Self-Control & Auto Monitoring: Activities to Exercise the Executive Functions

Self-Control & Auto Monitoring: Activities to Exercise the Executive Functions
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Today’s lesson focuses on self-control and auto-monitoring. This executive function is essential in that is helps students measure time, measure themselves, and measure their work. This discipline is important not just for the classroom, but also for life in general.

Day 4 Lesson Objectives:

  • Executive Functions: Self-control and auto-monitoring
  • Study skills: Checking comprehension, time management skills


  • Colored Pencils
  • “Blink!” Card game
  • Reading Comprehension Page (Download example here.)
  • Timers or sand dials

Lesson Procedure:

*Lesson note: Throughout the lesson at various times, call out the word “freeze!” Students must immediately stop moving. You can create a point system if you would like, but this is a way to keep students on their toes with managing themselves.


1. Warm Up: Play “Simon Says” or any game that employs students controlling their body movements.

2. Time Monitor: Give each child a coloring page and a timer (my favorite are the mini sand hourglass’ that come with almost any game). Tell the students to turn their timer and begin coloring. Tell them they must complete a certain part of the picture before time is up (emphasize that they must color to the best of their ability). Call out “freeze!” at the end of one minute and check for completion. Have them turn their sand counters and ask them to color a specific part again. Continue on until the picture is finished.

3. Math: Play the game “Blink.” This game works on categorization and sorting, as well as self-control and auto-monitoring skills using numbers, shapes, and colors.

4. Language Arts: Give each student a story that is written out with each sentence on a separate line. At the end of each sentence, place a small square that will serve to put a check or an “x” in. As students are reading the story, teach them to read each sentence with a green pencil and a red pencil. When they finish a sentence, have them ask themselves if they’ve understood what they read. If they did, they put a green check in the box and move on. If they didn’t understand, tell them to put a red “x” in the box and read the sentence again. If the student is still unsure after reading the sentence three times, tell them to ask for help. At the end of a paragraph, you may put a blank box and ask students to draw about the story to check for even further comprehension. Click HERE to see an example.


Monitor students as they are playing “Simon Says” and as they are coloring their pages using timers. You can easily walk around and identify which students are struggling in this area. As students are completing the reading comprehension page, walk around to clarify any questions students might have. Collect the page and evaluate whether students drew a picture that summed up the story.

Auto-monitoring is an excellent skill that is directly connected to working memory. In the next lesson, we will present a lesson that focuses on improving working memory.

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