Monthly Tips

Each month, a Thinking Organized tip is emailed to our growing list of educators, parents and students who want to improve their executive functioning skills.

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By: Kristin Backert

College writing is something that baffles and mystifies many. It’s purported to be much different than high school writing, and there are rumors that it requires hours upon hours of dedication to make it work well. As a recent graduate student, I can affirm that none of the above is hearsay; it is most undoubtedly true. College writing draws on skills you learn in high school and then asks you to amplify those skills to the highest level possible, a challenge that may initially seem difficult to reach but becomes easier with practice.

Here are some tips to help you reach that nirvana of writing.


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By: Colette Hapi
Have you ever wondered about the correlation between executive function skills and mathematics?
Many do not realize that there is a major correlation between executive function skills and success in mathematics. Executive function skills are especially essential when solving complex problems because they require prioritization due to the fact that operations must be solved in a specific order. They also require impulse control because the student needs to stick with these problems long enough to completely solve them.  Organization skills are also a necessity because the student needs to know which formula to apply and where to look to find the right ones. Finally, flexible thinking,  which is the skill that focuses on a student’s ability to adapt to new situations, improvise, and shift strategies to meet different types of challenges, is necessary to help the student solve multi-steps problems.
We’ve found that students with executive dysfunction often struggle with math because they find it hard to shift from one type of problem to another (flexible thinking). They often have trouble with working memory, which can make it hard to solve multi-step problems. These students usually rush through their math homework and are therefore careless about the process. They often tend to give automatic answers to math problems. It is also not uncommon for them to get lost in the middle of complex math problems, and they are often unable to catch their mistakes.


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With students back at school after their Winter Break, you’ve probably noticed a common trend: many of them lack the motivation to get back into “school mode.”
After having a week or more off from school, it can be difficult for students to return to their normal schedules and academic responsibilities. We’re here to help you find ways to boost your children’s motivation level.

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Erica MechlinskiMOTIVATION


As we get ready for a wonderful holiday season, we should take some time during the days off from school to talk to the children about how to stay motivated when work gets hard or when goals are not readily attainable.
First, help your child see that everyone needs to be motivated to succeed. Discuss what is hard for you and how you work through this by setting goals that are attainable. All students, no matter their age, sometimes lose sight of the fact that motivation is important not only for their academic work, but also for their personal goals.
Second, ask your student to set a few personal and academic goals for the next few months. We all know that when we make resolutions for the New Year, many of us break them after a short period of time. Therefore, we want to make sure that the children set short and reachable goals. As we know, a full year is too long a time to wait to see progress.
Third, write the goals down or put them in a document and then break down the goals into at least 5-8 small tasks. Set dates for completion of each task. Remember to check in with the student at the same time twice a week to see how he or she is progressing.  If the student is stuck, then help him or her to move past the block.  Don’t forget to praise the student for any positive results that you see; a little encouragement goes a very long way.
For younger students, a reinforcement chart can help keep them motivated. And don’t forget, the older students might not want a chart, but positive reinforcement is important for them too!
Instituting a system of behavior modification – the awarding and withholding of privileges and rewards – can encourage students to do their best.
Psychological research has proven that behavior that is reinforced tends to be repeated. Unacknowledged behavior tends to diminish or disappear. The principles of behavior modification are simply a formal method that observes behavior and seeks to shape it in positive ways.
The reward does not have to be expensive or edible in order to be effective. Here are some suggestions for helping students stay on track for academic success.


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It’s almost Thanksgiving, and you know what that means – lots of good food, of course! But that’s not all. Whether you have a college student heading home for a short break or a middle schooler traveling to Grandma’s, the holidays are a great time to work on executive function skills with your children.

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Whether you have a child in elementary school or college, getting ready for school in the morning can often be hectic. Papers and books are both everywhere yet nowhere to be found, food is only half eaten, and teeth remain unbrushed. It’s a struggle many of us are accustomed to, but since a new school year has started, perhaps it’s time to break this pattern. Here are five tips to make yours and your children’s morning routine more stress-free and efficient.

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Last month we shared some tips and strategies for strengthening executive functioning skills at home in a non-academic setting. Now that it is September, school is back in session and students are just returning to the normal routine. It can be tough to leave behind the carefree days of summer and wake-up on the first day of school ready to take on a busy schedule filled with classes, extracurricular activities, and homework. Just as executive functioning skills are essential for effectively and efficiently accomplishing tasks for everyday life, they are also critical for success in the academic setting. Similar to being prepared to participate in camp or complete household chores during the summer, time management and material organization are key components of transitioning smoothly back into the homework routine. Read more to find out some of our ideas for making the move as seamless as possible.

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Executive Functioning Skills Matter Every Day

Strong executive functioning skills are essential in academic settings, but they are equally as necessary for everyday living. Thinking Organized seeks to teach organizational strategies that will help students learn to focus on being more organized in school and in life.  Summer gives parents a great opportunity to model and practice these skills with their children in a real-life context, when academics are not necessarily the primary concern. Many kids attend day camp for sports or other activities in which they have equipment and supplies. This is the perfect set-up for practicing material organization! In addition, students often have chores to complete around the house or many fun activities to manage. Conveniently, this is a fantastic time to practice time management skills. Take a look at our ideas in order to get the most out of practicing executive functioning skills with your children this summer.

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Erica MechlinskiExecutive Functioning Skills Matter Every Day

Education of the Future

Here at Thinking Organized, we like to be informed of the latest in education news, in particular when it relates to our students and improving the ways in which they learn and develop. While browsing the latest blogs in the world of education, one headline from the Huffington Post caught our attention immediately. The blog is titled, “The Way We Learn Today is Just Wrong,” written by Peter Diamandis. It explains how traditional instruction involving sitting at a desk and listening to a lecture or rote memorization alienates many students and leads them to believe that learning is unbearably boring. The good news, however, is that an education revolution is upon us that will help equalize the playing field for students of all family backgrounds looking to learn and engage students in a fun and exciting way. According to Diamandis, “Over 155 million Americans play video games, and spend upwards of 3 billion hours per week engrossed in a game.” As I think about this statistic, many of my students come to mind. They struggle to sit in the classroom during the school day, but can play games for hours and never get bored. If technology is so powerful, why not use it in a constructive way that will allow every kid to enjoy learning?
Erica MechlinskiEducation of the Future

Get Out & About the “Thinking Organized” Way

The Washington D.C. metro area is home to countless incredible attractions that your family can enjoy this summer. You can learn about fascinating history and culture, attend a variety of fun festivals, hit the trails, and much more. Usually, parents do all of the planning when it comes to family outings. However, giving your children the opportunity to take over is a great learning experience in how executive functioning skills are essential for everyday life. Planning a trip reinforces and strengthens several key functions located in the prefrontal lobe of the brain, such as time management and cognitive flexibility. We’ve generated our own example for what this process might look like for a family activity that is fun for all ages.
So let’s begin planning our trip to Luray Caverns in Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley!


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Erica MechlinskiGet Out & About the “Thinking Organized” Way