Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Remember last week when I shared an idea from Ezabel Decker called the "fist list"? As you give directions the children hold up a finger for each step to help them remember. What a simple way to nurture the executive function. When you give an assignment and then ask a student to repeat the information to their classmates, you are developing the executive function. When you sing a song or do a movement activity that has a beginning and ending you are encouraging children to develop impulse control. When you play "freeze" that's also self-regulation. If your schedule is posted in the classroom, if you have routines, if you have rules, if you have open-ended centers where children must start and complete a task are actually setting the stage for children to develop the executive function. These techniques are the qualities of good teaching from pre-k through graduate school.

When you look at this list you will realize that you are already implementing many of these each day. What are your strengths? What can you improve on?

Be specific with goals and expectations.

Give clear step-by-step instructions with visual cues.

Repeat and rephrase tasks.

Demonstrate and model what you expect students to do.

Teach systematically and explicitly. Go from simple to complex and concrete to abstract.

Provide students with group and independent activities.

Repetition is important, but remember to provide students with guidance and feedback.

Follow routines and be consistent.

Post the daily schedule and go over it in the morning and after lunch.

Summarize, review, and recall.

Use behavior management with clear rules and procedures.

Reward, encourage, and praise.

Use natural consequences to discipline. Tie behavior to how it impacts the student and others.

Use folders, trays, boxes, and files to organize work.

Teach students how to prioritize.

Teach note-taking strategies.

Have students recite and record information.

Use graphic organizers, acronyms, and mnemonic devices to help students remember.

Use self-assessments, rubrics, and checklists.

Encourage students to do self-reflection and set goals.

Eliminate outside distractions to help students focus.

Engage students’ attention with projects that are creative, novel, and challenging.

Listening Body
I love it when a teacher says, “Dr. Jean, you need to make up a song about (such and such).” Here’s a positive way to prompt children to self-regulate as you sing to the tune of “This Old Man.”
Are you ready to learn with me?
Check your body and then you’ll see.
Eyes, ears, mouth, hands, and feet.
Check your listening body, please.

Eyes watching? (Children respond, “Check.”)
Ears listening? (Children respond, “Check.”)
Hands quiet? (Children respond, “Check.”)
Feet still? (Children respond, “Check.”)
Mouths closed? (Children nod and say, “Mmm.”)
Want to know more?

Kaufman, C. (2010). Executive function in the classroom: Practical strategies for improving performance and enhancing skills for all students. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.

Diamond, A. (2010). Ways to improve executive function. (

Tough, P. (September 25, 2009). Can the right kinds of play teach self-control? The New York Times.

What all teachers need to know: the role of executive function processes in the classroom. (