Today we talk on #LDCHAT with Understood.org about what you can do to help the children in your classrooms and homes improve their executive function skills. As an educator, I often think about how parents and teachers can extend the learning experiences, we have in our 1:1 and small group sessions, to home and school.
It strikes me that learning how to better develop and utilize our cognitive skills is a 12-hour a day job. The work extends beyond the clinical or educational 20-50 minutes we enjoy with our students 2-3 times per week. Therefore, parents and teachers are important allies in helping children improve their cognitive skills in everyday life.
We invite parents and teachers into our sessions so that they can see how we apply research on simultaneous processing, sequential processing, attention, inhibition, and memory to learning and behavior. I thought it might be helpful to you if I shared some of the initial educational messaging we provide parents and teachers to enhance their efficacy and participation.
5 Key Concepts We Introduce To Parents and Teachers
1. Executive functions are cognitive skills and cognitive skills can be learned. Executive Functions are processes in our brains that help us to function in everyday life. These functions are moderated by chemical and electrical reactions between neurons. Each millisecond (or faster) the brain sends electrical and chemical signals between neurons that tell our body what and how to think, move and live. So the first thing to know is that behavior is brain function.
2. Think of executive functions as skills. You can think about the executive functions as members of two domains or families of skills, cognitive and limbic. The cognitive EFs help us to plan, think things out, approach our tasks, make decisions, problem solve and execute our actions. The limbic EFs help us modulate our thoughts, emotions, and actions.
3. We develop and improve our cognitive skills through practice. We help children see EFs as cognitive skills that can be developed through practice. We find that teaching children some simple facts about how the brain works, how we learn and how we can improve our thinking and self-regulation skills encourages them to feel less like patients and more like “best coaches” or “cognitive scientists” for their own brains.
We use 5 simple steps in Musical Thinking to teach children about how their brains work and how we learn. Here are a few videos for you.
4. The first skill we want children to develop is the ability to slow down enough to open the “window of self-awareness” so that they may begin to recognize when they are needing a specific cognitive skill. This is why we teach tempo (with Slow Mo and Quick Rick) and sequencing before we dive into attention, inhibition, memory, reading or numeracy.
5. Once a child experiences the difference between thinking or moving quickly and slowly he/she is now empowered to learn about the different cognitive skills his/her brain needs to execute tasks of daily living.
The more we make Executive Functions transparent and less of a mystery to children, the more empowered they can be in coaching their own brains to better thinking, learning and behavior.
A warm thank you to all our Understood.org colleagues for your valuable work on behalf of children. Happy to be learning with you!
We develop research-based tools, activities, and strategies to improve children’s thinking, self-regulation, learning, and behavior by increasing their executive and social-emotional skill sets. Bloom (Kenney & Young, 2015) helps parents collaborate and calm their anxious, angry and over-the-top kids building better thinking, coping and relationship skills. 70 Play Activities (Kenney & Comizio, 2016) provides activities, worksheets, and strategies to teachers, school counselors, and school psychologists to help children learn new #EF and #SEL skills. With great fanfare, September 2017, Thinkerbee brings you, Bloom Your Room, the first social-emotional skill development program delivered as postable art and classroom activities (ages 4-10). In our next project, we integrate over 100 research articles in neuroscience + kinesiology + PE to create The Kinetic Classroom, the online video platform using movement to improve cognition.
Our goal is to change the trajectory of children’s learning with joy, empowerment, and respect. Join our motivated community of over 5000 educators, parents & clinicians and get the news about workshops, activities, and research here. Learn more and see a preview of Bloom Your Room here.