Sunday, July 12, 2015

Executive Functioning Strategy #1: Breaking Up Long Term Projects

Question: How do you help students that struggle with completing projects on time? What strategies can we use to teach students how to read project directions and plan for its completion?

Resources: The Rush NeuroBehavioral Center has this amazing PD on executive functioning that changed my entire perspective and understanding of teaching problem solving, planning, organizing, and self regulation. This presentation from Lauren Hough and the Nest Project does a wonderful job of explaining what executive functioning is and providing strategies.  

I'm going to start with the student favorite. I give you: The Project Game Plan! 

  • Project directions

If I am not modifying the content or expectations of the project, I try not to modify too much of the text. The reality is that students see assignments and projects that look like this all of the time. Instead of changing the text (giving a student a fish), I prefer to teach them how to use the text and break it down into smaller chunks (teach them how to fish). During the first quarter of the year, I complete the Game Plan alongside the student. I write the Game Plan on a dry erase board while they write it on their sheet of paper. 

Where: Anywhere in the classroom

When: After a project is handed out, during in-class project time, after school, before school

How to:

1. I always start with the Project Title and due date. 
2. We go through and read the project out loud. No underlining. No stopping and discussing.

3. This time we are looking for underlined or bold words. I have the student circle any of the bold or underlined words that they student sees.

4. Now we go back and underline anything that the teacher wrote specifically needs to be included. 

5. We are looking for how the teacher wants this presented (i.e. poster, paper, video).

6. We go back to the Project Game Plan. The first step is always choosing how to present the project. The second step is always collecting the materials. I like to keep it consistent. 

7. We look back at everything we circled and underlined. The first thing we circle is the first step we write down. Have students do this with a pencil or use a sticky note because picking the order takes the most time. Erasing and moving around sticky notes is perfectly fine. 
Start at the top and go down. 

Now we fill in the due dates for each.

It's okay to have more than one step due on the same day. It might be the only way to get everything done in time. 

My second page is a list of materials needed.

This strategy takes awhile to do (set aside 20 minutes or so) but it takes away so much anxiety and confusion surrounding the project. When I first teach this, I check back with the student every day. I have them take out their game plan and show it to me. They cross off each step as they complete it. Sometimes they miss a day and we change the due date to a day later. Sometimes they had more time than they thought and they completed the next day's steps, as well.

Below are some real letters written by former students about their love of the Project Game Plan. 


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