Executive functioning (EF) has always been one of my favorite tools to teach my K-12 students. It encompasses organization skills, structure, design, working memory, and all the other facets of life that are needed to be a great leaner. Unfortunately, after exiting elementary school, everybody just expects these pieces to be in place, but it is really obvious to everyone when they are not intact. What do educators need to know? How do we improve executive functioning skills in students, but without compromising instruction?
It is simple! Here is one way to implement good instruction, that incorporates best practices, without compromising on CCSS standards.
Define Group Roles
I see this all the time in the classroom, the rules are clear, the instruction is given, the little minds are churning, and the pistol fires (figuratively speaking, of course) for students to begin their work. Unfortunately, no matter how great of an instructor you may be, it is difficult to rotate between groups and see little Timmy drawing squares for 20 minutes as they design the layout, while the other 3 kids just sit back and watch him work. It may be easy to assume that the kids just do not want to finish on time, or comment on their poor choices, but were they set up for success in the first place?
Roles for groups need to be well defined. If the students know the outcomes, the expectation, and the learning goal, it doesn’t always mean that they have the skills in place to execute the task, which is typical for children who are developing their executive functioning skills.
I’ve outlined 4 basic roles that can be generalized to a variety of topics, subjects, and learning outcomes.
This person’s role is to make sure the content is matching the learning outcome. Were all requirements met? Are the pictures, data, explanations, and pieces of information clear? Did it flow well and lead to the desired outcome? At the end of the day, the buck stops with you, so make sure that everyone has included the right material by double checking their work or research to affirm accuracy.
Love graphics? Do you hate it when the illustrations do not match the content? Do you cringe at bullets on PowerPoint slides? Good, then you are the designer. This person’s job is to look at the format, the organization, and flow of the work. You are responsible for walking your reader from the first step, to the last step of the project. Information will be placed where your well-trained and detailed eye feels it would best match the flow. Don’t forget to work with your QA member to assure that the content matches the illustrations.
Data! This person loves raw data, you love looking at percents, facts, numbers, and have a good view of the end result. Pulling evidence from a text is as easy as taking candy from a baby, you know what to look for and know how to make sense of the information.
The information mastermind. This individual understands the cause and effect relationship of the subject, and can accurately explain it to the group. They pull information from the analyst and write up the meaning by thoroughly explanation.
Utilizing these 4 roles in a student-led project will make students run fluidly, improve learning outcomes, and positively impact their sense of school community. Students need clear expectations, well-defined roles, and support from the real Subject Matter Expert, a caring educator.
Check out my article created on Articulate 360: Interactive Student Roles