We ran a series of Executive Function workshops for Primary 6 students to get them ready for the PSLE and it was clear that this is a missing piece of the puzzle in their exam prep.
The months leading up to the PSLE is crucial, and they need to be able to manage themselves, not get distracted by other things and to focus on their revision. Parents who have gone through this milestone with their older kids realised that it is getting the kids to start on their revision and to stay focused are the hardest part! It is not easy for 12-year olds to get organised, draw up a plan and stick to their revision schedule.
These are all Executive Function skills, and children need to be taught these skills explicitly. Over the years, we have noticed how our own TLE kids who work on these skills weekly are way ahead of their peers when they join us at our P1 Prep camp.
We asked the P6 students how they were feeling about the PSLE and almost all said they were stressed. Either because they felt that the workload was too much and the work itself was too difficult, or that it was hard to focus on revision when they would rather be on social media or play games on their gadgets. Some were stressed because they were afraid that their parents would scold them if they did not do well.
We helped them to gain the awareness that they could be in control of their own thoughts and actions. This was a powerful realisation for them! They realised that while their impulse may be to check their notifications on their phone, they could make a decision if they wanted to give in to their impulses, or use new strategies to stay focused on their work instead of constantly being distracted.
The students were very honest and admitted that they spent long hours playing on their devices especially when their parents were at work. It was heartening that by the end of the workshop, they were motivated to try harder.
We introduced them to an interesting activity using plasticine, and it helped them to think of all the things that they needed to exercise more self-control in.
Parents with P6 kids know that by this age, it is futile to keep nagging and forcing them to do what we want them to. They need to want to achieve it themselves, and that internal drive is what will spur them to push on despite the challenges they will face.
We guided them to see the strengths they had, to encourage them and show them that they can do it! Some of them shared that their parents only nag or scold them, and that there’s no point in studying because even if they improve a little, their parents will still not be satisfied.
Parents need to play a part too! It is a long and demanding year for our P6 kids, try to affirm and celebrate their small wins. If they come home with a 10% increase in their marks, give them a pat on the back and tell them how proud you are for the effort they have put in. The next step will be to aim for another 10% gain for the next test, and the next.
They were given hands-on challenges to develop their Growth Mindset. It was not easy to build the tallest tower and many faced failure when the tower collapsed and they wanted to give up. I heard many versions of “Ms Michelle, it’s too hard. I don’t want to try anymore.”
I kept encouraging them, and asked those who were successful in building it up very high to share their strategies. One boy explained: “You need to start with a strong base, then at the parts when it is weak and starts falling, you reinforce with more plasticine. Settle that part first before moving higher.”
That was such great advice which his classmates could learn from, and it ignited a fresh wave of motivation in the kids who gave up. Sometimes, when the project seems too huge and daunting, we need to break it down into more manageable chunks.
Isn’t that helpful when we are learning something new as well? Get the foundations strong, don’t neglect the weak links, and keep pushing forward. I loved how simply he put it.
They learnt that to tackle the PSLE they need to have that same resilience, to persevere even when the work is hard or when they face all sorts of other challenges. To aim towards daily improvement and keep moving towards their goals.
By the end of the workshops, they felt more encouraged and empowered knowing that they could control their minds and that the outcome is in their hands, and they were excited to put into action all the new strategies they have learnt.
My hope is that one day, Executive Function skills will be a part of every school’s curriculum because not all students are fortunate enough to have parents who can afford to send them for enrichment classes.
Many of my TLE parents who are MOE teachers themselves see the change in their own children and have been trying to raise awareness with their HODs and Principal because they have witnessed that if kids don’t pick up these skills in the primary school years, the gap just keeps getting bigger by the time they reach secondary school.
While we continue our mission to help as many children as we can to develop this strong foundation, the good news is, if you have a child taking PSLE this year, we have launched this same programme at The Little Executive so that all Primary 6 kids can have access to it.
It runs as a 2 day camp during the June school holidays, 10 & 11 June, 9am-5pm, $620. For my Mummy Wee readers, mention that you got to know about this camp from my blog and you’ll get a 5% discount! Hope to meet some of you soon 🙂 More details and to register: https://www.thelittleexecutive.asia/holiday-camps
Michelle Choy is an Occupational Therapist by day and mum of 6 by night. Besides the already very demanding job of managing 5 teenagers and one 7-turning-17 tween, she is also co-Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in areas like resilience and executive function. She is a Parent Coach and her signature Mummy Wee: Parenting Secrets courses help parents navigate this challenging journey. She is an Award winning blogger at Mummy Wee Blog and has been regularly featured on national TV, radio and print media.