Exploring Executive Functioning Support at SGS

Maddie Scharnitzke
As the term is picking up, so is the strain on students’ executive functioning. Many students, as a result, have set goals for themselves around improving areas of executive function, especially with the prompting of LTMs. Throughout the last few weeks of the term, throughout intensives, and into the rest of the year, students will be checking in on their goals with advisors. They may need to make changes to these goals as they realize that the goals they set are not optimally worded, not serving who they want to become as scholars, or just plain insufficient. In addition, it can feel challenging to support your scholar as adults at home. However, the SGS community has a number of resources that are supporting student growth to meet them where they are at. Read on to learn more about the supports offered to scholars this term! 

As the Learning Specialist, I have partnered with the 7th grade team in the Fall Term to bridge the gap between 6th and 7th grade as it relates to executive functioning needs. While 6th grade incorporates explicit instruction of executive functioning tasks, such as providing students planners and having them fill them out during designated class times, much of this instruction in the day to day 7th grade classes is hands off. Instead, one class per week is dedicated to only the specific needs of the students, in order to prepare them in the areas of growth. This quarter, we have focused on how to study for math tests and make a reference notecard with formulas, explored different systems of note taking and practiced them with a social studies essay, and learned about motivation and ways of fostering it. Students have had the opportunity to discuss the ten areas of executive functioning – planning, organization, task initiation, flexibility, attention, self-control, metacognition, working memory, time management, and perseverance–with their classmates. 

I have also begun hosting the Executive Functioning club after school: a program by invite only (invites are suggested to me by students’ advisors and then sent to parents via email) for students to have additional practice working with executive functioning skills. Students put the skills into practice by roleplaying scenarios, journaling about successful and unsuccessful experiences, and participating in discussions with various partners about their lived experience. So far, we have discussed how working memory impacts the brain and ways to overcome working memory difficulties, planner practice and optimization, the resources that are available to all students as part of our school’s universal design, and LTM preparation work. 

If you as an adult at home need additional resources for supporting your student in executive functions, particularly around establishing better homework routines, and being more organized for school, I highly recommend the articles below. If there are specific areas of concern, feel free to reach out to me at mscharnitzke@sgs-wa.org. 

Located in the Central District, Seattle Girls' School is an independent school for girls and gender nonconforming students in grades 5-8. Our mission is to inspire and develop courageous leaders who think independently, work collaboratively, learn joyfully, and champion change.