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Executive Function: Activation Routines

By: Landmark Outreach Staff

The Landmark School Outreach Program's mission is to empower students with language-based learning disabilities by offering their teachers an exemplary program of applied research and professional development.

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In order to succeed at a task, students must organize, prioritize, and activate. The following collection of Landmark teaching strategies focuses on ways to activate students toward successful task completion by exploring the use of reference tools, working on time management, and cueing students to empower them to begin a task, sustain effort, and complete work.

Using Reference Tools

Creating routines for the classroom, such as posting a class agenda in the same place every day, and helping students develop awareness of time management will help them be better able to structure their time and work through each task.

Reference tools include schedules for the day, posted agendas for each class, standard classroom policies, and even checklists for completing various components of an assignment.

Schedules and agendas allow students to know how much time they have for a task and what activities they might be doing during a class. These tools allow them to be prepared for each part, better transition between tasks, and estimate how much time they might have to complete their work.

In addition to general behavior, classroom policies include concrete requirements, such as bringing a notebook and pencil to class each day, and expectations for assignments.

For instance:

  1. Have students include their name, date, and the assignment at the top of all work.
  2. Be clear about expectations regarding when assignments are due and what the consequences for late assignments are.
  3. Follow the same routine when beginning or transitioning between tasks, so that students know what materials they need and what they need to do to start each activity.

Checklists can be a wonderful way to break down larger tasks into manageable pieces. For example, having a checklist with the components of a project will help students plan and track their progress as they do research, organize their ideas, write a draft, proofread, make sure they included all required components, and finalize their project.

Cueing for Activation

Providing cues for students is one strategy that empowers them to activate for learning.

Provide Time Cues

Tell students how much time they have for a task (and write it on the board), then cue students to begin work. Instead of cueing them only at the end of the time, provide several cues throughout the task time. For a 10-minute task, for example, cue them when two minutes have passed. This helps the late starters get on track while they still have enough time to complete the task. Also cue students when they’ve reached the halfway point, and when there are 2 minutes left. When used consistently, time cues help all students gain a sense of the passage of time and how to pace themselves to complete a task.

Provide Oral and Visual Cues

Oral and visual cues can contribute to success for students who struggle to initiate a task, sustain their effort on a task, or transition to a new task. Say a student’s name before providing directions, for example. Pointing to a class agenda, a checklist, or a place in the book can also focus a student’s attention and effort on what they should do. These brief exchanges can make the difference between wasted time and active participation.

Additional Landmark Teaching Strategy

  • Time Management Bingo: This activity helps students better manage their time by becoming more aware of how much time a task might require.

Landmark Outreach Staff (2016)