Louisa was excited about the new school year and was looking forward to in-person learning at her middle school. She entered school with a great deal of anticipation and shared with her mom that she was going to have “her best year ever.”
However, after only a few weeks into the school year, Louisa’s mom noticed that Louisa was not as positive about her school experience. When she asked Louisa if anything was wrong, Louisa shared that the social studies teacher had assigned a writing assignment and that she was having trouble getting started. She hadn’t yet settled on a topic and so hadn’t started any research. As the days went on, she was feeling more and more stressed out about the writing assignment.
Louisa’s mom reminded her of a strategy that had worked for her in elementary school. She found her ‘Get it DONE’ strategy card and used the strategy to get started on her writing assignment. Louisa used the ‘First-Then’ strategy to get started and developed a checklist to list all the steps needed to complete the assignment. She checked off each step as she completed it. Louisa enjoyed checking off the steps and was able to complete her writing assignment and turn it in on time to receive a good grade.
Students who struggle with executive function skills may have problems working independently on long-term projects or complex tasks. They may feel as though completion of the project is an insurmountable task and may have a tough time getting started and continuing to work until the project is complete. For these students the Get it Done Strategy can provide support for getting started and getting the project done. The Get it Done Strategy includes four steps:
- The first step in the Get it Done Strategy is to realize that one has a problem with getting started or getting it done.
- The second step is identifying options for getting the assignment started and getting it done. The Get it Done Strategy includes four strategies that can support students in getting their work done – First-Then, Chunking, Highlighter Tape, and Checklists.
- The third step is identifying which option or options will work best for the student and the assignment.
- The final step is to evaluate how the student did and whether they were able to get the assignment done.
Options for getting started and getting it done:
First-Then Cards are a great strategy for students who have a difficult time getting started on an assignment. A First-Then Card is a visual strategy that indicates what needs to be done first and what needs to be done next. The strategy can show two activities that need to occur in order (first select your topic, then write down what you already know about the topic) or an initial task (first select your topic) followed by a preferred activity (then play a game on the iPad for 30 minutes). Activities can be visually represented with either images or text.
Chunking Folders are used to break assignments into clearly identifiable steps that are smaller and less overwhelming. Chunking folders can be made from colored or manila folders by cutting the folders into different heights that delineate the progression of work. Chunking folders work best for worksheets and can provide support for students who have trouble focusing or who get easily overwhelmed. The same effect can be gained by folding a worksheet to show only a portion at a time or using large sticky notes to cover part of the worksheet.
Highlighter Tape is opaque, colored tape that is removable and can be re-used and repositioned. It can be used to draw attention to important information on a worksheet or in a textbook. Thicker highlighter tape can be put into the margin of a novel or textbook for notetaking. Highlighter tape can also be used to ‘chunk’ content by drawing attention to key information, such as the instructions on a worksheet, first.
Checklists are helpful in identifying the discrete steps that must be completed to finish a multi-step assignment. They help students with EF deficits to know what needs to be done, how many steps are expected to be completed, and when the work is done. A checklist provides a to-do list of the necessary tasks. Checklists can be handwritten on paper, entered into a digital device, or written on a small whiteboard. Steps can be erased, crossed out, or checked off when completed.
The Get it Done Strategy Card provides the steps students can follow in order to get their tasks started and get them done.