Many teachers can not fathom how apparently simple tasks such as using an agenda or turning in an assignment can be very difficult for some of their students. In fact, many students need comprehensive instruction and scaffolding to learn to plan, manage time, and organize. Executive functioning, which encompasses these skills is the last part of the brain to fully develop, and in actuality, does not reach maturation until students reach their early 20's.
How Hard Can it Really Be to Plan, Manage Time and Organize?
I have to admit, when I first started working with students that struggled with executive functioning, I was surprised how challenging planning, time management and organization could be for some of my young, bright learners. What seemed to be clear and obvious was obscure, taxing and problematic for them.
These Students are Often Misunderstood:
Instead of compassion and strategies, students that have difficulties with executive functioning are often intimidated, harassed and mishandled with discipline and inconsistent methods that result in poor grades. Many of these students are continually told that they are lazy, unmotivated and careless, and this often results in feelings of frustration, anger and even helplessness. Acquiring accommodations for students that struggle with executive functioning difficulties is rare, and now, with technology at our fingertips, each teacher seems to have their own way of communicating and collecting assignments. As a result, this population of learners seems to be under additional pressure due to the lack of cohesive structure across classes and their need for consistency.
So What are the Signs that a Student has Executive Functioning Deficits?
1. lose materials.
2. forget to turn in assignments.
3. leave things to the last minute.
4. miscalculate or underestimate the amount of time it will take to complete a task.
5. fail to record homework in an agenda or planner.
6. leave needed materials at school.
7. leave needed materials at home.
8. fail to prepare for tests.
9. fail to plan and break down long-term assignments into manageable tasks or goals.
10. neglect to plan for midterms or finals.
11. forget details.
12. lose focus and miss important notes or directions.
13. lose mental stamina and fail to complete a task.
14. misplace important materials.
15. rush through work.
So What can be Done to Assist these Students?
1. Create a structured daily routine.
2. Set priorities.
3. Generate a homework plan.
4. Break large assignments into manageable chunks.
5. Make to do checklists.
6. Teach study skills.
7. Illustrate note-taking skills.
8. Demonstrate time management skills by breaking large assignments into manageable chunks with numerous deadlines.
9. Teach test taking strategies.
10. Demonstrate memory strategies.
11. Help student motivation by offering incentives and positive reinforcement.
12. Create and use graphic organizers for writing.
13. Teach metacognitive skills by thinking through the process aloud.
Where Can I Get Ready Made Materials?
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Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials. She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY. To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz