Hey everyone! Thanks for tuning in! Have you ever read a progress report or had comments for a parent-teacher conference that went something along the lines of: “They could work a little more on time management skills”?
OK what about this one: “We really would like to see them turning in their work consistently on time”?
Or even “We would love them to have a little more focus while in class”?
Then today’s post is for you! Today we are giving you an overview of Executive Function, its different parts, and how understanding the processes behind time management, focus, and consistency can help you and your child fill a folder with finished homework.
Executive Function, broadly, is defined as a brain process that helps us complete learning and achievement goals. In more detail, Executive Function is the overarching term for the brain mechanisms which help our brains to organize, prioritize, and remember information, and it also includes the function that helps us engage in self-control. Sounds pretty helpful, no?
The hard part about the comments you might be hearing from teachers is that they are assessing the problem, as they see it, and not the root of the issue itself. Time management, for example, is an issue that many people (kids and adults alike) struggle with. I mean, who hasn’t procrastinated replying to emails by watching an entire season of the Great British Bake Off? (Maybe that’s just me??) Anyway, the point is that if time management, consistency, or focus are the problems, strengthening the branches of Executive Function might lead you to an answer.
As you may have seen on our Instagram this week, there are a few branches of functioning. We’ve got:
Prestige Prep is (of course) fully equipped to strengthen all of these skills as we tutor…it’s our job! However, over the coming weeks, you’ll see posts and info on what we believe to be the three building blocks of Executive Function. If you have any more questions about the branches of functioning, comment below and we can fill you in.
All that being said, let’s tackle our main topic of the day: Activation. Activation is the first step in executive functioning, and that’s for good reason. It’s all about organizing and prioritizing inside the brain before you start work so that you are able to tackle your tasks efficiently. How many times have you thought “I don’t even know where to start with this”?
The skillset that fixes that feeling is the Activation branch of your executive functioning. If you’re lucky, you have honed this skill, and you know how to begin by taking one thing at a time, and prioritizing what needs to get done first.
Now think about it from a stressed-out student’s perspective: they look at their online assignment portal, flooded with assignments and messages. After a long day at school, they also think to themselves: “I don’t even know where to start with this”. The difference is, they haven’t yet honed their activation skills. If you didn’t know how to prioritize or organize tasks, you might shut down, ignore the tasks you didn’t like, get emotional, or not get any work done at all.
So how can we strengthen Activation? First, we want to teach kids to break down the tasks that are in front of them into parts that they can digest. The size of these mini-tasks might vary, depending on your kid and their ability to tackle tasks. You can use a planner, a sticky note, a checklist app, or whatever your kid likes to write down each task, and divide them into:
- What you need to gather to get started
- Part one, with all the beginning tasks that you need to do.
Example: Put your name on the page, write the title, write the date.
- Part two, with all the main tasks you need to do, itemized.
Example: Write paragraph one, edit paragraph one, write paragraph two.
Breaking things down into mini-tasks helps kids grasp onto the smaller picture and avoid feeling overwhelmed. It also helps them to prioritize what is important, or what will need to get done first based on how long it will take.
Another big challenge that Activation brain muscles help with is getting started. The same overwhelming feeling that kids (and adults!) get when they are looking at a long list of things to do can occur when trying to begin a task, even when it is broken up into smaller pieces. Try setting a timer for a short amount of time, that is easier to digest. (are you sensing a theme here?) This way, your kid knows that they only have to begin something for 10 or 20 minutes. Often, once kids get started, they find it much easier to keep going!
As you probably know, kids learn well through repetition and mirroring: the best way to instill these strategies is to have someone refresh these skills often, so that students eventually have a consistent memory of how to implement their executive function activation. See if you can check in and practice these skills with your student, or better yet, hire a professional educator 😉
Prestige is here for all your student support needs, and it’s always great when parents know exactly what skills we are building to help their kids! We hope that these little tips helped you get a grasp on Executive Function, and there’s more info on where this all came from. Comment below with questions about Executive Function, and tune into our next blog post, coming soon!
“Executive Functioning.” Latham Centers, 18 Oct. 2019, www.lathamcenters.org/blog/tip-of-the-week-executive-functioning/.
Liz. “Your Guide To Executive Functions: Activation ~ HealthyADHD: Info, Coaching, & Community for Women.” HealthyADHD, 6 Jan. 2020, healthyadhd.com/executive-functions-activation/#:~:text=According to Dr.,chronic difficulty with excessive procrastination.