The executive functions are a set of processes relating to how people manage themselves and their resources in order to achieve a goal. Executive functions represent a variety of skills — from organization and time management to flexibility and perseverance — that are needed to overcome obstacles and make good choices. As adults, executive function skills are in everything that we do. We use them when we plan out a long-term project, when we organize our materials, and when we don’t interrupt someone. Let’s take a look at how you can support them in the classroom this year.

3 Ideas for Incorporating Executive Function Skills in Your Lessons

There are many opportunities for teachers to foster these skills in their students. Here are some ways executive function can show up in your daily teaching practice for students of all ages:

  • Incorporate it into morning and afternoon routines. By allowing a few extra minutes in the morning or afternoon to model routine for students, you can help students develop many skills such as sequencing, problem solving, prioritizing, time management, and organization. This is something that can easily transfer to everyday activities as children are practicing skills in their natural environment. It’s also a good time to recognize students who may need extra help with executive function skills and may benefit from visuals, timers, and further supports. 
  • Incorporate it into larger projects. Projects — from simple craft projects to long-term projects — are another way to help students flex these skills. Teachers can model how they set the long- term and short-term goals that they want to achieve, set a plan to complete the goals, gather materials, and complete the project. Consider showing students a completed project and asking them what they feel they’ll need to complete it. Once materials are gathered, discuss each step of the project. When students are working on the project, discuss how they can prioritize steps, and use this time to talk about the importance of time management. 
  • Incorporate it into daily work. In the classroom, teachers can also incorporate teaching executive function components by reminding students of steps they need to take to complete their everyday work such as 1) setting a goal 2) gathering materials 3) starting the plan 4) checking in on my goals.

Resources for Teaching and Practicing Executive Function Skills with Your Students

To discover more strategies you can use to support executive function this year, check out this infographic or browse the suggested resources below for explicitly teaching executive function skills.

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

The Teacher-Author indicated this resource includes assets from Google Workspace (e.g. docs, slides, etc.).

Executive Functioning Skills Lessons & Activities – Digital & Print by Pathway 2 Success
Grades 5-8

Flexible Thinking Dealing with Change for Middle and High School by Success in Special Ed
Grades 7-10

“Executive Functioning” 15 worksheets grades 6-9- Google Slides version included by School Counseling Essentials
Grades 6-12