September 12, 2023

Executive Function Skills for Back-to-School

By Emma Michiels, EF Coach

With the school year just ramping up, it’s essential to equip your student with effective executive functioning strategies to ensure a smooth and successful transition back to the classroom. Executive functioning skills, which encompass a range of cognitive processes like planning, organizing, time management, and emotional self-regulation, play a pivotal role in academic achievement and overall well-being. Here are some key strategies to help your child start the school year on the right footing.

Back-to-School Executive Function Skills

Set clear goals: Begin by fostering a conversation to outline your students academic and personal goals for the upcoming school term. Whether it’s achieving a specific GPA, completing assignments ahead of time, or actively participating in class discussions, having well-defined objectives provides a sense of purpose and direction.

Create a detailed schedule: Map out a weekly schedule that allocates specific time blocks for classes, study sessions, extracurricular activities, and relaxation. Make sure your student is involved in mapping out said schedule to help ensure ownership over the weekly routine from day 1. Also, be sure to post this schedule somewhere highly accessible, such as a bulletin board above the student’s workspace or on the kitchen fridge. 

Set up the workspace: Speaking of the home workspace, help your student identify an effective place to work in the home. What do they need to be successful? Good lighting? School supplies handy? A quiet nook away from their phone and gaming systems? Sometimes it’s helpful to look at pictures online of student desks and home workspaces to help them flesh out a vision. From there, work backwards to list specific actions they can take to realize their vision.

Set up the digital workspace: Help your student get organized digitally with folders for each class and extracurricular. Spend time decluttering the desktop and email inbox in in order to start fresh this school year. Consider creating a digital “filing cabinet” to house old materials from last year. These simple actions can help your student feel organized going into the new year; Just remember that you also need to help your student schedule a weekly time to maintain this level of organization so it doesn’t simply fall by the wayside!

Do a portal orientation: Most teachers use online portals or websites to both assign and turn in work, as well as to share grades. Check in with your student on the portals/sites used in each class. Can these be bookmarked for easy access? Do passwords need to be recorded somewhere? And does your student feel comfortable navigating the sites provided? If your student either can’t successfully access or navigate his/her required portals, they will be far less likely to complete assignments on time.

Identify supports: Help your student create a contact list for reaching both teachers and responsible classmates from each one of their classes. That way, when questions arise down the road, students will already have the contact information they need on hand to help them problem-solve, ask for extensions, share about upcoming absences, etc.

Returning to school involves more than just attending classes; it requires a proactive approach to executive functioning. By implementing these strategies, students will be better equipped to manage their time, tasks, and responsibilities, setting the stage for a successful academic journey. Remember, mastering executive functioning skills is a continuous process, and with practice, students can cultivate habits that will serve them well not only in their academic pursuits but throughout their life.