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Executive Functioning Skills

This month our school-wide Social-Emotional Learning focus is on Executive Functioning Skills.   Executive functioning skills refer to cognitive processes that help us all to plan, pay attention, focus, regulate our emotions, and complete tasks.  Our activities – both structured and unstructured play – offer a wide variety of opportunities to practice and celebrate these important skills.
Bixby teachers incorporate Executive Functioning Skills into our curriculum to create
  • Self-regulation – managing strong emotions and inhibiting impulsive behaviors
  • Attention – sustaining focus, especially for multi-part tasks
  • Task Initiation – starting a non-preferred task
  • Organization – maintaining materials at home and in school
  • Planning – mapping out multi-step tasks such as longer-term class projects

These skills may seem relatively minor, but they are extremely important as a child matures, playing a role in shaping students’ achievements and can have long-term effects on a student’s success and self-confidence as a learner.

This article offers some more information about the importance of executive functioning skills and some of the ways that families can help children practice them at home:



“Executive Functioning Skills like self-regulation, attention, and working memory are all skills that Kindergarteners typically enter the school year with and continue to develop. These skills are especially important for Kindergarteners as many enter a school environment for the first time, meet new students, and participate in many new activities. Being able to hear the word “no” and not having an outburst can be challenging for many people. But being flexible, finding a new activity to do, and managing those big emotions are all signs of great executive functioning skills that we continue to strengthen in the classroom.”


Self-regulation is the process that children go through that allows them to control their emotions when responding to different situations throughout the day. 

In Preschool, we help students to self-regulate in a variety of ways. 

-When students are struggling, we often acknowledge it and prompt them to talk about how they are feeling. For example, “Sometimes it feels hard to wait. What can we do while we are waiting?” Or, “You seem really mad right now. Let’s talk about why you are so mad.” When we take time to empathize, children feel understood and heard, which helps them recognize and regulate their emotions. 

-We play games that bring awareness to using our bodies in a controlled manner. Some of these games include the freeze game, Simon says, freeze dance, Ispy, red light green light, head shoulders knees and toes, and similar.

-Reading picture books such as, “Waiting Is Not Easy”, “No, David”, “When Sophie Gets Angry-Really Really Angry”, and “When I Feel Angry”. Books offer a great introduction to introduce and discuss different emotions and self-regulation skills.

-Teachers show children what self-regulating looks like by modeling calmness in a variety of different daily situations.

5th Grade Literacy

“In 5th grade literacy students are often using planning strategies to map out their thinking before beginning written assignments. Students might use the web, talk with a partner, or make a list of topics/events to plan out what may go in their writing. This not only helps them get started on their writing more quickly but helps them keep their work organized. Each offshoot of the web might become a paragraph, or the list could help them keep events in order. Writing is a complex, multi-step process and any proactive planning can help keep thoughts organized and make sure students are on track to complete assignments to the best of their abilities. When writing is finished, students use rubrics or checklists to review their work before submitting it. Rubrics and checklists can help students make sure they completed all expected aspects of the assignment. This can be simple things, like including a proper heading with name, date, and class, or more in-depth requirements like each statement is supported with details or facts. When expectations are clear, students are more successful. And through the process of using planning tools, rubrics and checklists, they learn the tools that can help them do their best work.”

1st Grade Social Studies

“We’ve been doing a team-building unit in social studies. We’re really working on dynamics and what it looks like to be a leader. How to work together to reach a common goal. The tasks typically have students in different roles and cannot be achieved unless they work together. One of the favorites is a game called The Great Builder. One person is the great builder and the rest are architects. Each group has the same materials. Behind a wall, I build a structure using the materials. The architects can look at the structure and relay directions to the great builder. Only the great builder can touch the materials. Students have to work together to get the structure perfect, an exact replica of the original.”

“We are coming up on a social studies simulation where students will weigh pros and cons, debate different options, and reach decisions as a group. To prepare for this, we will be practicing important self-regulation skills like disagreeing with friends respectfully, compromising, and reacting appropriately when the group decision does or doesn’t align with your personal opinion.”