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Exercising the Executive Function Attention and Concentration

written by: Tricia Wegman • edited by: Carly Stockwell • updated: 5/24/2013

The executive functions and study skills go hand in hand for learning. Students with learning difficulties must receive specific remedial practice to strengthen these important areas.

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    Difficulties with sustained attention and concentration are a major concern for this generation of students. The brain, however, can be trained to concentrate through activities that require sustained focus and attention to detail. The following lesson plan was designed to exercise these areas and provides activities for both math and language arts.

    Day 2 Lesson Objectives:

    • Executive Functions: Attention and Concentration
    • Study skill: Sustained focus and attention to detail.

    Materials:

    • Concentration sheets
    • Colored pens or pencils
    • Book with repeating words
    • Number maze
    • Symbol/Letter key
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    Lesson Procedure:

    2 EF Attention 1. Warm up: Concentration sheets. Give students a certain amount of time and have them go through a page, circling a specified letter (i.e. circle the “E" when you see it). These can be easily made from cutting out the actual word search from a word search worksheet.

    *For more of a challenge, choose two different letters and have them circle and underline (i.e. circle each “e" and underline each “a" that you see). For even more concentration practice, give specific directions for odd and even lines (i.e. on odd lines such as line 1, 3, and 5, circle the “e" and on even lines, underline the “a").

    2. Listen for the word: Choose a story the repeats a word throughout the book and tell student to raise their thumb every time they hear the word read.

    *For increased difficulty, choose two words with two different actions.

    3. Math: Create a number maze according to your class’ ability. For example, for beginners you may make a maze that requires a student to connect numbers 1-10 to solve the maze. For more advanced learners, choose mazes that require identifying evens/odds or products of multiplication facts. An example of these mazes can be found here: http://www.worksheetworks.com/math/numbers/evenodd-maze.html

    4. Language Arts: Assign each letter of the alphabet a different symbol. Write a secret message on the board using the symbols and have students decode the message onto a sheet of paper based on a symbol key you have given them. Writing the message on the board is extremely important as it requires students to focus on information from the board and on information they have in front of them.

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    Assessment:

    Recording the time allotted when students are completing the concentration sheets is very important because it allows you to track student progress over time. Students should increase their velocity and decrease their errors as time goes on. While reading the word-identification story, look for students that are watching other students to know when to put their thumbs up, or students who are not participating. They will be easy to find. With the other activities mentioned, you will easily be able to identify errors in both the number maze and the secret message.

    As students mature in their ability to concentrate, teaching them organization and categorization skills will only further their progress. The next lesson provides some simple ideas to get students organized!

Exercising the Executive Functions and Building Study Skills

Students with learning disabilities often need help building the executive functions. These include essential skills such as mental flexibility, working memory, self-control, organization and attention.
  1. Exercising the Executive Function of Mental Flexibility
  2. Exercising the Executive Function Attention and Concentration
  3. Exercising the Executive Function Organization & Categorization
  4. Self-Control & Auto Monitoring: Exercising the Executive Functions
  5. Working Memory: Exercising the Executive Function