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Videos addressing Executive Functioning. These videos define our categories of Executive Functioning, signs of possible EF deficits, how to use our 7-Step Model, and helpful strategies to support student learning. Stay tuned for more information!

AVAILABLE NOW - The first two videos!
Video Option 1 What is Executive Functioning?
Video Option 2 What is Working Memory?

                                                                                                                            

Institute on Executive Functioning™

Institute on Executive
Functioning™®

A New Path for Students' Success

A New Path for Students' Success

A New Path for Students' Success

A New Path for Students' Success

A New Path for Students' Success

A New Path for Students' Success


The Importance of Executive Function Skill Training and the Impact on Learning

Roberta Strosnider, Ed. D.

Roberta Strosnider, Ed.D.

Institute on EF

Val Sharpe

Val Sharpe, Ed. S.


For over 15 years we have dedicated our work to the development of executive function skill training. Early in our work, we realized that many students, who did not qualify to receive special education support services, continued to struggle with achieving success in school. As we observed these students in a variety of settings, we noted that many of them had a commonality: Executive Function Skill Deficits. We also noted that with some simple strategic interventions that addressed executive function skill areas, these students were able to achieve success. Over the years, we have used specific strategies to support executive function skill deficits in children with and without disabilities.

Our work has resulted in Our 6 Beliefs.

1. We believe that every student has the right to receive instruction that incorporates methods and tools to facilitate their learning. The attention and consideration of students’ executive function skill strengths and needs is a vital component of the instructional process so they can reach self-regulation. In order to make that happen, administrators, teachers, psychologists, other related service providers, and parents need to possess the knowledge and skills surrounding executive functioning.

2. We also believe that students need explicit instruction in executive function skills accompanied by metacognition over time with practice in order to achieve self-regulation.

3. We believe that without specific EF skill training, many students fall into a downward spiral academically and/or behaviorally and continue in that spiral into adulthood. Nothing good comes from the downward spiral, and some will drop out of school, turn to substance abuse or worse.

4. We believe that technology can help level the playing field as can attention to universal design for learning guidelines for executive functioning.

5. We believe that before a student learns new content, executive function has to be considered a major part of readiness for learning.

6. We believe now, more than ever, students with executive function issues are struggling. School closures have required students to use executive functions to deal with learning from home using packets and technology to access learning, transitioning to new schedules and routines, and communicating in a different way, just to mention a few. Parents are dealing with stressors of their own with work and helping their children with schoolwork while teachers are having to learn new ways of teaching and managing both their students’ learning and their own family member’s needs.

So Why Do You Need This Video Training on Executive Functioning?...

If you believe as we do, these are some areas covered in our videos that you will find helpful

  • Rationale for attention to executive functioning
  • Identification of students’ executive function deficits
  • Goal Setting with students to improve their executive functioning deficits
  • Appropriate strategies to help students deal with executive functioning deficits
  • A Model for explicit instruction to help students improve their executive functions with a goal of self-regulation
  • Use of technology to help students with executive function needs
  • Use of executive functions as students respond to changes in the learning environment

What Should I Know About Executive Functioning ?
Our 6 EF Videos are 1 clock hour each

  • What is Executive Functioning and Why Is It So Important? : This module presents an overview of executive function and its importance for academic and behavioral performance
  • Working Memory: This module describes how working memory impacts students’ ability to achieve both academically and behaviorally and also includes strategies that can be used to improve skills in this area.
  • Social/Emotional/Inhibiting: This module covers the role of social, emotional and inhibition in learning. It addresses how these three areas affect one’s outlook toward life in general and how they are perceived by others. It also includes strategies that can be used to improve skills in this area.
  • Prioritizing, Organizing, Sequencing and Managing Time:  This module covers the role of “getting it all together” in thought and action and includes strategies that can be used to improve skills in this area.
  • Attending, Initiating and Focusing: This module covers the importance of helping students start assignments, attend to the desired stimulus and sustain that attention to completion. Strategies that can be used to improve skills in this area are included.
  • Communication, Cognitive Flexibility and Shifting: This module emphasizes the role of executive functions in communication including strategies for written, spoken and nonverbal language. In addition, this module addresses cognitive flexibility and shifting including strategies for flexibility in thinking and strategies to help with transitions.

Roberta Strosnider, Ed. D. Bio

Throughout her career, Roberta has advocated for students with disabilities. Roberta taught students K-12 in both general and special education prior to entering special education teacher education at Hood College and Towson University. She has been active in organizations at the state and national levels including the Council for Learning Disabilities (CLD), National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD), and Teacher Education Division (TED) of Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). Roberta now serves as Adjunct Faculty at Frostburg State University.

Roberta continues to work with the Institute on Executive Functioning as an educational consultant in executive functioning to P-12 and post-secondary students, schools, teachers and parents. She co-authored The Executive Function Guidebook: Strategies to Help ALL Students Achieve Success published by Corwin in 2019 and presents workshops on executive functioning around the country.

Val Sharpe, Ed. S. Bio

Valerie Sharpe is a special educator who continues to work on the behalf of children. Retired from her position as the Program Coordinator for the Towson University B.S. in Elementary Education/Special Education program at The Universities at Shady Grove, Val now serves as Adjunct Faculty at Frostburg State University.

Val served as an officer for Maryland Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) and the national CEC Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities (DADD), and Local Arrangements Chairperson for two CEC Conventions. She served on the Maryland Professional Standards and Teacher Education Board and Education Testing Service. (ETS). Praxis II: Elementary Education: Instructional Practice and Applications (5019) writing team. Val continues to work with the Institute on Executive Functioning as an educational consultant in executive functioning to P-12 and post-secondary students, schools, teachers, and parents. She co-authored The Executive Function Guidebook: Strategies to Help ALL Students Achieve Success published by Corwin in 2019 and presents workshops on executive functioning around the country.




Unlocking the Power of Executive Functioning

Focusing on building successful learners, the Institute on Executive Functioning™ offers a host of learning programs and resources. These are available to students in K-post secondary and their teachers, school psychologists, speech-language pathologists, counselors, administrators, social workers, parents, and others. With skills training workshops for service providers, summer camps, and fully involved year-long programs for students, we work to ensure that all students achieve learning, communication, and behavioral success. Contact us today to learn more!

What is Executive Functioning? What is Executive Functioning? Our Services Our Services About Us About Us

Strategy of the Month



IEF is pleased to share a group activity for families or adapted by teachers shared by Ali Holstad….

Family or Class Agreement – This group activity is an opportunity for each family member to communicate and use their voice to express how they need to feel safe in a contextual living environment.

Each family member is given a piece of paper and a pencil to write their perspective of how they need to feel seen, heard, and/or understood through their grief, trauma, uncertainty, fear, etc.

Examples:

1. Respect
Define what that would look like (e.g., Calmly listening while someone shares their feelings. Offering to help when a task needs to be completed.)
2. Gratitude
Define what that would look like (e.g., Saying, “I appreciate you cooking our breakfast.”; “Thank you for giving me space to be quiet when I feel sad.”)
3. Empathy
Define what that would look like (e.g., Show compassion to understand why someone feels the way they do and ask how you can give support. Offer a hug or simply listen.)


1.  Share and discuss each perspective from the Family or Class Agreement. Support cognitive flexibility as the group decides on the top 3-5 priorities.

a.  Be prepared to discuss restorative justice to help support acknowledgement and regulation of behavior that breaks the agreement. Restorative justice provides safety in a supportive circle, as a mediation, in a family conference, etc. 
i.  Together ask, “What caused the distress?”; “What did the distress cause?”; and “What actions can be taken to make things right?”
ii.  The corrective actions model accountability and forgiveness and can inhibit further behaviors that do not benefit the family and self.

2.  Take a large piece of paper or construction paper to write down the priorities. Sign names to show collaboration and commitment.

3.  Decorate it and post in a common place for easy access!

The working agreement is based upon the family meeting and can be modified during family meetings as needed.


Time Needed Strategy for Time Management

With the onset of home instruction, your child’s school day usually starts with logging on to a class collaborative site for roll call.  This roll call is typically followed with a few short activities with the session usually ending with the teachers’ discussing assignments that need to be completed that day. The completed assignments are then submitted online to the teachers at a designated time.  The lack of routine classroom structure, where the teacher manages time and transitions the students from assignment to assignment, is missing leaving the student to manage time on their own in a manner that allows them to complete and submit assignments on time. For many students, time until the work is due sounds like a long time, and they fail to get serious about doing the work until there is insufficient time left.  This causes additional stress for the student and parent. Planning how to use that time wisely is vital. 

“For students to plan for successful, on-time completion of assignments (or of component tasks within assignments) they need to be able estimate and allot sufficient time, which requires having a sense of time and how long it takes them to complete tasks.  A sense of time can be taught in several ways, including helping students understand how to estimate the time needed to complete a task. Begin with explicit instruction in the estimation of time needed to complete a task.  Most students are familiar with the time needed to watch a favorite television show, so they can comprehend how long 30 minutes or one hour is” (p. 110). 

“To help a student with estimating time needed, explain to the student, for instance, that he or she has three short homework assignments, and ask him or her to estimate how long it will take to complete them all. If the student seems unable to predict a length of time, suggest a frame of reference that is familiar, such as 30 minutes (e.g., “the length of one episode of “Sheldon”).  Using that frame of reference, have the student estimate how much time each task will take.  Add two minutes for a transition break between assignments. Then have the student time him/herself with a stopwatch, and record how long each task takes to complete. Add up the actual time it took the student to complete all three tasks plus breaks and review the results with the student. Were the student’s estimates close to the actual time it took to complete the tasks? Have the student continue to estimate the time needed for assignments and periodically review the accuracy of these estimations.  Being able to accurately estimate the time it takes to complete various tasks/assignments will help the student plan for completing tasks both in class and at home.

Example for a 30 minute time period – Grades 2 - 6

Assignment 1—Read a page in the assigned text and summarize the main points.

  • Estimated Time: 5 minutes. 
  • Actual time: 6 minutes.
  • Break: 2 minutes – At the end of each assignment there is a 2-minute break that will be added to the total time of the assignment.
  • Total Time: 8 minutes
  • Time remaining: 22 minutes


Assignment 2
- Complete a page of math problems from notebook.

  • Estimated Time: 10 minutes
  • Actual Time: 12 minutes
  • Break: 2 minutes – At the end of each assignment there is a 2-minute break that will be added to the total time of the assignment.
  • Total Time: 14 minutes
  • Time remaining: 22 – 14 = 8 minutes


Assignment 3
- Complete a one paragraph character sketch

  • Estimated Time Planning: 5 minutes
  • Estimated Time Writing: 5 minutes
  • Actual Time Planning: 5 minutes
  • Actual Time Writing: 6 minutes
  • Total Time: 11 minutes
  • Time Remaining: 8 – 11 = -3 minutes (exceeded time)


In this case, discuss with your student how consistently he or she underestimated the time it would take to answer/respond to the question by a few minutes, and encourage revision of the estimates to come closer to the actual time. Explain that once your student can estimate with accuracy, he or she will be able to schedule in segments so that there will be time to complete all assignments” (pp. 110-111). 

Example for a 90 minute time period – Grades 7 – 12

Assignment 1—English

Section 1: Read Day 3 in The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemmingway and using the text, list the difficulties Santiago encounters.

  • Estimated Time: 30 minutes. 
  • Actual time: 25 minutes. (exceeded time)
  • Break: 5 minutes – At the end of each section of the assignment there is a 5 -minute break that will be added to the total time of the assignment.
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Time remaining: 30 minutes


Section 2: Using the list of difficulties encountered by Santiago, which difficulty, in your opinion, do you feel was the most challenging? Justify your answer with supporting text from the book about Day 3.  Step 1- create an outline of your response.  Step 2 – Write your response.  Step 3 – Proofread and edit your work.  Step 4-- submit your outline and response online by 3 pm today.

Step 1: Write an outline of the most difficult challenge supported by your opinion.

  • Estimated Time: 10 minutes
  • Actual Time: 12 minutes (exceeded time)
  • Time remaining: 90 – 30 (Day 3 reading)  – 12 (outline)  = 48 minutes


Step 2: Write your response noting supporting text from the book while using the information on your outline as a guide.

  • Estimated Writing Time 20 minutes
  • Actual Time Writing: 30 minutes
  • Time remaining: 90 – 30 (Day 3 reading)  – 12 (outline) – 30 (writing) = 18 minutes


Step 3:  Proofread and edit your response.

  • Estimated Proofreading and Editing Time: 10 minutes
  • Actual Proofreading and Editing Time: 8 minutes
  • Time remaining: 90 – 30 (Day 3 reading)  – 12 (outline) – 35 (writing) – 8 (proofreading and editing) = 10 minutes


Step 4:
  Submitting response by 3 pm.

  • Logged onto website for submitting assignment at 2:45 pm. Estimated Submitting time: 2 minutes.
  • Actual Submitting Time: 7 minutes. There was difficulty with the Internet connection.
  • Time remaining: 90 – 30 (Day 3 reading)  – 12 (outline) – 35 (writing) – 8 (proofreading and editing) – 7 (submitting) = 3 minutes remaining


In this case, discuss with your student how consistently he or she underestimated the time it would take to answer/respond to the question by a few minutes, and encourage revision of the estimates to come closer to the actual time. Explain that once your student can estimate with accuracy, he or she will be able to schedule in segments so that there will be time to complete all assignments” (pp. 110-111).  

Take a Breather Strategy

This calming strategy provides a process an elementary or secondary student can follow to calm himself or herself without bringing undue attention to the situation. Often by diverting the student’s attention from the explosive situation to following a process, he or she can get through the situation without saying or doing something regrettable.

The Take a Breather Strategy involves the following sequence of steps:

Breathe deeply.
Rub my fingers together.
Eyes closed and open back up.
Ask myself how I am doing.
Toes moved up and down.
Hum a song silently.
Eyes closed and open back up.
Repeat until you feel calmer.

Taken in part from Strosnider, R. & Sharpe, V. (2019). The executive function guidebook: Strategies to help all students achieve success.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 148-149, 201-202, 286.

The Backward Mapping Strategy

This is a planning strategy that can be tailored to the needs of the student. It is important to reinforce each step until your student has success with the method. First, teach the student the process of task analysis. Then, have the student analyze the assignment or project and divide the tasks into phases. The next step is to estimate how much time each phase will take to complete. Students tend to underestimate the amount of needed time, so this step should be monitored. Using a calendar, have the student circle the due date of the project. From the due date, have the student work backwards filling in the task phases. Be sure to have the student include a phase, few days before the due date, that provides time for checking his or her work and making the necessary revisions.

Calendar

Directions for Student…

  • Mark the assignment or project due date on a calendar.
  • Learn how to task analyze the parts needed to be completed for the assignment or project.
  • Task analyze the assignment or project and list the parts to be completed.
  • Estimate how much time it will take to complete each part.
  • Starting at the due date you wrote on the calendar, work backwards and determine the completion dates for each part of the assignment. Record these dates on the calendar.
  • Remember to leave time for checking your work and making any needed changes.
  • Hand in the assignment on the due date.

The Memory Walk Strategy

The Memory Walk is a working memory strategy that can be used with all ages. It is highly engaging, quick to teach and encourages group participation and collaboration. The purpose of the strategy is to draw attention to auditory and visual cues and movement to enhance storing of information and to point out the students’ ability to retrieve information gained on the walk.  There are a few steps to follow when teaching this strategy…

  1. It is important to set the stage with your students in order to prepare them for the purpose of the strategy and how it works. State to the participants that they are going to be taking a walk to look at and here information about specific items. The goal of the Memory Walk is to be able to recall information about what they have seen and heard.   During the Memory Walk, cue the participants or use trigger words to help reinforce what they see or hear. For example, while passing a notable item you might say, “This is something you need to remember.”
  2. At the conclusion of the Memory Walk, return to the site where the participants were stationed prior to the onset of the walk.
  3. Once seated, provide time for the participants to individually and silently process what they have seen and heard on the walk.
  4. Start the Memory Walk review by asking, “What did you see or hear first?” As the participants respond, briefly list and discuss their responses by encouraging an elaboration of detailed information.
  5. Continue Step 4 until all items on the Memory Walk have been discussed. Then, open the conversation to add other items seen or heard by the participants that were not focused on during the walk. Have the participants elaborate on these ending with a quick review of what they saw and heard.
Memory Walk Memory Walk with teachers, social workers, psychologists and speech language pathologists. Hilo, Hawaii

Helpful Tools

Helpful Tools

Mood Meter

A mood meter helps us to raise awareness of words we use to describe our feelings. The mood meter can improve our self-awareness and social awareness to practice regulating our emotions.
**The mood meter has 4 quadrants of color for different emotions:
Red
represents anger, fear, frustration, etc.
Blue represents sadness, loneliness, depression, etc.
Yellow represents happiness, excitement, motivation, etc.
Green represents gratitude, peace, relaxation, etc.

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Individually or as a family, you can:

  1. Create a mood meter in the shape of a thermometer. Attach a sliding bar with an open gap that shows an emotion on the right side of the thermometer and a task that keeps or changes the emotion on the left side of the thermometer. Just as a temperature can rise and fall, emotions can go up and down. Emotions and feelings can change frequently, and they are all valid.
  2. Design an interactive quadrant of colored paper. Initiate by taping or writing the emotions that are felt at any moment and focus on how to include solutions to change or keep a feeling.
  3. Use a dictionary or thesaurus to find synonyms and antonyms to expand emotion literacy.
  4. Have family discussions to communicate and/or practice self-talk (metacognition) about the emotions reflected on the mood meter: How do I feel today? What is happening for me to feel this way? How am I choosing to express how I feel? If I like how I feel, what can I do to feel more of the same? If I do not like how I feel, what can I do to change and feel different?
  5. Create types of quadrant containers to hold different ideas and choices for how to keep or change a feeling.do not like how I feel, what can I do to change and feel different?

**This tool is designed by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence http://ei.yale.edu/mood-meter-overview/. Google Images shows different ways to create your own RULER mood meter!
Marc Brackett is the lead developer of RULER, which frames the Mood Meter http://ei.yale.edu/person/marc-brackett-ph-d/
Marc Brackett’s blog: https://www.marcbrackett.com/the-emotion-scientist-blog
RULER at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence: http://ei.yale.edu/ruler/ruler-overview/

Clock

Time Timer Clocks
(https://www.timetimer.com/)

This tool provides a visual representation of elapsed time, enabling any age student to better understand what stated time allocations mean. Students are able to see how much time has passed and how much time remains when planning and completing a task.

These clocks come in a variety of sizes from 4” to 12” squares and are also available in watches and apps now.  The time timer clocks are versatile in use and can be used by the whole class, small groups, or individuals.  The original clocks have foldable feet for free-standing and magnets for attaching them to the whiteboard.  They do not have sound as time is elapsing, and the sound at the end can be turned off when not needed.

These clocks are an excellent tool for managing time, increasing task focus, and determining time allotments when scheduling assignments and tasks.

The White Board for Use at Home

The white board is an inexpensive tool that allows your child to manage their time when planning for and completing assignments. Your child can use a dry erase marker to write designated times for the completion and checking of daily assignments. At the top of the day’s noted timeframes for completion of assignments, your child should record the time the assignment needs to be submitted.

As your child completes an assignment, he or she may place a check mark next to that assignment. When submitting assignments online to the teachers, your child can use the days’ time management white board list as a visual reminder of the assignments completed that day. This serves as a reminder to your child to be sure to submit all assignments for that day.

Using the White Board for Elementary Students

Using the White Board for Elementary Students

Using the White Board for Secondary Students

Using the White Board for Secondary Students

iPhone iPad Camera Scan Tool

This iPhone and iPad camera can be a helpful tool for children experiencing executive function deficits… to help your child remember the directions or steps needed to complete a task (working memory, sequencing, focusing, initiating), simply take a picture of the directions/steps and place the iPhone/iPad photo as a visual reminder.

1.    The camera can also be used as a scanner. This is a resourceful backup if your child frequently forgets to turn in assignments or loses assignments. Your child can simply submit the scanned assignment. Also, work can be scanned to your child’s teacher. There are 3 simple steps to follow so that the camera can be used as a scanner:

  • Use the NOTES App.

Notes

  • Open the Notes app to a new note. Next, press the Camera button.

Camera Button

  • The Scan option will pop up. Just press this option.

Scan


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