Have you ever had a student who suffers from something called “an executive function deficit?” In other words, a student who struggles to plan, organize, remember things, prioritize, pay attention and get started on tasks?

More specifically, this is the kind of student who constantly fails to pay attention, is frequently misplacing his/her backpack or items inside it, struggles to remember more than one step of either a math problem or a writing assignment, and always has a messy desk or work area?

To help these students manage their executive function deficits, I use various Google products, specifically Google Docs, Google Slides and Google Calendar.

Google Docs

This year, one of the first things I did to help my special education students manage their executive functioning deficit is to call upon them to create a Google Doc. Then I worked with them to create, on their Google Doc, an Executive Function Rubric.

Click here to view one of the completed rubrics.

For this work, I first shared a Google Doc with the students, entitled Executive Function Rubric and consisting of four columns, the first column listing 11 common executive function skills.  

In the second column, I had the students define in their own definitions each of the 11 executive function skills appearing in column one; and then in the third column, I wrote down my own definition for each of these skills.

Finally, in the fourth column, I had my students rate themselves on a scale of 1-4, with a 1 being “low skill” and a 4 being “impressive skill.”

This rubric was a nice way to get my students to think about themselves more as they would if they were being evaluated focusing on the areas where they have strengths and those areas where they have struggles.

After doing the rubric, students were able see where they were currently and could easily pull up this rubric later in the year to see how far they had come in a particular area of executive function based on the lessons and work we did throughout the school year.  

Google Slides

From there, I called upon my students to develop a Google Slideshow presentation, with these presentations, which when completed, would be shared with the class. For their Google Slideshow presentation, the students were required to describe, for the class, the three executive functioning skills for which they specifically need support. Students could choose from the executive function skills appearing below:

Executive function skill Definition
Response inhibition Being able to ignore distractions in your environment
Working memory Being able to keep information in your head to use
Emotional control Being able to regulate emotional responses to different things that happen in our lives
Flexibility Being able to think things out in more than one possible way
Sustained attention Staying on task and avoiding distractions
Task initiation Being able to independently begin and organize tasks
Planning/prioritization Being able to plan out your tasks so that they meet an expectation or objective
Organization Putting your life into organized areas – school, work, personal and maintaining this
Time management The ability to use your time effectively
Goal-directed persistence Using and maintaining goals to help you meet objectives, being able to refuse to give up when things get too difficult
Metacognition Awareness and understanding of your own thought process

For my students who struggle with identifying their three areas of need, I sat down with them individually and looked at their rubric to figure out which areas they wanted to focus on.

The students’ slideshow presentation consisted of at least four slides one being an introduction slide which includes their name and the title of their project. The other three slides included the three main executive function skills and details about each. The details they included were definitions they worked on from their rubric, as well as details about what the skills looked like in a student.

After the slideshow presentations were complete, I had each of my students present their slideshows to the class as an understanding of who they were and what skills they had or needed to work on.

Google Calendar

In addition to the above, I would call upon my students to access Google Calendar via their Chromebooks or cell phones on a daily basis and then to write down their assignments for each of the classes in their schedule. Some students have an easier time with this than others as it teaches them three of these executive function skills (planning, organization and time management all at once.) However, many other students require assistance in one or more of the areas we go over, which is supported through their Individualized Education Plan (IEP). For some, the idea of an entirely digital calendar is scary, so for these students a handwritten planner is still the best way to go. However, for most of my students, they find it easy to use Google Calendar and they even seem to enjoy the task of entering assignments and due dates.

Conclusion

Using the Google programs to help support my students in their class with their executive function needs has really helped them to develop an understanding of both real-world technology and how it can easily be applied to how they manage their lives. Learning how to organize information, write things out appropriately and professionally, as well as keeping track of their time, are all important skills that the students have been learning throughout the school year in my class. Although there are many programs out there, Google products work the best with my students in our classroom because of the students’ access to Google Chromebooks and internet accessibility.

Various Google Products of Benefit to Students with an Executive Function Deficit 24 April,2018Kira Miller

Author

Kira Miller

Kira Miller is a Resource Specialist in the East Bay, CA. She has been teaching in the Bay Area for the past 5 years. She has worked in a number of Special Education settings, including elementary, middle and high school environments. She has a Master's degree in curriculum and instruction and is going back for her Administrative credential in the Fall. Kira loves her job and has loved watching her career and the children she works with blossom.

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