Giving children a boost in their EF skills may initiate a cascade of positive events, making it easier to learn, increasing class engagement and motivation, decreasing the likelihood of disruptive behavior, and improving relationships with teachers and other children. Below is a description of best practice guidelines when implementing intervention activities to your daily classroom instruction.
General Guidelines for Intervention Activities
- Practice, Practice, Practice!
Skills require practice – lots of practice – and they need to be maintained. We recommend 15 minutes per day or approximately two activities. Repeat activities as long as children are enjoying them and are moderately challenged by them.
- Mix it Up
Lessons are most likely to “stick” and transfer to other skills if you vary the activities and try them at different times of the day. Adjusting the location also helps children transfer their learning. Activities can be done in small groups of 3 – 5 children or as whole classroom groups.
- Help “just enough”
In general, you can continually challenge children’s Executive Function skills by providing them with age-appropriate support during problem-solving, like nudging the correct piece of a puzzle into a young child’s view so that the child can “discover” it herself. This type of support (just enough, not too much) helps keep children exercising their Executive Function skills — it keeps them appropriately challenged and it keeps them motivated to solve problems in the future. Children develop their Executive Function skills by using them.
At the end of each activity, there is suggested reflective talk. Take a moment to talk with children about what they noticed about the activity — what was difficult; what strategies they came up with to be successful; what could they try next time. This reflection will help with Executive Function development. It is also possible that these games are challenging for you, too! Model reflection by sharing how it felt for you.
- Involve the Family
Children will be excited to share new games with friends, siblings, and parents. Include your strategy of working on Executive Function skills in newsletters and parent nights so they can help reinforce these developing skills at home.