SPiCE Skillbuilding Scoop: Organization, Prioritization, Flexibility, Working Memory, Self-Monitoring, OH MY!

Summary by: Erin Russell, CCC-SLP                                                            

Those are intimidating words that define the five major areas of executive function. Children are supposed to develop these skills throughout their academic career, starting in their Preschool years!  These skills are largely linked to academic confidence and success in our 21st-century learners. Below, I will provide quick tips on how you can help your child strengthen their executive functioning skills in the home environment.  All of my information comes from an e-book titled, Executive Function 101, in which I will cite at the end of the article with its link (it’s a free recommended must read). 


First of all it’s important to remember:

  • Executive skills develop gradually and at different rates for different people. 
  • Progress in executive functioning is developmental and varies from child to child.
  • Some kids will, through maturation, good teaching and trial and error, independently figure out ways to overcome or compensate for their executive skills weaknesses.  Other kids will need extra support to develop or compensate for such deficits. The good news is that you can help your children recognize, improve and work around their areas of executive dysfunction.
  • Parents, in partnership with schools, can be enormously helpful in the improvement of children’s executive skills.  Because each child is on a slightly different developmental path and has a unique executive function profile, you’ll need to work with your child’s teacher to personalize strategies that will best address your child’s needs.


How can I help my child with these Executive Functions at home? 

Organizing Time

  • Use a family calendar to record important commitments.  
  • Hold weekly family meetings to help coordinate everyone’s schedules, so that you model good planning strategies.


Organizing Tasks

  • Teach your child how to break complex tasks into manageable chunks for long term assignments.
  • Talk about time estimates for each task.
  • Help kids make lists of homework assignments or chores and practice checking tasks off a list when they are completed.


Organizing Materials

  • Create an organized workspace in the home.
  • Keep reference materials, including calculators, dictionaries and atlases near their homework space.
  • Identify a regular time during the week for clearing out and organizing their backpack.


Prioritizing Tasks

  • Help kids prioritize homework tasks based on due dates or difficulty level.
  • Encourage them to list the steps needed to complete long-term projects.
  • Help them sequence tasks logically.


Prioritizing Materials

  • Teach kids to review homework and gather materials before starting their work.
  • Store the most commonly used items within easy reach in accessible locations.


Flexibility (Shifting)

  • Do activities that involve multiple-meaning words, word categories and number puzzles.
  • Discuss jokes, riddles, puns (read comic strips together).
  • If your kids come across words or sentences they don’t understand, encourage them to stop reading and ask questions about the meaning.
  • Use tools such as graphic organizers.
  • Explore how they study: learn mnemonics, songs and visualizations to aid in their learning.


Working Memory

  • Break up or chunk information
  • Use your child’s strengths to help them learn and retain information (i.e. using Legos to help learn math concepts).
  • Talk about what works to help the child develop self-awareness.
  • Discourage multitasking, do one activity and then stop and shift to the next and maybe come back to the first and so on. 


Self-Monitoring (Self-Checking)

  • Encourage self-talk and thinking out loud!
  • Encourage your child to read single sentences or small chunks of text and then check for understanding.
  • Discuss the text with your child to make sure they are picking up on the Characters, Themes and Details.
  • Suggest that they use different colored pens when shifting from the writer to the editor.
  • Encourage them to check sentence structure and grammar by reading aloud.
  • Encourage them to give finished homework a “once over” to learn the habit of self-checking.
  • Keep a clock nearby so they can monitor the time spent on each assignment.


Works Cited


National Center for Learning Disabilities (2013).  Executive Function 101: First Edition. Retrieved from https://www.chconline.org/resourcelibrary/executive-function-101-e-book-downloadable


Meltzer, L.J. (2010) Promoting Executive Function in the Classroom.  New York: Guilford Press.


Meltzer, L.J. (Ed). (2007). Executive Function in Education: From theory to practice. New York: Guilford Press.