Angry Birds: Executive Functioning

If there is one thing SLP’s know… it’s that finding a motivating tool, will take your therapy session a long way! This week I’ve been using an angry birds kit I got on Black Friday for $4 bucks! The game comes with cards that describe sets of building set ups worth different points. I get a lot of SLP’s who know how to use games as reinforcers, but sometimes the game itself if worth a second look at it. I have some 3rd grade students who are working on language skills and that includes executive function.

What do we know about executive functioning and language impaired students? Lets take a quick trip through the research. This information is based on a ASHA Poster from 2011 found here from Sarah Lambeth, Jacquelyn Liesen.  

Executive functions are comprised of attentional and inhibitory control; working memory; planning and organizing; initiation and shifting; self- monitoring, and emotional control.   

Children with specific language impairment (SLI) may have deficits in attention, narrative language skills, and auditory working memory (Hoffman & Gillam,2004; Marton & Schwartz, 2003) 

Significant correlation is evident between preschooler’s narrative language abilities and executive functions skills of inhibition, working memory, flexibility, and planning, measured by the BRIEF (Trainor, 2010)  

Typically developing adolescents and adolescents with SLI differ in executive functions measured by the BRIEF (Hughes, Turkstra, and Wulfeck, 2009) 

So in summary, planning, sequencing & recall are all important executive functioning skills! Those skills match perfectly with the Angry Birds game when used with intention by a SLP.  Here’s what we did during each round.  1. Develop a plan.  (ie: Jake will build the bottom parts and I’ll add the top parts.) 2. Describe the plan, step by step, which is scribed by the SLP.  (First, stand the grey parts in the tall position next to each other. Then add a short grey piece. etc.) 3. Develop questions to request items, using ATTRIBUTES (Ms. Rayburn, may I have the piece that is round, grey and bumpy?)  ((We skipped this skill in younger or more delayed students, but it was a perfect way to add those skills for 4th graders!) 4. Build it! (Recalling the steps outlined above.) 5. Use those metacognitive skills! How did we do? Does it look like the picture? Do we need to adjust? What did we miss? 6. Knock it down! (And start again!) The best part is that they think they’re just playing! Have you used any games to work on executive functioning skill in your students?

Lovely comments

  1. 1


    Love this! I do it with Legos, we plan what to build and students have to describe what they need and ask me for each piece. I love seeing progress from easy Lego projects to more complex!

  2. 11


    I use the apps- Where’s my Water and Where’s my Perry? The students have to tell what they are going to do before they do it. It is hard for them to wait to tell the group.

  3. 14


    I also love the Casey’s Contraptions app for this. Just FYI…I have never seen research that shows how to directly address inhibition. Actually, if you read the Marshmallow Test, it seems as though this is difficult for researchers to measure and design treatments for….does anyone know of any?

    • 15

      Anonymous says

      Look in behavior analysis or psychology journals. You may have to change the name of the target behavior (inhibition) to something more specific. There should be lots of research.

  4. 17


    This is a great idea! My kids LOVE angry birds! We usually do this with legos too. I may have to go ebay shopping for some angry bird toys! :)

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