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October 23, 2013 Classroom Management Miracle: Executive Functioning By Lindsey Petlak
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    Remember the first few days of the school year? You know . . . smiling children who can’t wait to enter your room, days running smoothly with students continually aiming to please and hanging on your every word.  Most likely, those days are long gone by late October. The honeymoon is over, and while you still adore your students, classroom management mishaps have probably popped up. Executive functioning in the classroom may just be your management miracle!

    What is Executive Functioning?

    Simply put, executive functioning consists of the essential self-regulation skills needed to successfully participate and function in a classroom setting — and in life.

    Dawson and Guare (2004) guide to the 11 Executive Skills.

    I shared these two videos on the 11 Executive Skills: Part 1 and Part 2. with parents at Open House and permanently embedded them in my classroom website for ongoing reference. 


    Executive Functioning in Our Room  

    So, what does this look like in action? This system is comprised of room adjustments, teacher-directed student training, and great visuals to reinforce, and has TOTALLY changed our classroom dynamics, student independence, and classroom management. If it can work for us, it can work for you!

    Room Setup and Furniture: Thanks to a generous donation by our fantastic PTO, our first, second, and fourth grade classrooms are benefitting from the implementation of new classroom tables, chairs and Seat Sacks, as well as organizational drawer storage. This is in an effort to promote executive functioning skills within our classroom as well as building independence, responsibility, and teamwork. Students work in community tables, sharing supplies and responsibilities.


    Get Ready, Do, Done: Planning for proper classroom executive functioning is as easy as 1-2-3!  Use these three steps before, during, and after every activity for success.

    1.     Get Ready: look ahead, know and plan your time, gather materials, learn from the past

    2.     Do: get busy immediately, stay on task, set halfway point and check in, pace yourself

    3.     Done: stopping point/time, tasks to be completed, clean up, reflect


    Download the 1-2-3 poster and planning page for FREE!

    CHAMPS: Students cannot meet or exceed our expectations for them, if they are not made explicitly clear before beginning tasks together or independently. In conjunction with the 1-2-3 planning visuals, our class discusses CHAMPS expectations before nearly every activity throughout the day. CHAMPS compliments executive functioning perfectly, providing specific guidelines for the following elements of classroom activities:

    • C - conversation

    • H - how to ask for help

    • A - activity

    • M - movement (and materials)

    • P - participation

    • S - sound signals (and success)

    Use this CHAMPS visual (printed or on your interactive whiteboard) from Amber Polk to set expectations before every classroom task. I made the CHAMPS system work for me and my room by giving myself permission to add components like materials, and making the activity choices more general with an added section for specific activity tasks. Instead of "S" standing for success, it means "signal" in our room. Set your own sounds and songs for the audio signals for “S.” 

    Visit my classroom website for a fantastic YouTube CHAMPS video and to snag the CHAMPS visual.


    Time Robbers: Many stimuli may rob our students of time throughout the day. Minimize these time robbers, and your students will become time masters!

    • Body: inappropriate movement, bio breaks, tired, hands on others

    • Conversation/sounds: inappropriate conversations, voice level, environmental sounds

    • Materials: disorganized materials, losing materials, forgetting materials, wrong materials

    • Environment: personal/shared space, overstimulating room décor, clutter

    Download this FREE STOP and Read the Room / Time Robber visual poster!

    Reward time masters and provide consequences for time robbing behaviors using Class Dojo!

    Read more about Dojo uses in the classroom on my posts about Classroom Economy and Countdown to Conferences

    Concept of Time: Quite frankly, many students have little to no concept of allotted or elapsed time. It’s simply too abstract for them, especially when surrounded by digital clocks and devices that constantly remind them of the time or upcoming events with no thought required. To help instill a sense of time, try the following tools.  Make time management fun by setting time-based goals, beating past times (or those of other “competing” classrooms), and earning Class DOJO rewards for being “time masters!”

    • Visual Countdown Timers: Using a physical stopwatch or a digital version for your interactive whiteboard, show students the visual countdown of time remaining for an activity. I recommend several from Triptico, but the Circle Timer is my favorite.

    • Marker Clock: Buy an inexpensive wall clock and use an erasable marker to shade in the chunk of time between the start and finish of an activity.

    • Visual Stopwatch: Using a physical stopwatch or a digital version for your interactive whiteboard, time students prepping for and cleaning up after activities.

    • Kitchen Timers: Inexpensive kitchen timers (dial or digital) for each student table will serve as reminders for time remaining on activities.

    What's your classroom management miracle?

    • Do you use an executive functioning system in your room?

    • Do you use CHAMPS as a setup for student success?

    • Maybe you have another magic management solution up your sleeve. If so, please share!

    Thanks for reading, and be sure to subscribe to my blog feed for automatic weekly updates!





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