What is Executive Functioning?

What is Executive Functioning?

Executive Functioning (EF) skills are skills we use every single day, but often don’t realize we are using them. For example, when you make your lunch in the morning, you are planning a meal for later in the day. When you sit quietly in class or at work, you are exhibiting self-control. Most of our daily activities can be tied back to executive functioning in some way.

There are ten main components of Executive Functioning.


The ability to look at our goals and tasks and figure out what we need to do in order to accomplish them.


The ability to keep things in a systematic order. We use this in reference to both materials and plans.

Time Management

The ability to look at a task and both plan and use your time effectively in order to complete it.

Task Initiation

The ability to begin a task.

Working Memory

The ability to hold onto information in our minds. This refers to our ability to follow directions and remember things we were told.


The ability to recognize what knowledge you have, and what you don’t yet know.

Self- Control

The ability to control your thoughts, actions and emotions.

Sustained Attention

Being able to focus on one thing for a period of time.


How well you can accommodate change and adapt in new situations.


The ability to work through a challenging task without giving up when things are difficult.

Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to EF. This can pose different challenges for students. A child might have great self-control and can sit quietly in class, but have poor planning skills. Another child in the same class might be able to plan out their weeks down to the minute, but because they struggle with task initiation, none of their planning ever offers much benefit to their school work. This combination looks differently in everyone, and provides everyone with different strengths and weaknesses. Over the next few weeks, we will be talking about each of these skills, how they affect your child, and what you, as a parent can do to model these skills and set your child up for success. Check back next week for a closer look at Planning.

If you believe your child struggles with EF and would like more information, please check out our services tab, or call us at 303-309-9135.

How to Create a Study Schedule For Your Child

Study schedule

As we get further into the school year, more and more tests are going to start popping up in your child’s classes. We often get questions about how to help them prepare, and one of the best pieces of advice we can give you is to create a study schedule. Far too often we see children waiting until the night before a test to start reviewing, causing undue stress. By getting into the habit of chunking (breaking down the workload into smaller, more manageable pieces) you can not only help your child get through their tests now, but also set up better study habits for the rest of their lives.

This is the schedule that we have seen to be most effective. First, look at your calendar, or your child’s agenda and find the day of the test. You are going to start here, and work backwards. The night before the test, you do not want your child to be studying anything new. Reserve this night for a quick review, and a good night’s sleep. Then, break it down in manageable chunks and work as far back as your child needs. For example, if your child has a science test on Friday on chapters 1, 2 and 3, on Thursday night you should be doing a quick review. On Wednesday night he or she should study chapter 3, on Tuesday night study chapter 2, and on Monday night study chapter 1. You can break up any subject this way, even if it is not by chapters. If it is a spelling test at school, start at the day of the test, do a review the night before, and then break it down a few words a night and work your way as far backwards as your child needs. This allows them to learn over time, and avoids cramming the night before the test.

We strongly recommend that you or your child writes this schedule down, whether it be in the child’s planner/agenda, or on a family calendar. This helps keep him or her accountable, and makes the idea of chunking much more concrete than if he or she tried to do it in his or her head.

These planning and study skills are especially helpful as your child gets older and the material is more in depth. However, by starting this practice early, it becomes a good habit that your child will have as they progress through school.

How Do I Get Help From the School?

Now that school is back in session, we are getting this question quite frequently. There is a long answer (which we will begin to get into) but the short answer is that it is complicated but not impossible to get help for your struggling student from the school if you know the right questions to ask.

We wanted to walk you through the steps of getting the help you know that your child so desperately needs. Because this can be a complicated process we decided to break it down in the same way we break tasks down for our students.

Step One

How do I get help from the school?
  • Make a list of the concerns you have regarding your child in the classroom. We have a number of printable resources available in our Understanding How To Get Help From the School online course that you can use to help organize your thinking around this.

Really we want to be thinking about which subjects are causing the most difficulty (e.g., reading, writing, math, specials?) Then we want to be thinking about what specific activities in those classes are making things difficult (e.g., is writing difficult because it's hard for your student to brainstorm or is music difficult because it's too loud and unstructured?) You also want to think about what difficulties you are seeing at home.

Step Two

  • Write a letter or an email (we have templates available in our online course) to your child's teacher.

  • Ask to set up a meeting as soon as possible to discuss your concerns.

  • Ask the teacher if they are noticing similar concerns.

Make sure you follow-up as teachers can be busy but you don't want your inability to get in touch with your child's teacher to delay getting the help you need.

Step Three

  • Meet with the teacher to discuss your concerns.

  • If you don't hear back from your child's teacher within an appropriate time frame (more than a week) you may need to consider including the school principal on the email to get things moving.

  • During this meeting ask whether your child's teacher has similar concerns, if so - what is being done in the classroom to address the concerns? If the teacher does not have similar concerns, ask what data they are using to monitor student growth and progress. How would he or she know if your child was not meeting grade-level expectations?

Step Four

If you and your child's teacher have concerns, it is likely that the teacher may recommend the Response to Intervention (RtI) process in which the teacher will provide small group intervention known as Tier 2 intervention for 6-week intervals monitoring to see whether the intervention was helping your child progress forward academically.

If your child is going to move through the RtI process it is of critical importance that you ask the teacher:

  • What intervention is being done?

  • How is progress being monitored?

  • How will you be informed of the results?

RtI can be a great tool if used correctly for students who are right on the cusp of average student performance. Unfortunately, at times, it can also be a tool that's used to delay getting your child the help he or she really needs.

Step Five

If you have serious concerns about your child's academic skills or if your child is getting older and you feel that they still aren't getting the help that they need:

  • You may want to consider requesting in writing to have your child tested for Individual Education Program (IEP) eligibility.

Do not ask the school to test your child for dyslexia or a specific learning disability because they will say they don't offer that service. What the school can and will do (within 60 days by federal law) is perform IEP eligibility testing and you have the right to request this testing whether or not the child has completed the RtI process.

Step Six

After the eligibility evaluation, you will have a meeting scheduled with the school IEP team. Often this includes you, the child's teacher, an administrator, the school psychologist, the special education teacher, and any other professionals who completed testing (the speech pathologist, occupational therapist, social worker, etc.)

During this meeting, the determination will be made on whether or not your child qualifies for services.

  • If he qualifies - you will work on creating goals and assigning minutes from each service provider along with determining which accommodations and modifications will be most helpful.
  • If he does not qualify - you will need to determine how he will be supported in the general education classroom, whether a 504 Plan may be an option, and what you can do outside of the classroom to help support your child.

All that to say - it is a long process.

And, beyond Step Six there is still a complex process to getting your child the support he or she needs and then making sure that the plan is followed through. Because we hear this question so often, we created an online course specifically for parents with students that are struggling academically that would benefit from extra support in reading, writing, or math.

If you are interested in learning more - consider signing up for our online course so that you can have the confidence (and lingo) you will need going into the school.

Why Can't My Child Follow Directions?

Parents and teachers often mention that it is hard for their dyslexic child or student to follow directions. There are many possible reasons for this and causes can overlap.

The most common reason could be a weakness in one or more learning micro-skill.

Micro-Skills are the foundation of learning. We tend to think of intelligence as one specific thing. However, it is actually a combination of a variety of smaller skills we call micro-skills. Each learning or remembering task is dependent on, and made up of, these micro-skills.

My child isn't listening.  

For example, if we try to remember a sequence of numbers or letters we might rely upon auditory memory or visual memory. Try this out for yourself. Try to remember the following sequence and look away from the page.


Now, how did you do it?

Did you repeat the numbers auditorily internally?

Or did you see the numbers in your head?

Okay, now try this one


If you are auditory dominant and you tried to store it in your mind that way you would have a lot of difficulties. That's because trying to store the capitals and lower case letters just doubled the amount of information. The same number of symbols but far more information.

To do this efficiently we would actually use both. Auditory memory is very good for sequencing while visual memory can be easier to recall and store more information. So we could remember the sequence in our auditory memory and remember capital or lower case in visual memory. Working together these two forms of memory are quite powerful. And, as you can see, a weakness in either could cause a difficulty in remembering sequences of instructions. Thus, a difficulty in following instructions.

Let's use another example. Say I gave the following instructions:

"Go to the store and get bread, mayonnaise, a can of tuna, pickles, lettuce, and milk"

You might go off to the store repeating that sequence over and over auditorily. Or you might just visualize a nice tuna fish sandwich and know to get everything for that. So, in that case, you would be storing two pieces of information, the store and lunch, rather than seven pieces of information. You can see how using these two micro-skills, visual memory and auditory memory, are far more powerful together than individually.

It's not always about the strength of these skills. Sometimes we can be strong in a micro-skill but simply not "remember" to use it for a given task. This is why it's important to practice the strong skills as well. Because doing so can "remind" the brain to use them. In other words, a skill can be strong but compartmentalized. The solution to this is variety in exercises. And not necessarily looking for the challenging micro-skill exercises. Certainly, you would want to do the challenging ones, just not at the exclusion of the easy ones. Everything works together.

Following instructions requires remembering sequences. It is not simply memory, but instead various forms of memory that all work together. If one or more is weak, not used, or not working well with the others then poor sequencing will be a symptom of those underlying problems.

These skills are so subtle and so fundamental that most of us are simply not aware that we are doing them. They are usually below our level of consciousness. Yet taken together they make up memory skills, sequencing skills, and many other learning skills. It is these fundamental skills that we need to work on helping our dyslexic students develop to ultimately support the over arching skills.

Is it dyslexia or a vision issue?

Dyslexia is a brain-based learning difference. It is a language processing disorder and not a vision or eye problem. In contrast to dyslexia specialists and most pediatricians, some optometrists may try to convince you that your child’s reading difficulties are due to vision problems and may recommend vision therapy or glasses. Some well-intentioned (but misinformed) therapists or teachers may even suggest colored overlays to “fix” the problem.

Are Our Readers Really Reading?

Dyslexia is often referred to as a hidden disability because it can go undetected for so long. On the surface, everything looks fine. It has been my experience that dyslexic students are good at coping, they know how to play school. They work hard, they are highly verbal, love to answer questions in class, they are curious, can make the most amazing connections, and at an early age – when texts are predictable, repetitive, and have strong picture support – these students can look like readers. It’s not until you dig deeper and begin to analyze their phonemic awareness skills or their ability to rhyme and manipulate sounds that you may realize there is a hiccup.

“But, he’s so smart, he can’t be dyslexic!”

When I begin to suspect that a child may be dyslexic, one of the sure-fire things to tip me off is observing a really bright student struggle with reading a simple text.

When discussing my concerns with teachers, they often say, “But, he’s so smart, he can’t be dyslexic!”

Dyslexia does not have any correlation to a person’s intelligence and in fact, people with dyslexia often have above average IQ’s. We assume that if a person is smart that they are a strong reader. Dyslexia defies this assumption.

How Do You Determine which Accommodations are Best?

Once you have intervention in place to be sure your child is closing any skill gaps:

How do you get the right supports from the school?

Talking with your child's school team is of paramount importance. You want to be sure that while your child is getting the help they need privately or through school-based intervention, that they are not continuing to fall further behind in the classroom.

If necessary, I find it helpful to limit the number of requests to your top two in each domain to be more likely to have consistent follow-through from the school. While they are doing their best to accommodate every student, the reality is that less can be more in some instances.

How Much Therapy is Enough?

So now that you know you need academic therapy...how long will it take to finish?

How much therapy is enough?

This is a great question, but it can be difficult to answer. The length of time needed in an academic therapy program really depends on your child's academic profile, needs, and retention of the information.

Typically we can help predict the length of time in a program based on standardized testing results (psychoeducational testing results, not necessarily state standardized assessments). While at Children's Hospital Colorado our team researched the length of time it would take to see consistent growth in reading ability. There were many factors at play but overall we found that student's could expect to see around 10 Standard Score points of growth in a 6-month period with therapy occurring once to twice per week. There was not a statistical difference between students being seen once to twice per week.

You can check out the research poster here and the overview of the findings here!

Of course, every child is different but typically we are able to give strong predictions of length of time in a program. For reading remediation typically students remain on our caseload for 12-18 months depending on the concerns. Some students need less time and some need more.

For math students, it generally depends on how large the skill gap is - often students progress through our math program in 6-12 months (some need longer depending on the level of severity and cause of the deficit).

Our executive functioning program generally takes 10-12 weeks of once per week sessions to complete the skills workbook. Some students need longer with more individualized practice to really hold onto the skills introduced in the program.

What can you do to help your child make progress quicker?

  • Make sure to remain in communication with your child's therapist about the skills they are working on during our sessions.
  • The more practice and support you can offer your child outside of their sessions - the quicker the progress will be. Complete all of the home practice activities you are provided!
  • Consider inviting us to attend an IEP meeting so we can make sure your child is getting the most they can out of supports provided at the school.
  • Be consistent with your appointments! We know life gets in the way, especially when you have such a long-term commitment with academic therapy. But missing sessions significantly impacts the length of time it takes to complete the program.

Why Orton-Gillingham (OG) Reading Instruction?

Why OG?

So many parents are very curious about Orton-Gillingham instruction as it is largely tauted the "Gold Standard" in reading intervention. So, often the question is:

What is so different about OG instruction?

Well, as we mentioned in a previous post, a major benefit is that it meets the student where they are as opposed to assuming they indirectly picked up a rule/strategy without being given the explicit rule or pattern to follow. But equally as important OG is different than reading instruction they may have received previously because it teaches the "why" of our language.

By exploring the "science/engineering" and "history" of our language we are able to teach students how to systematically decode words using explicit rules following a very organized pattern. For example the science/engineering of our language - includes the six syllable types that predict all of our vowel sounds, our Hard and Soft C/G rule (sometimes known as Gentle Cindy) teaches us how and when c says /s/ versus /k/ and when g can say /j/. Many parents are floored by all of the amazing rules of our English language they never learned as a child.

The history of our language helps us identify word origin which impacts spelling and pronunciation of words and explains why some words make no sense (generally anglo-saxon words because these people were largely uneducated). Using predictable sound patterns, we are able to build/engineer words in a very structured way which speaks to a different area of the brain that dyslexic students often excel in.

In explaining this to students we talk about using building blocks, Legos, that will click together, stack and build on eachother to give us the knowledge we need to read and spell unfamiliar words. These Lego pieces are entirely different than what most students will learn at school and therefore by the end of their time in an OG program they will have this huge amount of knowledge about the science, history, engineering of our langauge!!! Very empowering if we do say so ourselves!

Signs to Watch For if You are Concerned about Dyslexia

According to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, indicators of dyslexia can be noticed early on, before school-age. It's important to catch these signs early because early identification and intervention can be key to preventing several difficulties children who struggle with dyslexia may encounter.

Preschool Early Signs of Dyslexia

What to look for if you are worried about dyslexia. 
  • Trouble learning common nursery rhymes, such as “Jack and Jill”
  • Difficulty learning (and remembering) the names of letters in the alphabet
  • Seems to be unable to recognize letters in his/her own name
  • Mispronounces familiar words; persistent “baby talk”
  • Doesn't recognize rhyming patterns like cat, bat, rat
  • A family history of reading and/or spelling difficulties

Kindergarten and 1st Grade

Kids in school learn symbol/sound correlation (e.g., what does B say?), they learn to decode (sound out) words, remember sight words, and spell words. If your child is struggling, indicators of dyslexia are:

  • Reading errors that show no connection to the sounds of the letters on the page. Your child may say “puppy” instead of the written word “dog” on an illustrated page with a dog shown.
  • A lack of understanding that words come apart
  • Complains about how hard reading is or “disappearing” when it is time to read
  • A history of reading problems in parents or siblings
  • Difficulty sounding out even simple words like cat, map, nap
  • Does not associate letters with sounds, such as the letter b with the /b/ sound

2nd Grade and Above

When kids reach second grade and above, the reading and spelling struggles begin to appear more obviously. There is a larger gap between their cognitive capabilities and their academic performance. People with dyslexia tend to have an average or above average IQ, so many learn to compensate on their own and therefore “fly under the radar” in the classroom. Kids may struggle with basic reading concepts along with some noticeable speech issues. Some indicators to watch for are:

  • Slow in acquiring reading skills. Reading is slow, awkward, and laborious
  • Trouble reading unfamiliar words, often making wild guesses because he/she cannot sound out the word
  • Lack of a strategy for reading new words
  • Avoidance of reading out loud
  • Searching for a specific word and ends up using vague language, such as “stuff” or “thing” a lot, without naming the object?
  • Pauses, hesitates, and/or uses lots of “umm’s” when speaking
  • Confuses words that sound alike, such as saying “tornado” for “volcano,” substituting “lotion” for “ocean”
  • Mispronunciation of long, unfamiliar, or complicated words
  • Seems to need extra time to respond to questions.

Do I Need an Evaluation?

Do I need an eval?

While there may be some cases in which it is good to wait, generally the answer to this question is - YES! While you absolutely do not need an evaluation to get started with remediation, it can help guide treatment and answer many questions for you, as parents as well as for the clinicians working with your child.

School-Based Evaluations

Evaluations can be provided through the school as part of an Individual Education Program (IEP) eligibility process. The trick here is that you want to ask for IEP eligibility testing NOT learning disability testing.

School-based evaluations are the most cost-effective route and they guarantee school buy-in, but they can take months to complete, and depending on the school, may not provide a lot of specific recommendations.

Private Learning Disability Evaluations

Educational diagnosticians, psychologists, and neuropsychologists can also provide evaluations. These evaluations often require parents to pay out of pocket. In some cases, insurance may cover part or all of the evaluation but this is not common. Typically if your insurance is willing to cover part of the cost you will be required to submit for reimbursement through your insurance.

Private evaluations can be costly but often provide more comprehensive recommendations for your child and can often be scheduled earlier than school-based evaluations in order to speed up the process in getting your child the specific help he or she needs.

Is it worth it?

The bottom line is, children who demonstrate academic struggles early on, will continue to struggle throughout their academic career if they do not receive instruction that meets their specific learning style and needs.

The “wait and see” approach is never a good option to take; any amount of additional academic support will never hurt a child but the lack of necessary additional support can absolutely have lifelong impacts. Whether you choose to have your child evaluated through the school or through a private evaluator is completely personal and may be dependent upon on your child’s needs and your family's situation.

The value of knowledge and data about your child’s academic strengths and challenges will prove to be an extremely worthwile investment.

How is Learning Therapy Different From Tutoring?

How is learning therapy different than tutoring?

Often by the time a student is suspected of having a learning disability, parents or caregivers have already gone to great lengths to support their child. Many have hired tutors or had teachers spend extra time with their child over the summer to no avail. So often families ask us how academic therapy or dyslexia therapy is different from what they have tried in the past. This is a wonderful and necessary question.

Learning Therapy

  • The key difference is that learning therapy aims to identify the underlying causes of the learning difficulty in order to target those skills with structured tasks and curriculum design in order to support foundational learning elements.
  • Because therapy aims to target the underlying causes of the learning difficulty, a specific intervention plan is provided for the student. This means that the interventionist is not necessarily supporting homework completion with the school-based curriculum, but rather, that a program and materials are being developed to help fix the cause of the difficulty in the classroom.
  • Learning therapy uses past educational testing (from an IEP or initial screening) to determine how to create a curriculum specific to the student's needs.
  • Learning therapists or interventionists typically provide the curriculum for the student during the session, the student does not bring work from the classroom. Sometimes as therapy progresses, therapists will work with a child on generalizing the skills they have learned to the classroom assignments.
  • Learning therapy typically has a finite beginning and end (that varies on the learning pace of the student) that follows a systematic order of instructional topics.
  • Because learning therapy is so individualized, targeted, and designed around a student's need, the intervention generally costs more than a traditional tutor.


  • Generally tutors aim to support the "symptoms" of a specific learning disability. Their job is usually to support the student through the curriculum assigned by the school or teacher.
  • Tutors require the student to bring work that they are struggling with in the classroom in order to provide alternative ways or additional one-on-one instruction in order to support specific academic gaps.
  • The target of the instruction can vary from week to week depending on the needs of the student.
  • Because tutors can rely more on worksheets and work brought from the classroom, there is less need for planning ahead of the session and therefore typically traditional tutor rates are lower than that of a learning therapist's rates.

It is important to recognize that there is immense value in both learning therapy and tutoring. Making the decision on what is right for your child depends on his or her specific needs. Often standardized assessment or consultation with a learning therapist can help to determine which option is the best fit for your child.

Discovering a Learning Disability

The best place to begin is to identify indicators of a potential learning problem. Think about it this way; if you have a student who has average to superior intelligence, has intact sensory perception (e.g., ability to see words on the paper and hear words) and has been instructed in reading and writing by a competent teacher for months or years, but is demonstrating a significant discrepancy between their IQ and their academic achievement, it is time for an evaluation.

Discovering a learning disbility

For example, if a student has an IQ standard score of 120 but their reading and spelling achievement standard scores are reported as 80 and 76 respectively, they are demonstrating at least a 40 point discrepancy between their overall cognition and their academic achievement. (Generally, a 15 point difference is reported to be statistically significant.) Another way this discrepancy might come to your attention (without having standardized assessment scores) is in daily interactions with a child. A child might demonstrate strong verbal skills and strong problem-solving skills, but their reading/writing/spelling output do not seem to match their verbal output.

An evaluation is important, not only to identify the underlying deficit, but to also identify an appropriate instructional approach, goals for remediation, and the potential need for further assessment by a specialist. School systems have moved away from using the "discrepancy model" in order to identify learning disabilities, but the fact is, if you have an intelligent student and their work output does not match their intelligence (meaning they are significantly under-performing), then there is most likely a learning deficit. The good news is, remediation is generally successful with students who possess average intelligence levels.

There are other indicators and behaviors to look for that may or may not be obvious. These behaviors will most likely be demonstrated in the classroom and in the home. It is important to note that all children exhibit one or more of these behaviors from time to time. IF a child is consistently demonstrating a group of these behaviors it may be time to seek out an evaluation by a qualified individual.

Difficulty with Attention and Concentration

  • Daydreaming
  • Showing distractibility
  • Trouble completing tasks
  • Restless behaviors

Difficulty with Memory

  • Learning the alphabet
  • Identifying letters
  • Spelling
  • Remembering names

Difficulty with Spoken or Written Language

  • Pronouncing words
  • Learning new vocabulary
  • Following directions
  • Discriminating among sounds (hearing the difference between /m/ and /n/ for example)
  • Reversing or omitting letters, words or phrases (very common with smaller words or word parts, such as suffixes, while reading)
  • Reading comprehension
  • Writing stories and essays

Difficulty with Organization

  • Time management
  • Assignment completion
  • Sequencing information (letters in the alphabet, days of the week, months of the year, numbers)
  • Thinking (relating a specific detail or idea to a unifying concept)

Difficulty with Physical Coordination

  • Drawing
  • Manipulating small objects

Difficulty with Appropriate Social Behavior

  • Tolerating frustration (outbursts)
  • Interpreting nonverbal skills (body language)
  • Accepting changes in routine

Homework Strategies for Students with Learning Difficulties

Homework Strategies

Set a timer!

Homework Strategies for Students with Learning Difficulties

Having a concrete ending point can help children maintain attention. Make sure to monitor their attention to task during this time. Each time your child/student appears to be "zoning out" or not attentive to their work, stop the timer until they are ready to refocus. 30/30 is an amazing app meant for adults or older students (click on the image below), but I like the simple user interface and it can help younger students transition to independent time management as an adolescent/young adult. I recommend setting a time for each subject of no longer than 10-15 minutes depending on the needs of the child. After 10-15 minutes finish the problem/question you are and switch to a new subject or take a quick brain break.

Display manageable chunks

For particularly difficult subjects (especially writing or reading for a child with dyslexia or math for a child with dyscalculia) display only manageable chunks. I love this idea from Teach 123 of cutting a file folder in order to display only one question or problem at a time so that students are not overwhelmed by all that needs to be accomplished.

Give only one step of large multi-step projects

If a long term project is to be completed, only give one step at a time along with a due date. This will help the student not jump ahead and also keep them organized and on track. Utilizing apps can help older students manage multiple class loads at a time.

Provide a hands-on visual organizer for procedural tasks

This is a great strategy for tasks which are repeated frequently that are generally procedural in nature (or follow a systematic process). Math is a great example of structured tasks that can be organized in this way. Review of written work is another (e.g., Check for Capitals, Check for Organization, Check for Punctuation, Check for Spelling). I chose to type this example but you could also hand-write on pre-laminated sheets with a dry erase marker for easier swaps of material.

The goal of providing a visual like this is to allow a student that usually needs step by step instruction of tasks to work more independently. You can teach a child to become more autonomous by removing steps and asking what was left out, or incorrectly ordering steps and asking for the student to correct them before beginning.

Teach organization skills with use of a planner

Often times managing a planner is not a skill that comes easily to children with executive function challenges (especially those with ADHD). This skill needs to be explicitly taught. Working with your child or student on how to use a planner and determining the best type of planner at the very beginning of the year is very important. I like to use planners because you can color-code subjects and make sure that all the steps are completed. By placing a planner in the front of a homework binder or placed in a paper protector stapled onto the front of a homework folder teachers can know to check for homework that may have been completed but not handed in.