Categorization & Organization: Activities to Practice Executive Functions

Categorization & Organization: Activities to Practice Executive Functions
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Working with disorganized students can be a frustrating task. Often, students are not only messy, but also lack the skills necessary to organize and categorize thoughts and concepts in their mind. These skills can be learned through constant reinforcement and activities that stimulate connections in the brain.

Day 3 Lesson Objectives:

  • Executive Functions: Organization and Categorization practice
  • Study skills: Grouping concepts for easier retention and picking out the most important information


  • Objects varying in shape, color, and size
  • Memory cards or picture vocabulary cards
  • Multi-step word problem page with work space (download example here)
  • Story sequencing bags

Lesson Procedure:


1. Warm up: Sorting. Using objects of different shapes, sizes, or colors, have students create categories to group the objects in and then sort them as fast as possible. Repeat the activity, asking student to be creative and come up with new categories (i.e. if they sorted by color the first time, have them sort by size the next).

2. Memory card sort. If you have the game “Memory” or picture vocabulary cards, have students go through and establish several themes or categories that the cards may fit into. Have them race against time as they go through the cards placing them in the correct category. (I.e. a monkey card may be placed in an animal category).

3. Math: Two step or multi-step word problems. First read the problem together and highlight the important parts of each word problem. Under each problem, create a single space or square for each step of the problem. If the problem has two highlighted steps, remind students that two work squares must be filled. If there are three highlighted steps, three work squares should be filled. You can find an example of this sheet HERE.

4. Language Arts: Create several stories that can be cut up into sentences or sections and placed in plastic bags. Number each bag and give one to each student. Have the students put the story in the correct sequence. Then have them write down the bag number and think of the main idea of the story. Trade the bags amongst the students so each has a new story and repeat.


Evaluate as students are creating categories to know how well they are able to group concepts or objects in their mind. As the students are sorting, watch for how long it takes them to process the object and put it into the correct category. In math, guide them to pick out the main ideas to highlight and evaluate whether or not they are able to organize the problem into their work spaces correctly. In language arts, be very attentive as students are sequencing. They may accurately guess the main idea because of reading one line, but may have the story completely out of sequence. Guide as needed.

The executive functions build on one another as students strengthen each area. As students learn to organize their thoughts and work, they must also learn to monitor themselves and exhibit self-control. Check out the next lesson for ideas with self-control.

This post is part of the series: 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