What IS executive function (EF)? It is a set of mental skills and processes that we use to navigate life. These include organization, working memory, self-monitoring, flexibility, and others.
Last year I started consulting with a high schooler, Maria, to address her EF weaknesses in organization. Maria would forget to copy homework assignments. Or she would complete homework but forget to turn it in Her binder was a disastrous compilation of all things paper. She had many 0’s and Incompletes which dragged down her grades. Here’s summary of a system that has been highly effective for her, tapping into her desire for success at school.
First, each subject has its own binder. Her school only requires a single binder, which creates far too much leeway for chaos. Within each binder are the tools of the trade (pencils, pens, etc.) along with 5 dividers:
The most important section is “assignments,” which covers every day of the school year. Here’s a sample page:
Now she sees her future and past! It is easier for her to get parental support of larger projects because these can be scheduled in manageable chunks. Maria is also happy to see holidays ahead!
Other steps to success with this system: We role-played entering the room and flipping the cover sheet for each subject. We also practiced filing materials correctly. She needs access to a hole punch so there aren’t any loose sheets. Her math binder includes graph paper along with extra notebook paper. Maria is a smart kid but her EF organization is really weak. This effort levels the playing field for her.