Our PreK is a community of students deeply engaged in exploration, discovery, and reflection.
And no matter what we are doing – whether it be painting, meditation, or cooking – we are practicing a set of skills called executive functioning skills.
These high-level cognitive functions enable us to manage our emotions and monitor our thoughts in order to work more efficiently, effectively, and collaboratively. They help us to organize our behavior and override immediate demands in favor of longer-term goals. They also help us to respond appropriately to the limits and consequences of everyday life with responsibility, adaptability, flexibility, and integrity.
Requiring a lot of time to practice and learn, they are all skills that “stick” when taught consistently and meaningfully beginning in the earliest of grades. They are reinforced when children construct their own learning experiences (a core characteristic of our progressive classroom). Research shows that executive skills are necessary for future academic successes and ensure that we might become reflective, respectful, and responsible members of our communities.
What are some of the names of these executive skills and how might we practice them in our classroom? A few examples: when our students construct a detailed and complex palace out of blocks or create the Mayflower ship from cardboard, paper, duct-tape, and paint, they are acquiring sophisticated “planning skills” and practicing “goal-directed persistence.”
When they create and illustrate their own classroom rules, our students are strengthening their “response inhibitions.”
Creating a doctor’s office in our Dramatic Play Area? That sparks their “working memories!”
And t’fillah, meditation, and yoga hones our students’ “sustained attention skills” and “emotional control.” And using our Peace-Table and Feelings Journal? That requires “reflection” and “metacognition!”
All of these activities build the skills for future student successes in school . . . and in life.