In order for students to adjust to change this coming school year, they’ll need strong executive function skills. But what are executive function skills, and how can you support them, even amid uncertainty this school year?

What Is Executive Function?

Executive function is the set of cognitive processes that give students the ability to self-manage and self-regulate. These skills give students the ability to plan, time manage, focus their attention, regulate their emotions, and more. All of these skills are central to a student’s ability to succeed in the classroom, making executive function skills incredibly important to teach and support.

Why Is Supporting Executive Function So Important This Back-to-School Season?

The stress and potential trauma students may be experiencing due to the pandemic can take a toll on their executive function skills. Brittany from Success in Special Education explains: “Stress and trauma can affect students of all ages in a variety of ways. If a student feels anxious, depressed or overwhelmed, this can impact their ability to focus on content, participate in the classroom, or engage with others.” For example, students may struggle with calling out in class, keeping their attention on video lessons, managing their time outside the structure of a regular school day, or starting and finishing assignments.

Thankfully, executive function skills can be supported and taught, and giving these skills the attention they need can lead to a more productive year overall. To discover strategies you can use to support executive function this year, check out the infographic below and browse the suggested resources for explicitly teaching executive function skills.

Resources for Teaching and Practicing Executive Functioning Skills with Your Students

Mrs. Gorski I Think I Have The Wiggle Fidgets Lesson Plan Worksheets Barb Esham 
By The Fancy Counselor
Grades PreK-6

SELF-CONTROL Lesson to Build the Executive Functioning Skill of Impulse Control
by WholeHearted School Counseling
Grades 2-5

Executive Functioning Lessons – Distance Learning and Google Classroom
By Pathway 2 Success
Grades 5-8

Flexible Thinking Dealing with Change Middle and High School Distance Learning
By Success in Special Ed
Grades 7-10

“Executive Functioning” Workbook for Teens in Middle and High School
By School Counseling Essentials
Grades 6-12


Confidently navigate the 2020-21 school year with expert Teacher-Author and educator advice in TpT’s Back to School 2020 Guide: For Teachers Creating Tomorrow.