your students will do with their binders in class.

We recommend that your binders have the following Tabs (reorder/add to as needed) so that they coincide with your learning routine.

  • Tab 1: Goals
  • Tab 2: Daily Reflections
  • Tab 3: Calendar
  • Tab 4: Table of Contents
  • Tab 5: Appendix
  • Tab 6: Spare paper (no tab needed)
  • Tab 7: Completed Unit Packets

A few things you need to know before you begin

This course consists of 6 Lessons and a conclusion. Each Lesson focuses on a different EF that influence academic performance. It should take approximately 60 minutes to complete the course. As you progress through each lesson, please enter "Focus Mode" by clicking the arrow in the upper left corner of the page next to the Executive Functions header.

In each lesson be sure to review the Takeaways and FAQ's. Once you have successfully completed the course you can download your certificate of completion and your PDF Resource (TBA).

You are all set, here's to your success!

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