Executive Functioning in May

Navigating the Yearly Calendar: Executive Functioning in May

Welcome to “Navigating the Yearly Calendar!” This is a monthly series where we will explore strategies and tools that intersect with the calendar and rhythm of the school year. 

There is a reason we as humans mark time. It is a vital part of our being that helps us make sense out of the world around us, as well as our own existence. Marking time is not new; it dates back to the earliest of civilizations. However, in our fast-paced world, marking time can be complicated, given all the simultaneous demands on our lives. Marking time has been further impacted by the COVID pandemic, during which time learning as we know it was disrupted. Even today, we are still grappling with the effects of this time disruption.

This series is designed as a reset of how we mark time as it relates to executive functioning skills. By looking at executive functioning on a monthly basis, we can help our children manage time, stuff, and information.

Let’s begin…

Executive Functioning in May 

The month of May marks the journey towards the end of the school year. Summer vacation is in sight! While it is exciting for many to know that the workload and rigor of the school year will soon be ending, it is too soon to act as if it is actually the end of the year. This is a mistake made by too many. 

In May, there are many academic tasks to accomplish, including finishing units of study, partaking in assessments, completing writing projects and, for many, taking standardized or advanced placement (AP) tests. There is a lot of learning and demonstration of learning going on in May. 

From an executive functioning point of view, May is a month where learning new material will slow down, but the review of information and demonstration of knowledge are the main objectives for many.  

The executive functioning goal of May is balancing participation in a variety of end-of-the-year celebrations while ensuring all work has or will be turned in. In addition, May is the month to ensure that the student has all that is needed in terms of notes, handouts, etc., for the end of the year. 

Here’s a list of things to consider in the month of May:

  1. Time management is essential. May contains more school events than most other months. These celebrations are part of what makes school fun! In order to maximize the fun, there needs to be the following:
  • Make sure everyone who needs to be at a school celebration has it on their calendar. There have been times where one or even both parents do not have an event down on their calendar. This creates extra stress on everyone. 
  • Borrow time in order to get things done and still enjoy end-of-school events. While it is tempting for a student to say, “I’ll get the work done the night after the event,” this is a bit of a gamble. It is better to schedule in extra time the night BEFORE an event to get work done. How much extra time should be set aside? Well, it depends; if 1.5-2 hours are put aside each night for homework, then try and add as much of this time availability the night before. 
  • It’s also recommended that a bit of extra time for school work be added to the weekend BEFORE a celebration or school event at this time of the year.
  1. Learning vs. Reviewing vs. Studying. As was stated above, learning of new information may start to slow down in May. This creates an opportunity for reviewing. It is important to review all information that may be on a final test, whether or not the test is cumulative. Reviewing means knowing (a) where all the information is and (b) making sure that a student has the information and (c ) noticing if there is any information that is still not clear. By reviewing information, students are setting themselves up for much more successful study sessions.
  1. Clarity of essential information is a must. Too often, students focus on reviewing and studying what they know rather than tackling what they don’t know. While this is understandable, when essential information in a subject is not thoroughly understood, then the probability of doing well on tests and finals also goes down. Instead, it is more helpful for students to be guided in how to focus on identifying what specifically is not clear. 
  1. Consider extra support for end of the year projects, papers, and tests. It can be overwhelming and mentally exhausting to study for big tests and finish final papers. One way to combat this is to add a couple of extra sessions with tutors and/or educational therapists to help lower stress and maximize success. Another way to handle this is to bring in a college-age student to help with review of material, proofread papers, be an accountability partner, etc. Many college-age students are already home for the summer and are eager to make extra money. 
  1. Check the Printer! Students study better when they can interact in more ways with materials. When possible, it is always better to study information from printed pages rather than from a screen. A key tool for studying for bigger tests and finals is the making of a study packet. Preparing a good study packet involves printing notes, slides, handouts, practice problems, study guides, etc. So, check the printer once more time and ensure:
  • The computer and printer can communicate with one another
  • There is enough paper to print the study guide
  • There is enough toner or ink for printing (note-it is often fine to print in black and white instead of color).

Wishing you a May of celebration, concentration, clarity and conviction!