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5 factors that impact school success Understanding executive functions

Although “executive functions” may sound like a term from the business world, it’s actually used to describe the tasks our brains perform to plan, remember, solve problems and stay organized.

“Executive functions are the skills that come together to help us achieve a goal, whether it’s completing a homework assignment or studying for a test,” said Geoffrey Putt, PsyD, director of parenting and family support services at Akron Children’s Hospital. “They can include remembering to turn in an assignment, taking thorough notes or practicing good time management.”

Executive functions are also skills that can be taught, so kids who might be disorganized or forgetful can still achieve academic success.

Impulse Control

The lack of impulse control is often one of the first areas where parents notice problems.

A school-age child who’s impulsive may have trouble waiting her turn or for the teacher to call on her before blurting out the answer. When confronted about misbehaving by a parent, the child may become defensive and make up a lie, instead of thinking through the consequences of being dishonest.

You can help your children exercise impulse control by using these opportunities to get them to stop and think before they act or respond.

Organization

By the time your child reaches middle school, the need for good organizational skills often becomes apparent, especially as students move to different classrooms throughout the day or share lockers.

Whatever system your child uses to keep track of schoolwork, if it’s something he has helped choose, there’s a better chance it will be effective.

Dr. Putt recommends having a quick family meeting at breakfast to outline the day, so your child can think through everything she’ll need. A chart or checklist can also help.

Memory

Kids with poor executive functioning are likely to forget items they need to get through the day, whether it’s their lunch money, gym clothes or an overdue library book.

Have a designated place for everything your child will need for a typical school day. Cubbies, bins or hooks by the door can keep track of important items, so they’re less likely to be forgotten.

“Checklists, Post-it notes and other visual prompts can serve as great reminders, while freeing your mind for other tasks,” Dr. Putt said.

Note Taking

There are several strategies children can use to take good notes, starting with listening for key points, rather than trying to write everything down. Writing down important information can also serve as a memory aid and help students perform better on tests.

Headings and bullet points can help organize notes, while abbreviations make it easier to capture the information quickly.

The Cornell method of note taking  includes a designated area for writing down keywords and questions, as well as brief summaries. Another strategy, concept mapping, uses visuals to link ideas.

Staying Focused

Staying focused on the task at hand is important, especially during study time. Designate a specific place for homework that’s free from clutter and away from the TV and other distractions.

Give your child a 30-minute break immediately after school to have a snack or play outside before starting homework. (Don’t let your child watch TV or play video games because it will be difficult to break away.)

Provide a 2- to 3-minute break every 15 to 20 minutes to keep your child going. This can be a time to get a drink, use the bathroom or empty his backpack. If a break lasts too long, it’ll be hard to get back to studying.

  • TutoringMatch

    Good organizational skills are important while both in and out of school. While in school, students need to learn how to organize their classwork and keep detailed notes. However these skills need to spill over into their home life so that they can keep track of their assignments and manage their time to successfully complete their homework for the next day.