4 Tips for Setting Up an Executive Function Friendly Classroom

It’s that time of year! Students are filing back into school, sitting down at their desks, and breathing in that new classroom smell. Each year, teachers prep their classrooms, organizing the layout of desks, books, smart boards, and more. As you go about arranging your room, don’t miss out on the opportunity to support your students’ executive function development!

Here are four strategies you can use to promote executive function in your classroom.

  • Make your system clear — Any time you are engaged with organization, you have an opportunity to share the process with your students. If you don’t, they won’t have any idea that you, as a professional adult, spend time engaging in organization. Explain to your students how the class is organized. Show them where the materials they may need can be found. Explain to them how often you have to clean up the room. This helps them understand that organization is something everyone has to engage in.


  • Create a strategy wall —  When you teach an executive function strategy, post a sample on the wall as a visual cue to your students. Even better, when one of your students shares a strategy with the class, add it to the wall! Eventually your class will have an entire executive function toolbox on the wall, reminding them to apply strategies as they work.


  • Pay attention to time — Developing an awareness of time is essential for helping students to internalize executive function strategies. Think of ways to show the role that time management plays in your teaching and the structure of the classroom. Putting the schedule on the board is a great start. Add in time for strategy use by scheduling a few minutes for planner use or cleaning out backpacks. If you have to readjust your schedule, rewrite it on the board and show your students how time can be managed flexibly. Help students self-monitor their progress on a test by keeping track of time remaining on the board. Make time visible!


  • Keep supplies on hand — There are many types of school supplies that can be used for executive function strategies: highlighters, index cards, colored pens, sticky notes, colored folders, stickers, rubber bands, and more. Create a stockpile of your favorite materials, and, when students are looking for a strategy to apply to a challenging academic task, you’ll be prepared!


Try out a few of these suggestions and you’ll be setting your students up for executive function success! Have tips of your own? We’d love to hear them.

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director