Planning is a critical executive functioning skill that helps kids and young adults achieve success in and outside of the classroom. Executive functioning skills are the complex mental processes that work together to help us accomplish tasks and goals. When learners struggle with these skills, daily life activities can become particularly challenging. While all executive functioning skills are important in their own way, this post targets interventions specifically for kids who struggle with the ability to plan.
What is planning? Planning is the ability to think about an end-goal and create a roadmap to help you get there. Someone who plans well is more likely to achieve their goals effectively and efficiently, since making a plan allows us to think through what we want to ultimate accomplish. I like to think of planning as one of the more foundational executive functioning skills, as it sets the stage for success. It’s always best to figure out a thorough plan before starting a task.
• Examples of Planning •
It’s important to note that planning can impact all areas of someone’s life, including academically, socially, and personally. Here are several examples of planning in real life:
- Filling out a graphic organizer before writing an essay.
- Taking a few extra minutes to think about what needs to be done today.
- Writing down homework in an agenda before class is over.
- Planning out times for events so activities do not overlap.
- Figuring out which college to attend to enter into a specific career.
• Possible Signs of Challenges with Planning •
Identifying possible challenging with executive functioning skills can make the difference between success and struggle for a student. All kids have bad days once in a while, but if some of these behaviors occur on a regular basis, it should be an indicator to provide interventions and supports.
Possible signs of challenges with planning include:
- Having difficulty starting or completing long-term assignments.
- Forgetting to bring home necessary books, binders, or materials.
- Writing papers, essays, or stories that are difficult to follow.
- Just start tasks without considering the best strategies to completing the task.
- Make impulsive decisions without considering consequences.
- Have to frequently re-do assignments because they didn’t follow the guidelines.
• Interventions, Supports, and Strategies for Planning •
Work can always be done to help kids and young adults strengthen their executive functioning skills. Here are some activities, tasks, and ideas to help with planning needs:
- Teach planning explicitly by explaining the skill, real life examples, and why it matters.
- Discuss the plans of the day during morning meeting.
- Use graphic organizers for writing assignments.
- Set students up with a homework binder and daily homework agenda (use this free homework binder to get started).
- Have students make a to-do list before starting longer assignments.
- Provide a rubric for larger assignments.
- Show models and visuals of what finished assignments should look like.
- Use apps for planning, like Trello and Evernote.
- Use a calendar regularly.
- Have students place their daily schedules on their binders.
- Post the daily objectives and schedule in view.
- Keep important dates listed in sight on a regular basis.
- Practice developing SMART goals and steps to follow through with them.
- Use behavior reflection pages to help consider possible choices.
- Use an end-of-the-day reminder sheet to help students think about what materials they need (try this free checklist).
- Highlight positive examples of planning in the classroom.
• Strategies for Parents to Support Planning at Home •
Parents can play a huge role in supporting and encouraging executive functioning skills in the home environment. Since EF skills impact all areas on a person’s life, it’s extremely helpful for learners to practice these skills in different environments. Here are some activities parents and families can do to strengthen skills for planning:
- Practice making to-do lists together for various tasks.
- Create a structured homework time and space at home.
- Choose a recipe together and plan out how to cook the meal.
- Make a household grocery list together.
- Help list out materials, steps, and due dates for long-term projects together.
- Use a calendar to plan weekly and monthly family events.
- Discuss the day’s plans at morning breakfast or on the ride to school.
- Plan a vacation or short weekend trip together.
- Develop and write down weekly goals for school work, cleaning, or other tasks.
- Have kids list three steps for an activity before they can start it (i.e. going out to the movies or having a friend over the house).
- Encourage kids and young adults to gather school materials and clothes for the next day the night before.
- Discuss examples of planning at jobs in real life.
If you notice this is an area your learners struggle with, get started by teaching executive functioning skills explicitly today. I have created units to target executive functioning skills for middle and high school learners and for younger learners. Targeting these skills will take a little bit extra time, but will be worth the effort!