School Supplies that Promote Executive Function

The other day I was asked an interesting question by a SMARTS teacher: “What school supplies support executive function?”

At first I wasn’t sure how to answer, but when I looked around my office I realized that I was sitting on a veritable warehouse of materials that can be used for executive function strategies. Here are some of my favorite items to have on hand:


  • Highlighters — I have a giant bin of highlighters in my office. Most students don’t actually know how to use highlighters strategically (around here we call this the “Yellow Page Syndrome”). However, when students are taught to highlight strategically, as in the SMARTS lesson “Purposeful Highlighting,” highlighters can be very useful for reading comprehension, note taking, and test prep. Even better, many students love using them!
  • Multicolored Anything — I try to get my hands on items that come in different colors: pens with multiple colors of ink, packs of sticky notes, and index cards. Using different colors of an item can help students visualize breaking  a task into different steps — the hallmark of executive function strategies.
  • Blank Notebooks — Blank notebooks are handy for students who forget their materials; give them a blank notebook and they have no excuse not to take notes. You can also use small notebooks for helping students ease into time management by making to-do lists.
  • Brightly Colored Folders — These are useful for students who are constantly losing their homework. Nothing is more tragic than doing your homework and then losing it in the chaos of a messy backpack. You can help by giving a student a brightly colored folder created just for assignments that need to be turned in.
  • Colored Dot Stickers — I have a giant pack of these stickers, which I use to help students create visual reminders. If a student is having trouble remembering to take out their planner or remembering to bring something from home, a strategically placed sticker is the perfect reminder. Colored rubber bands or even paper clips will work in a pinch.


The list could go on and on, so I’ll stop there. Obviously purchasing these supplies can add up quickly, despite Back-to-School sales, so keep your eye out for office supplies that people don’t want any more. Create a reserve of materials your students can use, and you’ll be equipped for promoting executive function strategies all year long!

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director