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Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues:

Today, we continue this week’s focus on executive functions, a set of behavioral skills related to the work of planning and prioritizing that are essential for academic success. Our colleagues at Psychoeducational Resource Services, Peter Rastrelli, Tonya Gall, and Josh Price, have contributed the following suggestions on specific tools to use:

1) Some simple tool suggestions include:

  • Whiteboards (small ones) are a must
  • Countdown timers (they are on your phone, but you can buy physical ones too)
  • Use checkboxes or lists to check off or cross out completed items
  • Pencil-in breaks, and be sure to provide good activity choices for those breaks (not a video game that will take 40 minutes). A reasonable break should include some sort of physical activity and one that easily allows the students to transition back to the learning process. 

2) The climate in your house is important to consider:

  • Where do the students work? In what room is most effective?
  • What materials will your students need in front of them to effectively carry out their work? 

3) Schedule-making can be a learning process:

  • For the students 3rd grade and up, create a schedule with your student that allows them to understand what it means, how to use, and when to take breaks. Then, work out what the break schedule looks like.
  • Allow the students to see the whole picture and then help break down the day into baby steps.
  • Keep in mind a narrative script you can use when your student comes to you to and asks for help. You don’t have to respond to their immediate needs.

4) Make problem-solving an open conversation:

  • Helping a student problem-solve is part of strengthening executive functioning – the student goes from being told a strategy to working through the frustration process independently.
  • Prepare students with questions they can ask themselves in order to find the solution (i.e., is it posted on the site, did I ask a friend first, etc.).
  • If they need to contact the teacher, try to have the kids create that email themselves and involve them directly in the dialogue. This helps to also create good advocacy skills. Remind students that if teachers do not respond within a timely manner, that they, too, might be a parent or someone who is taking care of loved ones during this shelter in place time. Patience!

These executive functioning strategies support all students in both mindsets and availability to learn, and echo many of the e-learning best practices we build into our instruction. Tomorrow’s letter will focus on special considerations re: executive functioning.

Be well,
Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

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