Is Your Student Scattered? How Executive Functioning Skills Will Help

Do you have a student who struggles with organization or time management? Developing their executive function skills is likely the answer! Read on to find out more.

To understand how executive functioning skills develop, it’s important to first identify what these specific skills entail. Executive functioning skills generally refer to a set of mental tools that relate to the following areas:

  • Organization and planning ability
  • Attention span
  • Memory and recall
  • Emotional regulation
  • Time management
  • Mental flexibility

These are actually just a few of the areas executive functioning skills encompass. We use these skills on a daily basis as adults, and all of these areas are just as important for students. Typically, executive functioning difficulty manifests itself in a few key ways with students that often relate to keeping school materials organized and staying on top of homework assignments. We think one of the best ways to develop executive functioning skills is to give students the tools they need to make the work as easy as possible. Let’s give a few examples!

Organization and planning: It can be difficult to keep track of one’s school materials, especially for students in middle school (and beyond) who are taking multiple classes. Using separate binders, dividers, notebooks, and folders for each subject is the perfect way to organize your materials. Also, forming routines will help greatly – for instance, making it a consistent rule to get your backpack ready the night before!

Time management: We often see students whose main problem is that they are forgetting to turn in assignments (or submitting them late because they missed the due date). Just like with organization, using tools to your advantage can be a huge help. We’re a huge fan of color coding, and we recommend students use a different color for each class. It’s also extremely important to keep a weekly agenda, and these color codes can be helpful to identify which subjects need attention. We also highly recommend creating a system to prioritize assignments and responsibilities – which ones are the most pressing? At Tutor Doctor, we often have students divide their agenda into alpha tasks and beta tasks to help prioritize their most important assignments. To learn more about agendas, check out our blog on how to create a planner that works for you!

Attention span and focus: These areas can also be improved in many students with just a few small adjustments. Attention problems are extremely common, and we’re often not surprised to hear students explain they do homework in the living room with the TV playing in the background. When it comes down to it, these types of distractions are going to make remaining focused more difficult for most people – so we recommend students have a dedicated space for homework. This area should be quiet and free of background noise and electronic devices. We often see students experience huge improvements in their ability to stay focused simply by making small adjustments to the environment in which they attempt homework assignments on a nightly basis.

Executive functioning skills are an extremely important part of our daily lives. If your student is having trouble with any of these areas, we recommend trying out some of these techniques to encourage good academic habits!