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How To Teach Executive Functioning Skills

Executive functioning skills are essential for all. These skills ensure that young people and adults are able to demonstrate self-control, follow instructions, meet their goals, and stay focused. 

How To Teach Executive Functioning Skills

They are vital skills that everyone needs in their skill set. No one is born already having executive functioning skills. These are taught and learned skills that develop through practice and experience. 

If you are an educator or teacher, and you want to provide your classes and students with the proper knowledge to develop their skills over time, you will need to know how.

In this guide, we will go over exactly what executive skills are, why they are important, and how to teach executive functioning skills. 

What Are Executive Functioning Skills?

Executive function is the phrase we use to describe a set of skills that we have as humans.

These skills entail our capacity for planning ahead, meeting targets and goals, displaying self-control, following multiple directions, and remaining focused even when distracted.

Executive functioning skills are essentially the abilities that our brains use to control and prioritize tasks, filter information, and control impulses and distractions in order to get something done properly. 

These skills are what help us take note of mistakes, make decisions according to the information we have, focus on multiple sources of information at once, revise plans and methods, and avoid distractions and frustration when trying to complete a task.

Executive functioning skills will typically start to develop from the age of three, and will again spike during adolescence and early adulthood.

However, these skills can be constantly developed over time, and take a lot of practice. 

Some people may struggle more than others with focusing, avoiding distractions, and sticking to a task to reach a goal, so it is vital that these skills are nurtured and practiced often.

As a teacher or educator, it is essential that executive functioning skills are part of the curriculum and day-to-day class activities. 

How Are Executive Functioning Skills Learned?

As humans, we are not automatically born with executive functioning skills. These are developed over time as we learn and grow through practice.

Executive functioning skills are typically learned from early childhood when parents or caregivers begin establishing routines and giving children tasks to complete by themselves.

Following rules, controlling distractions and impulses, playing games and other activities can help young people develop these skills. 

Adults and teachers can provide children with the support and guidance that they need to encourage executive functioning skills and ensure that children are able to perform tasks successfully on their own. 

Executive functioning skills are essential in building well-rounded individuals, who are able to make good decisions, meet goals, and juggle commitments- all of which can help them in the future in terms of employment, caregiving, parenting, and being an active member of a community. 

How To Teach Executive Functioning Skills

If you want to encourage and teach executive functioning skills, then there are many ways in which you can do this.

There are many opportunities in a classroom setting where you can practice executive functioning skills. 

For instance, assigning a task such as homework, and ensuring that students take notes, complete projects, go on field trips, and play games together, are all ways that can nurture executive functioning skills. 

Create Real-Life Scenarios

How To Teach Executive Functioning Skills

One of the best ways to help students and children learn executive functioning skills is to create real-life scenarios that can help them think and problem-solve.

Give them a scenario such as having a deadline or an exam coming up, but also having a party to go to.

They have to figure out when they can study and prepare for the exam, and when they can go to events or have fun to create a balance, and still get the results that they want.

They will need to work out a solution and think about all of their options.

This encourages them to focus, plan ahead, make good choices, and be more flexible. 

Teach Positive Behavior

Another way that you can teach executive functioning skills is to encourage and teach positive behavior and emotions.

When students become frustrated or upset because things are not going their way, you have to give them the tools that they need to deal with their triggers and responses positively. 

Demonstrate that when they are self-aware, can plan ahead, and avoid distractions, they can have more successful outcomes.

However, it is also important to help them learn to respond in a positive manner, rather than lashing out or becoming defensive and angry. 

Encourage Individual Goal-Setting

You can also encourage children and young adults to set their own goals. This can help them facilitate their target and work out what steps they need to take in order to reach their goals and targets.

To do this, you can set a time frame and provide them with a task or project. Then, they will need to map out how they will approach obstacles and problems along the way to successfully complete the task. 

This encourages children and students to develop independence and think ahead to reach their goals independently.

It can also promote good time management, awareness, organizing, and self-monitoring skills. 

Post Schedules For Time Management

Time management is an important executive functioning skill. Having schedules and deadlines available in the learning environment, can prepare and remind students of what they need to do.

You can also schedule breaks and blocks of study time where students can utilize their time to get their tasks done or to rest and plan their next task in order to complete their project on time. 

Review Learning 

Another way to help students practice and learn executive functioning skills is to review what they have learned before moving on to new concepts and activities.

This gives them a chance to take a look back and address any issues or mistakes that were made. 

This can be done with a quick presentation, or you can pair up students or young people to get them to share with one another what they recall from what they have learned.

You can also get the class to call out with bullet points to summarize what they have retained, and what they could have done differently to get a better understanding and result. 

Provide Visual Supports

To help teach executive skills, you can also provide visual support like posters that can help with step-by-step instructions and routines.

Ensuring that these are color-coded, interesting, and eye-catching. 

You can do this with instructions, for learning new concepts, and for keeping track of deadlines and schedules to help with project management, planning, and time-management skills. 

Final Thoughts

To summarize, executive functioning skills are essential in creating well-adjusted individuals.

Executive functioning skills help us manage our time, avoid distractions, meet goals, remain focused and make good decisions. 

If you want to teach executive functioning skills to your children or students, then you can follow the guidance above to ensure that they can practice and develop these skills.

Simon Lewis

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