Do you remember when Snow White was born how the good fairies came and gave her wishes? What wish (other than looks and IQ) would you like to give children to help them be successful in school and life? Characteristics such as self-esteem, motivation, persistence, adaptability, creativity, delayed gratification, and self-control all come to mind. These are also part of the magical quality called “executive function.” No wonder educators and researchers are so fascinated with the topic and how we can nurture it!
After searching the internet, I ordered EXECUTIVE FUNCTION IN THE CLASSROOM by Christopher Kaufman. This is a very comprehensive, scholarly, and well-researched book. It would be a fantastic resource for a book study or for a graduate course. (Here’s the Cliff Notes version.)
The two key strands of the executive skills are the metacognitive strand and the social/emotional regulation strand.
Metacognitive Strand Social/emotional Regulation
Goal setting impulse control
Planning strategies emotional control
Organization of materials
Clearly, children arrive in the classroom with varying personalities and skills. However, teachers play a significant role in designing an environment that will support and nurture the executive function. The strategies that Dr. Kaufman suggests are simple and reaffirm that good teaching is good teaching! Further, the suggestions reflect what early childhood teachers have always done. Demonstrating, modeling, providing children with practice, learning centers, role-playing, social groups – sound familiar? We have always known that if children are engaged and interested, it is more likely that they will learn!
Here are some key points Kaufman recommends:
*Teach new skills and content systematically and explicitly. Provide for small group and independent instruction.
*Teach strategies explicitly and demonstrate the manner in which they should be applied in real-life learning situations.
*Limit demands on working memory. Go from simple to complex and concrete to abstract.
*Provide many opportunities for guided and extended practice.
*Keep things as predictable and consistent as possible.
*Anticipate situations that students might find frustrating and model strategies that can help them.
The specific strategies you will find in the book for reading, writing, and math are well-researched and support Core Standards and 21st Century Skills. I’ve got quite a challenge to put this together for my January website which will focus on 21st Century Skills and the Executive Function. Stay tuned for more on January 1st, 2013!