This is a whistle-stop – if you’re interested to do your own research, check out this booklist, or see the research links at the end of the blog.Continue reading
Executive function difficulties can be a feature of neuro-developmental conditions. This makes so much of what happens at school or in learning situations more challenging than it should be. The good news is that there are plenty of small accommodations and adjustments that can make day-to-day learning easier.Continue reading
Working memory (WM) is one of the cognitive executive functions (EF). WM and EF difficulties in general are factors in many neuro-developmental conditions. This makes so much of what happens at work, university, school or indeed many everyday situations more challenging than it needs to be. The good news is that there are plenty of small accommodations and adjustments that can make day-to-day learning and life easier. Continue reading
Often, the first time parents hear the term Working Memory (WM) is when their child undergoes assessment for learning difficulties. Teachers generally understand that a student’s WM dictates the relative ease or difficulty with which they ‘hold’ information for short periods of time, say to follow classroom instructions, write and spell accurately or complete a mathematical calculation. But there’s more to working memory. Continue reading
Teachers and parents will express their confusion at a learner’s behaviour, particularly if they do not always display the maturity or organisational skills of peers in their age group.Continue reading
Working memory difficulties are a feature of neurodevelopmental conditions. This makes so much of what happens at school or in learning situations more challenging than it should be. The good news is that there are plenty of small accommodations and adjustments that can make day-to-day learning easier. Continue reading
A few ideas to make homework easier for everyone. Continue reading
Much can be learnt organically through play and in the informal routines of school and family life, but sometimes we have to work at it. Here are a few ideas to make the process easier. Continue reading
For certain students, traditional teaching methods are not always sufficient, and sometimes not appropriate, no matter how sensitively planned and delivered. Continue reading
A few ideas to make the most of visual prompts – can be adapted for home, too. Continue reading
This is one for teachers to put into practice and share with colleagues, and for parents to share with teachers and adapt to use at home. There are many small adjustments and adaptations that require minimal effort from an adult, but can make the world of different to a child. Continue reading
Anyone who has visited a mainstream primary school classroom cannot have failed to notice the plethora of displays decorating the walls.Continue reading
Where learners’ EF (Executive Function) is underdeveloped and/or working memory is overloaded, mathematics can pose real challenges that go beyond understanding numbers or carrying our calculations. It’s common for EF to impact maths, not least because of the importance of sequencing, and EF difficulties can co-occur with dyscalculia as with dyslexia. Although EF techniques may also help students with dyscalculia, it will take longer and it is unlikely to be enough. (I will write more on this important and under-resourced need another time)
EF-supportive techniques should, on the other hand, show benefits in the short to medium term for students whose maths difficulty is a result of their EF weakness, rather than a co-occurrence. Such students may have a sound grasp of number concepts and straightforward calculations, and might be able to work well orally, or maybe complete a whole page of the same type of sum or calculation à la Kumon. Their difficulties tend to manifest when they are faced with problems involving more than one type of mathematical operation (+, -, x, ÷), or multiple steps, or written in words, or a combination of these. Unfortunately, by the time children are only 7 years old they are most likely already encountering such mathematical challenges both in the classroom and at home.
Bear in mind that the brain’s executive functions, which among other things enable the processing of instructions, are still very much in the developmental stages while students are at primary (elementary) school. At home, in nursery and pre-school, children learn to follow simple commands, consisting of words and gestures. Gradually they begin to interpret more complex instructions, with perhaps two or three steps, sometimes reading cues such as facial expressions. EF weaknesses can mean that these skills are underdeveloped and it is likely that the demands of a written comprehension task or multiple step maths problem will be exhausting, frustrating and demoralising.
As with many recommendations to support learning needs, they may seem obvious once written down, but they are often forgotten. When implemented these are strategies that can benefit all learners. If these strategies are well embedded in your classroom or homework routines, they will promote independence in learners who are ready, and leave you more time to focus on those who still need help.
Three strategies I have found worked really well both in the whole class setting and 1:1 are:
Sometimes a learner’s natural number skills are so strong that their EF difficulties don’t cause any noticeable trouble in the subject until high school, external examinations or even beyond. Taking things back to basics can help here, too – provided the educator’s skill-set combines the the requisite technical subject expertise with pedagogical knowledge to underpin where necessary.
Kaufman, C. (2010) Executive Function in the Classroom – Practical Strategies for Improving Performance and Enhancing Skills for All Students. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
Meltzer, L. (ed.) (2007) Executive Function in Education: From theory to practice. New York, NY: The Guilford Press
Routines can be enormously helpful for anyone. Continue reading
Last month I began a series of posts about executive function (EF) and how it can affect students’ learning, starting with an introduction and following with thoughts on classroom and homework situations. It’s time to look at some of the strategies already touched on in a bit more detail.
Executive functions (Explained in more detail here: EF – an introduction) develop from early childhood and are seen as key predictors of academic outcome and life chances in the modern world. I discussed how EF difficulties might present or be supported in the classroom in EF and Learning – Classroom Survival.
Some students with underdeveloped EF find the demands of school overwhelming from the very start, whereas for others, classroom routines, resources and support can be a benefit. In both cases, homework is likely to pose a challenge, particularly as they grow older, since such independent tasks place significant burden on EF.
When a child or young person has underdeveloped EF they
Sometimes classroom teachers or students’ parents express their frustration at the time or effort it seems to take a learner to complete a task the adult feels should be within their reach. When that happens, I ask them to try this activity, which was once demonstrated to me by an OT. Try it for yourself: Continue reading
Executive function (EF) difficulties commonly co-occur with other learning differences and specific learning difficulties, and they can pose life-long challenges. It’s important for those affected, their families, educators and employers to understand how EF impacts everyday functioning and what can be done to support this. Continue reading