September 16, 2016

The value of “previewing” to support executive function

In several popular Tips of the Week, our expert staff recommend “reflecting and projecting” during vacation periods, like winter and summer breaks. Spending some time to reflect on past progress is intuitively useful: it helps students acknowledge what went right and wrong, then develop strong plans for their future learning. Looking ahead, or “previewing,” has similar value and application, but can be used in many more creative ways. Previewing, which means to “comment on or appraise a forthcoming event in advance” aids students with executive functioning skills like planning, time-management, working memory, flexibility, task initiation, self-monitoring, and organization of ideas and materials.

Preview Readings to Make Active Interpretations: One of the most frequent complaints we hear at EM is that reading for school “takes too long,” especially when active note-taking or reading responses are required. Previewing can be used to increase efficiency throughout the reading process and to improve the accuracy of the working memory as it processes new content. To preview a reading, your child can look ahead at chapter titles, headings, diagrams, graphs, and features. Before she gets started, she can read review questions she may need to answer. Knowing what to expect, and what key points to look for along the way, aids with reading speed and retention of content.

EF Skills this strategy supports: Time-Management and Working Memory

Preview Upcoming Plans to Prepare Thoughtfully: For many students with EF weaknesses, transitioning from one task to the next, with flexibility and ease, can be a challenge. Previewing can be used to peek ahead at upcoming tasks and begin preparing for a transition to the next step. When students know what to expect, they can develop a “Plan A” and a “Plan B,” just in case. Then, with tangible support systems and backup options, they are better able to transition and continue taking steps toward their foreseen destination.

EF Skills this strategy supports: Flexibility and Transitions

Preview Assignment Criteria to Put Challenges in Perspective: In today’s busy schools, students often feel overwhelmed by mounting responsibilities and may resort to avoidance to minimize stress. Previewing can help students put their responsibilities in perspective; they may even realize their assignments aren’t so difficult! Getting acquainted with upcoming work, and taking the time to develop a plan to complete it, helps students beat procrastination and get started on new projects.

EF Skills this strategy supports: Task Initiation and Planning

Preview Upcoming Courses and Get Organized Early: Now that the school year is underway, students have a better sense of what’s expected and what kinds of tools they’ll need to succeed. Students can look ahead at the semester and decide what supplies to purchase and set-up including binders, folders, notebooks, flashcards, etc. Previewing and preparing physically can help students to organize their schoolwork, ideas, and more as they make their way through the first semester.

EF Skills this strategy supports: Physical and Mental Organization

Preview Goals to Track Progress: To be able to self-monitor, students must be able to track and regulate their own behavior in pursuit of a goal. Previewing can make it easier to envision the goal, then break down the necessary steps to reach that goal. Once the steps are clear, self-monitoring becomes simpler; your child can reference her goals and plans to determine whether or not she is still on track. Then, with a sense of perspective and confidence, she can determine her next moves and accommodate any changes along the way.

EF Skills this strategy supports: Self-Monitoring

Previewing has a wide range of applications and serves nearly all executive functioning categories. Practice previewing with your child this fall and help them get a headstart on the semester.