Each day, we rely on our brains to perform the tasks necessary to thinking, acting and solving problems—known collectively as executive function (EF). These brain functions help us manage our attention, emotions and behavior in pursuit of our goals. Adele Diamond, a pioneer in the study of EF, believes it has a strong influence on school success. Students with weak executive functions struggle with planning, organization and following through with goals.

EF is comprised of four competencies that help students manage behavior and solve problems:

Sustained Attention: focusing, sustaining or shifting attention to tasks at hand

  • Improve students’ focus by breaking down activities into smaller tasks and showing students how to use a variety of organizational approaches.

Working Memory: recalling and applying information gained from previous experiences to current learning

  • Use memory strategies, such as acrostics, to help students remember important facts and concepts.

Cognitive Flexibility: switching easily between different concepts and rules

  • Riddles, jokes and games with changing rules help students practice thinking flexibly.

Inhibitory Control: monitoring behavior, avoiding distractions and resisting impulses

  • Play games such as Simon Says to help students exercise restraint and delay gratification.

For more information, check out Edutopia's Three Brain-Based Teaching Strategies to Build Executive Function in Students.