Learning and Sharing

Executive Functioning is in the Roots of the Social Learning Tree

on December 18, 2013


Michelle Garcia Winner, creator of the Social Thinking framework, writes, “effective social thinking and related social skills are those that can be applied across situations so that our students can use their social thinking while writing a paper for a class, interpreting content based instruction as well as using this knowledge within direct social interactions”.  The Lunch Buddies groups are working hard to develop a strong root system, or foundation, for the social thinking process.  Executive Functioning is part of the root system that supports the  Social Learning Tree.  Executive skills and processes are used each and every day to: make plans, keep track of time, use prior knowledge in discussions,  ask for help when we need it, be a part of the group, waiting to speak until we are called on, and mentally playing with ideas.
In the third and fourth grade Lunch Buddies groups,  we are always working on components of Executive Functioning such as, flexibility, persistence, and self-regulation.   Executive Functions include processes that enable us to engage in goal-directed or problem-solving behaviors. During the past couple of weeks I have introduced the word “goal” in order to prepare them for goal setting.   
Prior to our game of Deck the Halls Jenga, I write down the object of the game and mark it as our “goal”
Some students might want to remove a Jenga piece just to make the tower fall and cause an uproar at the table.  Those students need a visual cue to “focus on the goal”
These are the cutest!  I spotted them on Pinterest.  You can find then at  The creator has some terrific ideas about how to use Focus Sticks.  I decided to use them to cue the students to focus on the goal.
photo (5)
Focusing on the goal also means that you resist the impulse to blurt out words when it is someone else’s turn.
Providing opportunities to apply skills that the Lunch Buddies are learning is very important, especially when it is fun.
For more information on the Social Learning Tree and articles by Michelle Garcia Winner, go to

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