Tag Archives: Executive Functioning

Morning and Afternoon Routines

Morning and Afternoon Routines

By: Mary E. Miele, founder The Evolved Education, learning specialist and mother of three children

Parents know that morning and evening hours are challenging, especially at the start of school. So much needs to be done. There are many moving parts, and whether you have one child to get ready, to get homework done with, or to get to bed, or more than one child to care for, these hours can be difficult to manage.

The best piece of advice I can give you to avoid a ‘free for all’ in the morning or in the evening is to establish morning and evening routines with your K-12 student. If possible, begin these routines BEFORE school starts. By having your children work through the morning routine at least a week before school starts, your children will transition to school with better form.

For this article, I have divided the routines into suggestions for each grade category (early elementary, upper elementary, middle school and high school). Please visit our site for examples of checklists you can use for your child for his or her morning and evening routines.

EARLY ELEMENTARY:

Five steps to make your early elementary students’ mornings and evenings go well:

1) Make a list of what you need your child to do in the morning and in the evening.

2) Pair the list down to its MOST ESSENTIAL components. Children at this age need a FEW items to do, not MANY.

3) Find pictures to correspond with each task you wish your child to complete.

4) Place these pictures IN ORDER OF HOW YOU WANT THEM DONE onto a document. If you are computer savvy, you can create this document on the computer. You can also cut and paste pictures onto a piece of paper. I advise that you have your child do ALL of the ‘work’ tasks before playing (so in the morning get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, pack up backpack, THEN play)

5) BE CONSISTENT: Walk your child through the checklist and post the checklist. Keep it up–eventually, your child may know it so well that he or she will not even need to look at it!

UPPER ELEMENTARY:

Four steps to make your upper elementary students’ mornings and evenings go well:

1) Make a list of what you need your child to do in the morning and in the evening.

2) Have your child weigh in and let you know what order he or she wants to complete the tasks. For instance, if your child needs to get homework done, read, do a chore, eat dinner and brush his teeth, you can allow your child to read and do chores after or before dinner.

3) Put times onto the checklist so that your child knows when to get up, when to go to sleep, when dinner will be.

4) Be sure that your child understands what he or she will be doing in the afternoon. Each morning, it is a good idea to remind him or her what day it is and where he or she is going after school.

MIDDLE SCHOOL:

Four steps to make your middle school students’ mornings and evenings go well:

1) Before you meet with your middle school student, spend some time creating a list of the tasks you wish your pre-teen/teenager to complete in the morning and in the evening. Also, have your child do the same.

2) Have a meeting in which you negotiate the terms of the morning and afternoon routine. Of course you can deem certain items “non-negotiable” and others “negotiable”.  It is important for middle school students to have a voice in how they spend their time.

3) Talk about accountability for following routines. Agree upon what will happen if the routine is not followed. Talk about the privileges that will be in place if the routine is followed. Write these agreements down.

4) If you get push back on creating a routine with your middle school student, remind him or her that you are doing this to help; as in life, routines help us to achieve goals and to be successful in accomplishing important tasks. Sometimes knowing WHY a new set of rules are being established can help. Remind your child–when a middle school student has to juggle homework, studying, extra-curricular activities, social connections as well as self-care, a routine ensures that there is time to address each component of a middle school student’s life.

If nothing else works, “This is what we do in our family,” tends to be a reason that most pre-teens and teenagers cannot argue.

HIGH SCHOOL:

Four steps to make your high school students’ mornings and evenings go well:

1) Before you meet with your high school student, spend some time creating a list of the tasks you wish your teenager to complete in the morning and in the evening. Also, have your child do the same.

2) Have a meeting in which you negotiate the terms of the morning and afternoon routine. Of course, you can deem certain items “non-negotiable” and others “negotiable”.  It is important for high school students to have a voice in how they spend their time.

3) Talk about accountability for following routines. Agree upon what will happen if the routine is not followed. Talk about the privileges that will be in place if the routine is followed. Write these agreements down.

4) If you get push back on creating a routine with your high school student, remind him or her that you are doing this to help; as in life, routines help us to achieve goals and to be successful in accomplishing important tasks. Sometimes knowing WHY a new set of rules are being established can help. Remind your child–when a high school student has to juggle homework, studying, extra-curricular activities, social connections as well as self-care, a routine ensures that there is time to address each component of a high school student’s life.

If nothing else works, “This is what we do in our family,” tends to be a reason that most teenagers cannot argue.

Back to School Class Notes

Thank you to all who attended our back to school workshops!
Below are notes from our lectures, activities and discussions.
Please remember that all participants may call upon us as needed to strategize approaches to group work, organization, test taking strategies, and home-school-self care.

The students who attended this back to school class not only learned the content that is outlined below, but they also benefited from being in a group of their peers. By speaking with one another about tactics to be a strong student, they confirmed their own workable approaches, they learned specific tactics needed to be a strong student within each topic, and they shared stories and strategies from their own experiences with one another. Many renewed their goal to make this coming school year a strong one.

GROUP WORK

The following are approaches that we discussed before engaging in our own group work projects.

  • Before you begin any group work, understand your process:
  • Understand your objective
  • Write out the steps that you need to complete the task
  • Divide up the work equally among each participant
  • Make deadlines for each person’s role/task.
  • As you work, meet with your group members and share information, ask questions, use the group as a resource.
  • No matter what always do your best work. Sometimes classmates will not have your same drive, work ethic or expectations. Do your best for the group work project–do this for your own learning experience.
  • If a group member is not doing enough work, speak to him or her directly and be sure that at the end of the conversation he or she has a defined task. (e.g. Samantha will take notes on ____ by Wednesday at 6pm) Write down the agreement or email it to your group member so that you have a record of the agreement.
  • If you have tried to speak directly to the group member and he or she is not following up with what he or she agreed to do, then go to the teacher and ask for help.  If you are worried about going to the teacher, reach out to another adult to share your concerns. Make a plan to resolve the problem.
  • Try not to pick good friends to be in your group if they will distract you from work.

ORGANIZATION: 

The following are tactics that we discussed regarding organization:

Strategies for managing the school day: 

Get around the building with ease and preparedness:

  1. Print out a copy of your schedule for your planner, your locker and make one for your pocket.
  2. Organize what you need for various times in the school day. Make LOCKER STOPS when you can. Some students talked about being aloud to go to the lockers at different times of the day depending on their schools and schedules, so this is something that has to be worked out for each individual student. 
  3. Be prepared for the start of class. What do you need to have out for each class? Usually a binder, homework, something to write with or a computer.

Use your time wisely:

  1. Do homework during free periods or study halls.
  2. Meet with teachers to clarify any areas of confusion during free periods, or before or after school. We cannot stress this tactic enough! Successful students ask questions about what is confusing. 

Keep track of assignments and supplies needed to come home and back to school:

  1. Write down homework AS it is assigned with the due dates and all of the requirements.
  2. Write down what you need to bring home next to the assignment. Use all CAPS for what you need to bring home. This way you can quickly see at pack up time what you are supposed to have in your bag. 
  3. Use a homework folder. Divide the folder into “to-do” and “completed hw” sections. This helps to ensure that you have the homework to give in at class too.
  4. If you have a hard time remembering to give homework into class, you can always have a friend remind you or put a reminder in your planner or phone.

Strategies for managing after-school/work time: 

  1. Create an afternoon work routine.
  • Gather information on what you have to accomplish: check your online homework postings, your test calendars, your planner.
  • Write down all assignments in your planner. For studying and writing assignments, write down what you have to accomplish each day leading up to the due date.
  • Prioritize what you will complete. Do the assignments due the next day first. Complete the hardest assignments first.
  • Try to get your work done before you do fun activities such as online activities or socialization.
  • You need to employ discipline: doing what you do not love to do with 100% effort.

2. Study and organize each weekend.

  • Take time each weekend to review your notes and everything that you have learned.
  • Organize your binders, folders and notebooks.
  • For math: create a separate notebook to record tricky problems and their solutions so that you can go back and study them.
  • For history and science: create study guides for the information you have covered. Use the blue notebooks that were handed out–they have really useful formatting, with two-column notes where a student can take notes on one side and create questions on the other side (creating a study guide). Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 10.04.52 PM

STRATEGIES FOR TEST TAKING AND OVERCOMING TEST ANXIETY

  1. The best way to tackle test taking anxiety is to be prepared and to put your mind in a positive, relaxed place before each test.
  2. Study along the way and be active with your studying. We talked about using quizlet.com to actively study terms and create practice tests. We also talked about creating a notebook of “tricky problems” for math and their solutions as well as study guides for history, science, foreign language and English classes. Handwriting information can help a student to remember information. 
  3. Be aware of your anxiety levels before taking a test. If you feel that you are having a hard time handling test taking, then reach out to an adult for help. Everyone feels anxiety when they are being evaluated, but if the feeling is hard to overcome and it is impossible to perform at your best, then you may need extra strategies.
  4. Make a list of the feedback that your teacher gives you after each assessment or graded assignment. Pay attention to that feedback as you study for the next test or write the next paper. You may perform better with that guidance.

STRATEGIES TO HELP ACHIEVE HOME/SCHOOL/SELF CARE

School is the priority for students. The purpose of our class is to give students “professional development” to do their jobs well. We want every student to reach his or her potential in the classroom.

Of course, we want students to have time for extra curricular activities, social time, down time, family time. The key is for students to look at their schedules and realistically plan time for homework, studying and organization and then place in time for self-care (e.g. showers, dinner, laying out clothes for the next day) and extra-curricular activities (e.g. sports, music, drama, art, etc.) as well as time to be social with family and friends.

Realistic planning is a key aspect to home/school/self care.

Communication with family members is another important aspect of achieving good health while being a student. It is important that parents know when tests or quizzes or papers are due and what needs to be done each weekend. Family plans need to take into account the work that a student needs to do.

 

Three Ways to Improve Executive Functioning

Recently here at EEC we have been welcoming many students, both young and old, who benefit from executive function coaching. For those of you who are not sure what this phrase means, executive functions have to do with any of the following functions:

—Planning/Organization (the ability to manage current and future-oriented task demands, to bring order to information, to appreciate main ideas or key concepts when learning or communicating information)

—Organization of materials (the ability to set up and maintain orderliness of work, play and storage spaces ie. desks, lockers, backpacks and bedrooms)

—Self-Monitoring (the ability to keep track of the effect that his or her behavior has on others or the consequences of his or her actions)

—Working memory (the ability to hold information in mind for the purpose of completing a task such as mental math)

—Initiation (the ability to begin a task, generate ideas independently or get going on an activity)

—Emotional control (the ability to modulate or control his or her emotional responses)

—Shift (the ability to flexibly move and respond to situations)

—Inhibition (the ability to stop one’s own behavior at the appropriate time—stopping actions and thoughts…the flip side of inhibition is impulsivity)

The best ways to coach someone with executive function weaknesses is to:

1) Identify what executive functions are weak for the person — Not everyone with weak executive functioning skills will have the same profile.

2) Create goals for the person–what is the top priority of what to address?

3) Teach a student SIMPLE STRATEGIES that can become a part of his or her ROUTINE.

Let’s take Sam* for instance.  Sam is a tenth grade student at a prestigious Independent School in Manhattan.  He manages six major courses, two clubs, two sports and he enjoys being with friends on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Sam has an online homework system for his school, he uses planner from time to time and uses google calendar to record his appointments.  He has folders and some binders for every subject.  He typically does homework after sports each night, but does not have time to study in his schedule, so he is often left cramming for tests the night before.  Sam gets very little sleep, because he says he starts his work too late and tends to work a little, but then also chat with friends during his work time.  His grades are ok, but inconsistent.  Sometimes he can pull off an A-, but other times he does get Bs and an occasional C when he is busy with sports or has too much work on his plate.

Sam’s issues do not scream –DIAGNOSIS OF MAJORLY WEAK Executive functioning–but they do call for some attention.  First of all, with regard to his planning, he should pick ONE calendar to use.  Then, he should adopt an afternoon work routine (ie. check online homework, check calendar, create a daily to-do list and get to work, blocking time for ONLY work with no distractions) and make time to complete homework AND study over time. He should cut out distractions during his work times and block off other times to be social and have time off from school work.

The number one complaint of our upper school students is that it is really hard to really work without distraction.  This is because work is often done on the computer in tandem with the Internet and texts, emails, Instagrams, Facebook messages, Twitter, Tumblr are all calling for them and are hard to resist.  By blocking out time to work without these alarms going of, a student can be more effective and actually work for LESS TIME!

Sleep is the second complaint of our upper school students, as in, there is just not enough of it.  By blocking off time to work on various subjects throughout the week, students can actually study over time and work ahead so that they are not working until the wee hours of the night on studying or last minute projects.

The key for executive function coaching is to personalize the instruction and the systems for each student.  Once a system is adopted, it can become part of a student’s routine and lifestyle.

As a student becomes older and experiences the freedom and less structure that higher education and young adulthood offers, these key executive functioning skills can become essential strategies to separate the successful from those who are not.

*EEC never uses exact names of students nor specific stories about them for blogging purposes. This character is fictitious, but based on facts.