As a therapist (and parent), probably one of the most difficult lessons I had to learn was to stop telling my students what to do. We all know that it’s easier to give orders than to let kids figure things out on their own. A typical session might include directions like this: “Marcus, get your scissors and pencils and then grab your notebook. We have 5 minutes until it’s time to go back to class.”
So, why is this a problem?
Unfortunately the result of constantly giving directions is that kids become cue dependent, relying on adults to solve problems and organize situations.
I realize that our students need to learn to follow directions, but they also need to take some ownership of their organization skills. Working executive function skills into therapy sessions can be simple if we learn to change our approach.
Here’s what I’ve been trying:
My new approach is to direct less and question more. Using questions like “What’s your plan?” lends itself to almost any situation. “What’s your plan for winter break?” “What’s your plan for building your tower?” “What’s your plan for studying for your math test?” Asking these type of questions help students develop a sense of time, especially what Sarah Ward calls future self.
There are many variations on this type of questioning, such as “What do you need to ….?” or “How should you….?” The purpose of asking organization questions is to help students build a visual checklist of what needs to be done and how to do it. By asking instead of directing, students are required to do some of the planning and are engaged in what they are doing.
Of course, be prepared for lots of shrugs accompanied by “I don’t know”s. With time and patience, this approach will help to develop executive function skills that will benefit your students throughout their lifetime!
Want to learn another simple executive function technique? Click HERE to check out my post that explains another quick critical thinking strategy.