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Executive Functions Training Elementary
Ages: 6-11   Grades: 1-6         

Focus on executive function skills in the early elementary years and help students reach their potential.  These fun, functional activities teach students to plan, execute, complete, and monitor tasks. 


  • Improve planning and organization skills
  • Improve the ability to effectively carryout plans to complete tasks
  • Use self-evaluation strategies to monitor progress
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** This is a Cloud E-Book that is accessible from any device with Internet access. .

Children with adaptive and self-regulatory behavioral deficits may have impairments in executive functions.  Executive Functions Training Elementary develops cognitive abilities and behavior control with classroom-related activities for varying ability levels.  The activities are organized into five skill areas:

Working Memory: chunking and rehearsing, linking and associations, acronyms and silly sentences, paraphrasing, and visualizing

Time Management: estimating time, planning for homework and long-term assignments, studying for tests

Planning & Organization: brainstorming, organizing notes and information, reading with a purpose, writing efficiently

Flexible Thinking: reorder sentence, rewrite sentences and paragraphs, homographs, intonation and stress

Self-Monitoring: checking for mistakes, editing written work, identifying key words in directions, combining information

Skills for Behavior–Doing: strategies for inhibition, emotional control, attention, and initiation

Much more than activities, this resource gives clinicians tools to measure and establish executive function skills.  Each skill area contains:

  • detailed teaching instructions
  • activities organized into sub-skills
  • exercises for varying ability levels
  • goals
  • teaching strategies
  • a section review with guidelines for skill mastery
  • extension activities
  • parent strategies
  • teacher strategies

Copy the student activity pages or print them from the FREE CD.  The book has extra helps to engage students, professionals, and parents in the establishment of the new skills: 

  • Student Rating Scale
  • Parent/Teacher Rating Scale
  • Student Questionnaire
  • Teacher Questionnaire
  • Parent Questionnaire
  • profile of strengths and weaknesses for each skill area
  • activity logs
  • visual organizers
  • schedule planners

Copyright © 2011

198-page book plus a CD of the reproducible pages, Rating Scales, Questionnaires, answer key
  • Executive functions are a group of cognitive skills localized in the frontal lobe structures.  Deficits in executive functioning involve both discrete skills and the processes that control the use of these skills (Cicerone et al., 2000).
  • Executive functioning relates to a person's ability to analyze situations, formulate and act on a plan, and adjust his actions as required to accomplish a task (Horowitz, 2007).
  • Students with language-learning disabilities need interventions that focus on executive function, self-regulatory, and language processes in order to promote students' independent functioning (Singer & Bashir, 1999).
  • Working memory is one of several factors that can influence the development of children's comprehension skills (Cain, Oakhill, & Bryant, 2004).
  • Targeted educational intervention may help decrease the impact of executive function deficits in children with autism spectrum disorders (Happé, Booth, Charlton, & Hughes, 2006).

Executive Functions Training Elementary incorporates these principles and is also based on expert professional practice.


Cain, K., Oakhill, J., & Bryant, P. (2004). Children's reading comprehension ability: Concurrent prediction by working memory, verbal ability, and component skills. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96, 31-42.

Cicerone, K., Dahlberg, C., Kalmar, K., Langenbahn, D., Malec, J., Bergquist, T., . . . Morse, P. (2000). Evidence-based cognitive rehabilitation: Recommendations for clinical practice. Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, 81(2), 1596-1615.

Happé, F., Booth, R., Charlton, R., & Hughes, C. (2006). Executive function deficits in autism spectrum disorders and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: Examining profiles across domains and ages. Brain and Cognition, 61, 25-39.

Horowitz, S.H. (2007, March 1). Executive functioning and learning disabilities. Retrieved from

Singer, B.D., & Bashir, A.S. (1999). What are executive functions and self-regulation and what do they have to do with language-learning disorders? Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 30, 265-273.


Carolyn P. Gottschall, Constance Lund Rozendaal


Carolyn P. Gottschall, M.S., CCC-SLP, is currently working in private practice in the San Francisco Bay area.  Her clinical experience ranges from working in public and private schools to clinic and home settings.  Carolyn received her B.S. and M.S. in communicative disorders from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Constance Lund Rozendaal, M.S., CCC-SLP, owns a private practice in the Seattle/Bellevue area with a focus on language and learning; however, she is currently on sabbatical in Kailua, Hawaii, with her family.  Constance has worked in a variety of settings from public and private schools to clinics and home health.  She received her B.S. in speech and hearing from the University of Washington and her M.S. in communicative disorders from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Executive Functions Training Elementary is Carolyn and Constance's second publication with LinguiSystems.  They are also the authors of No-Glamour Memory.


Executive function skills enable us to navigate through everyday life by helping us organize, plan, and manage life tasks.  They are the skills necessary to execute tasks.  Executive function skills can be defined as frontal lobe functioning responsible for higher-level cognitive abilities and cognitive control.  Developmentally, the area in the brain that controls executive functions usually doesn't achieve full maturity until a person's mid-twenties.  For people with developmental delays, maturity may take an additional decade (Cooper-Kahn & Dietzel, 2008).

Different books and articles vary in how they describe executive functions.  The definitions and explanations we like best are from a lecture given by Jane Yakel, M.S., CCC-SLP, of Palo Alto, California, and from Smart but Scattered by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare (2009).

Yakel (lecture, April 20, 2010) explains that executive functions monitor and are responsible for:

  • initiating
  • planning/organizing
  • self-monitoring feedback (learning from mistakes)
  • anticipating outcomes/consequences
  • thinking abstractly
  • goal setting
  • motivating
  • self-regulating
  • perceiving time
  • internal ordering
  • regulating emotions
  • assuring non-egocentric perspectives

Dawson and Guare (2009, p. 13) explain that:

Executive skills are, in fact, what your child needs to make any of your hopes and dreams for his future—or his own hopes and dreams—come true.  By late adolescence, our children must meet one fundamental condition—they must function with a reasonable degree of independence.

Dawson and Guare (2009) go on to discuss a scheme that consists of 11 executive function skills that can be divided into the two dimensions of cognition and behavior.

  • Executive Skills Involving Cognition—Thinking
    - working memory
    - planning/prioritization
    - organization
    - time management
    - metacognition
  • Executive Skills Involving Behavior—Doing
    - response inhibition
    - emotional control
    - sustained attention
    - task initiation
    - goal-directed persistence
    - flexibility

Like language skills, these skills can be organized developmentally beginning in infancy and developing over time.  In the first year of life, response inhibition, working memory, emotional control, and attention all begin to develop.  In the next year, from 12–24 months of age, planning and flexibility emerge.  The remaining five skills—task initiation, goal-directed persistence, organization, time management, and metacognition—develop later, emerging during the preschool to early elementary school years.  Once these skills emerge, they develop over a long period of time since the frontal lobes take years, even decades, to mature.  In Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents: A Practical Guide to Assessment and Intervention, Dawson and Guare (2004) point out that even in an adolescent the lack of planning, time management, and especially inhibition is remarkable.

Again, like language, the development of executive function skills along a continuum can help shed light on how to approach teaching these skills.  For example, if a student has weaknesses in response inhibition, working memory, planning, and task initiation, do not target task initiation first because it is a later developing skill.  Instead, target response inhibition and working memory first because they emerge in the first year of life.  Next, target planning, followed by task initiation.

So how does intelligence factor into this mix?  Whereas intelligence quotient (IQ) defines how much a person knows, executive functions determine if he will do something and how he will go about it (D. Turner-Campbell lecture, May 12, 2010).  An intellectually gifted student with weak executive function skills could present as disorganized, unmotivated, inattentive, and unprepared.  His brilliance would be hard to appreciate.  Alternately, a person with a low IQ score may be able to manage everyday schedules and routines, functioning better than expected as a result of relative strengths in some executive function skills.

IQ is like the engine of a car; it has lots of power, but it's useless unless it's controlled by a driver.  The driver of a car controls the ignition, accelerator, steering wheel, turn signals, and brakes.  Thus, the driver starts and stops the car, determines how fast and in what direction it goes, and monitors the surrounding events to adjust his behavior accordingly.  A person's executive function skills, that plan and organize everything he does, are to the brain what a driver is to a car.

Executive Functions Training Elementary is for students in grades 1-6 who are not performing up to their potential in school and need help with executive function skills.  These students have grades and behavior that are not commensurate with their capability, or their grades are not commensurate with their IQ.  We created fun, functional activities using classroom-relevant topics (e.g., social studies, language arts, science) to help students learn the skills they need to plan, organize, and complete tasks.  We used a multi-modality approach to help encourage learning in different ways.

This book was created with parents in mind, offering strategies and exercises that can be done at home.  All of the activities require minimal preparation and relate to classroom work.  The strategies can also be applied to homework, textbooks, and other school-related work.

Executive Functions Training Elementary is divided into two parts.  Part I focuses on the executive function skills related to cognition.  Each unit contains general strategies and therapy strategies to improve the targeted skill.  There are five exercises for each therapy strategy.  The exercises, as well as the items within each exercise, are arranged in a hierarchy from easiest to most difficult.  Choose appropriate exercises depending on your student's abilities.

Part II focuses on executive function skills related to behavior.  Only general strategies are included for these skills.  Typically a psychologist or a psychiatrist is better equipped to provide therapy for students with weaknesses in these areas.

Executive Functions Training Elementary addresses these skills:

  • Executive Skills Involving Cognition—Thinking
    - working memory
    - time management
    - planning & organization
    - flexible thinking
    - self-monitoring

Note: Flexible thinking is primarily a behavioral skill; however, we included exercises to reinforce flexible thinking that pertains to language skills and general strategies to promote flexible thinking that affects behavior.

  • Executive Skills Involving Behavior—Doing
    - inhibition
    - emotional control
    - attention
    - initiation