Nurturing Executive Function Skills at Holy Cross: Building Foundations for Success

By Mrs. Louie, Middle School Specialist, Holy Cross

In the journey of education, students not only acquire subject knowledge but also develop a set of vital life skills that shape their ability to navigate challenges and excel in various aspects of their lives. 

One of these skills is executive function skills – which plays a pivotal role in our student’s academic and personal growth. At Holy Cross, we recognize the significance of fostering these skills and have worked hard to create a comprehensive approach to supporting executive function skills in our students.

Understanding Executive Function Skills

Executive function skills are a set of cognitive processes that enable individuals to manage their thoughts, actions, and emotions effectively. These skills are often referred to as the “CEO of the brain” as they oversee and regulate a range of essential functions, including planning, organization, time management, self-control, problem-solving, and flexible thinking. These skills collectively help individuals tackle complex tasks, prioritize responsibilities, and make sound decisions.

Development of Executive Function Skills and its Importance

The development of executive function skills begins early in childhood and continues through adolescence and into adulthood. However, significant growth and refinement occur during the middle school years. These skills are crucial for academic success and personal development, and they become even more critical as students transition from middle school to the higher demands of high school.

As the challenges become more complex, students need robust executive function skills to manage multiple assignments, balance extracurricular activities, and maintain a healthy social life. 

Holy Cross’s Approach 

At Holy Cross, we are dedicated to fostering the development of executive function skills in our students. Our approach is centered around targeted interventions and consistent support that empower students to become effective learners and independent thinkers.

Weekly Seminars for Skill Enhancement: We offer weekly seminars that focus on key aspects of executive function skills development, such as note-taking strategies and time management techniques. These seminars provide students with practical tools to excel in their studies and personal organization.

Planner Distribution for Middle School Students: At the beginning of each academic year, our middle school students receive personalized planners. These planners serve as organizational tools, aiding students in tracking assignments, extracurricular activities, and personal commitments. This practice instills a habit of planning and organization from an early age.

Homework Review and Reflection: Our commitment to executive function development is reflected in our practice of reviewing homework assignments at the end of the day. This process reinforces learning, helps students identify areas that need improvement, and encourages responsible completion of tasks.

Study Hall for Additional Support: Recognizing that every student’s learning journey is unique, we offer study hall sessions twice a week for middle school students who require extra assistance. These sessions provide a supportive environment where students can receive individualized guidance and further develop their executive function skills.

Weekly Progress Reports: To ensure students remain on track and aware of their growth, we provide weekly progress reports for students AND parents. These reports offer insights into students’ strengths and areas for improvement, enabling them to take ownership of their learning journey.

Preparing for High School and Beyond

The importance of nurturing executive function skills at Holy Cross goes beyond academics; it’s about preparing students for success in high school, college, and their future careers. As they transition to higher education, students will face more rigorous demands, increased responsibilities, and greater independence. With a strong foundation in executive function skills, they will be equipped to handle these challenges with confidence and resilience.

What Can You Do as Parents

Parents play a vital role in fostering the development of executive functioning skills in their middle school children. One effective strategy is to establish a structured routine at home. Designate specific times for homework, chores, and leisure activities. Encourage your child to use tools like planners or task management apps to track assignments and manage time effectively.

Engage in open communication with your child about their academic and personal responsibilities. Help them break down larger tasks into manageable steps and set realistic goals. Offer guidance in prioritizing tasks and making to-do lists. Celebrate their achievements and progress, reinforcing the positive impact of their efforts.

Teach problem-solving skills by discussing challenges they encounter and brainstorming potential solutions together. Encourage flexibility in thinking by exploring alternative approaches to tasks or problems.

Lastly, create a conducive environment for focused work. Minimize distractions during study time and emphasize the importance of taking breaks to recharge. By actively participating in your child’s executive function skill development, you’re equipping them with valuable tools that will serve them well throughout their educational journey and beyond.

Need More Help?  Check out these 10 apps

Todoist: A task management app that helps students organize their assignments, tasks, and projects with due dates and priority levels.

Forest: An app that promotes time management by encouraging users to stay focused on tasks. Users grow virtual trees when they concentrate, fostering a sense of accomplishment.

MyHomework: This app aids in tracking homework assignments, tests, and class schedules. It’s a great tool for teaching students to manage their academic responsibilities.

Trello: A visual organization tool that uses boards, lists, and cards to help students plan, collaborate, and manage their tasks effectively.

Focus@Will: This app provides music designed to enhance focus and productivity. It can be helpful for students who need a conducive environment for studying.

Time Timer: A visual timer app that assists students in managing their time efficiently by visually representing the passage of time.

MindMeister: A mind-mapping tool that helps students brainstorm, organize ideas, and create visual outlines for projects and assignments.

Calm: An app focused on mindfulness and relaxation. Teaching students techniques to manage stress and maintain emotional balance is crucial for executive function skills.

Google Calendar: An easy-to-use tool for scheduling and planning. Students can input class schedules, assignments, and extracurricular activities to stay organized.

Evernote: A note-taking app that syncs across devices, allowing students to gather, organize, and access their notes, research, and ideas in one place.


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