Tuesday, November 17, 2015


You know something is important when Cookie Monster gets in on the act! Cookie Monster is demonstrating the executive function of self-regulation and delayed gratification in this new video.   www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PnbKL3wuH4

Executive Function has been receiving a great deal of attention because it seems to be a bigger predictor of academic success and life success than IQ. It’s a trait that begins in infancy and continues to develop throughout childhood into adolescence. An interesting aspect of EF is that it tends to transfer from one situation to the next. A child who learns to self-regulate in the classroom will also find it easier to self-regulate on the soccer field. There are many facets to executive function, and it’s helpful to think of a child on a continuum, rather than having or lacking EF. Definitions of EF are broad and diverse, but these are some common characteristics of the executive function:

Inhibition – can think about consequences before acting

Self-regulation – can stop oneself from inappropriate behavior

Initiation – starts new tasks independently

Organization – can organize thoughts as well as materials

Planning – can think through steps and prioritize

Time Management – predicts how long things will take and works at an appropriate speed

Adaptability and Flexibility – is able to shift focus and adapt strategies

Working Memory – can keep information in one’s mind (aka teacher’s directions)

Multi-tasks – can deal with several things simultaneously

Self-awareness – chooses a level that is not too difficult or too easy - asks for help when necessary

Emotional Control – is aware of and can manage feelings

Personal Satisfaction – derives pleasure from reinforcers

Focus – can attend to details and avoid being distracted

Self-monitoring – can reflect on one’s work and evaluate personal performance

Delayed Gratification – resists immediate reward for a larger reward later

Does this sound like the “star student”? The student who can multi-task, works independently, gets along with others, follows directions, enjoys learning, obeys rules, etcetera, etcetera. It also sounds like the job description for “employee of the month.”

The reason I think teachers need to be familiar with the executive function is because it validates many of the things we have always done with children, such as centers, partner projects, open-ended activities, and so forth.  Come back tomorrow for some teacher tips on nurturing the executive function in your classroom.