Links Between Academic Skills and Executive Functions – part 1 – Writing

How does Executive Functioning play a role in writing?

When you mention writing- does it make your child freeze up, avoid or delay?

How would it change your child’s confidence if they had the tools to complete great writing ?

Is your child “lazy” when it relates to writing with poor quality, quantity and effort?


We know that the term “lazy” is a descriptor children can be labelled with – what if you could decode what was happening beyond that label to help your child?

  • Writing consists of micro and macro skills.
  • Macro relates to the big picture ordered by Executive Functioning. This involves:
    • Breaking down the task question/assignment and interpreting what is required
    • Brainstorming ideas, thinking and structuring a format 
    • Organising those ideas into order, transition and details
    • Writing, revising and editing
  • Micro relates to the smaller cogs turning the wheel of writing.
  • This involves:
    • Figuring out the vocabulary and language to use
    • Using the right spelling for chosen words
    • Having sufficient handwriting ability
    • Working out the sentence structure
    • Using ways to combine sentences

We are focusing on the macro skills for this post– wait till you see how many skills we expect our young people to integrate!

Effective writing requires accessing, monitoring, regulating and synchronising micro and macro structures.

8 roles of Executive Functioning and writing

Executive Functioning SkillRelationship to Writing
Focus- Being able to focus on ideas as they come
- Sustaining levels of attention and effort with regard to the physical act of writing
- Not giving up when frustrated
Metacognition -Thinking about one's ideas and how best to express them through writing.
- Revising and editing work
Organisation - Presenting ideas in logical order
- Prioritising information.
- Transitioning between ideas
- Identifying main ideas and supporting details
- Following the multiple stages of writing (prewriting, drafting, revisions, editing, publising)
Planning- Brainstorming and outlining ideas (pre-writing)
- Thinking ahead about audience, purpose and clarity of ideas.
- Self - evaluating one's product
Task Initiation - Being able to get ideas down on paper with little hesitation or self doubt
- Brainstorming and writing ideas to keep from getting stuck
Time Management - Using time effectively to organise ideas and generate a product.
- Gauging the amount of time needed to produce a response for a test/quiz question or prompt
Working Memory - Keeping multiple ideas in mind at once
- Being aware of sentence flow
- Recalling spelling and grammar rules
Flexibility - Being able to shift things around in writing to make revisions
- Understanding that writing is a recursive process and we need to revisit and modify previous work