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Cognitive Flexibility EF Conference Executive Function

Supporting Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Classroom

Students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) frequently face challenges in school↗(link opens in new tab/window), often due to unmet sensory, social, and developmental needs. With the prevalence of students diagnosed with ASD steadily increasing↗(link opens in new tab/window), it is more important than ever to understand current, research-based fundamentals of supporting individuals with ASD.

Supporting Students with ASD: from Research to Practice

ResearchILD is thrilled to host Dot Lucci, M.Ed., C.A.G.S., at our 37th Annual Executive Function Conference, where she will present “Creating Classroom Environments that Help ASD Students Thrive – Not Just Survive.”

Dot’s presentation will focus on:

  • The diagnostic criteria and characteristics of ASD
  • How the incorporation of self-awareness, stress-management, and social-emotional intelligence into classrooms can support diverse learners
  • How topics such as positive psychology, explanatory style, and stress management can be applied in classrooms to support students with ASD
  • Concrete tools and strategies for supporting students with ASD

Dot brings over 30 years of experience in education, psychology, and academia pertaining to inclusion of students with special needs, particularly ASD, across settings. In addition, she has extensive experience translating her many publications on ASD into practice as a board member of Autism Asperger’s Network (AANE), program director and director of consultation at Aspire/Massachusetts General Hospital, and co-author of the Think Smart Feel Good curriculum.

Learn More

Interested in learning more about best practices for supporting students with autism spectrum disorder? We invite you to attend our 37th Annual Executive Function Conference on November 3 and 4, 2022, to hear from Dot and other experts in the fields of executive function, social-emotional learning, and education.

  • Taylor McKenna, M.A., M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

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Executive Function Metacognition Webinar

Free Webinar: Executive Function Strategies as a Blueprint for Academic Success

Success in our fast-paced, high-stakes schools is dependent on executive function processes. Why do so many students seem to struggle with executive function? How can teachers and parents support students to handle the executive function demands of academic and everyday life?

Join staff members from ResearchILD for an in-depth explanation of executive function and the SMARTS curriculum in our free webinar on Tuesday, October 11, at 3:30 p.m. EST (link opens in new tab/window).

Why Is Executive Function Important? 

Executive function is a hot topic in education these days, but what does it mean and why do so many students struggle with it? In our 21st-century schools, a large gap still separates the strategies that are taught from the skills needed for success in school and in the workplace. Classroom instruction often focuses on the content, or what, of learning rather than the process, or how, of learning. Furthermore, students are not taught to understand how they think and how they learn, a process known as “metacognitive awareness.”

Nevertheless, academic performance depends on students’ self-understanding as well as their ability to plan their time, organize and prioritize ideas, think flexibly, monitor their progress, and self-regulate.

These executive function processes have become increasingly important from the elementary grades onwards as students complete complex reading and writing assignments as well as online research for long-term projects.

Webinar Topics 

SMARTS is an executive function curriculum that empowers all students by helping them understand their strengths and challenges and teaching them executive function strategies for academic and life success.

In our free, one-hour webinar, staff members from the Research Institute for Learning and Development will explore:

  • How understanding executive function and providing strategies at school and at home can support students across grades and content areas
  • The history and research behind the SMARTS Curriculum
  • Different ways schools use SMARTS
  • The structure and format of SMARTS, how to create a unique scope and sequence, and how to measure student strategy use

Learn More and Register

You can learn more about executive function and the SMARTS curriculum in our free webinar on Tuesday, October 11, at 3:30 p.m. EST (link opens in new tab/window). We look forward to seeing you!

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

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Motivation Quick Tip Student Perspective

Student Perspective: School is Starting, Please Send Help!

This student-authored post is part of a series that highlights student perspectives around learning and executive function in the classroom.

Many students, myself included, are facing increased stress as the school year begins. Even before school starts, students are already stressed with summer work.

More Work, Less Choice

Every year it seems that the work assigned in the summer has grown in quantity. When I was younger, we were told the goal of summer work was just to encourage us to read. But in high school, there is more work and fewer choices.

Stressful Timing

Summer school work poses an issue as I try to balance my summer activities with this work. The school intends for summer work to be done slowly throughout the whole summer. However, being tested on most of this work makes it even worse, because I have to do it in the last two or three weeks of summer, so I don’t forget the content. This leaves me stressed about the tests I will have on the first or second day of classes.

0 to 100!

It’s standard for the first couple weeks of school to be stressful; getting used to a school schedule again and seeing people I haven’t seen for three months are just a few of the stressors. Coming back to school feels like being dropped into a new environment. I like to think of it like a fish being dropped in cold water. Usually, you raise and lower the temperature of fish tanks slowly, so the fish isn’t shocked by the temperature change. But going back to school is an abrupt change, and it is overwhelming.

I’ve only explained a few reasons why going back to school can be so stressful for students. It is important that teachers, parents, and anyone supporting a high schooler be aware of students’ emotions and heightened anxiety during this time.

  • C. Solomon, Student Contributor

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
EF Conference Mental Health Social-Emotional Learning

Maximizing Mindfulness in Schools 

Over the past two decades, school-based mindfulness programs have risen in popularity to help address the stress, anxiety, and dysregulation students are facing in their daily lives. What does research tell us about the efficacy of mindfulness programs in schools and best practices for program implementation?

Mindfulness: Research to Practice

ResearchILD is fortunate to host Rebecca Baelen, Ph.D., at our 37th Annual Executive Function Conference, where she will offer a pre-recorded concurrent presentation on “School-Based Mindfulness Programs: Research and Practical Implications,” drawing from her expertise as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Illinois Chicago where she studies the effects and implementation of social and emotional learning and mindfulness-based programs for teachers and students(link opens in new tab/window).

Dr. Baelen’s presentation will cover:

  • Research on school-based mindfulness programs
  • Factors that affect implementation in the school and classroom setting
  • Practical tools for successfully implementing mindfulness programs into school and classroom settings

Mindfulness in Action

In addition to Dr. Baelen’s focus on the research behind school-based mindfulness programs, we are excited to have two educators share their experience fostering students’ executive function and social-emotional learning skills.

Suellen Inwood, M.S., director and co-founder of the Easton Country Day School, and her former student, Tessa Zimmerman, B.S., founder and executive director of Upstream Education(link opens in new tab/window), will speak on “Addressing Social and Emotional Learning and Enhancing Mindfulness” in their pre-recorded concurrent presentation at ResearchILD’s 37th Annual Executive Function Conference.

Participants will walk away from this session with concrete tools for helping students reduce their anxiety, build resilience, and enhance overall well-being.

Learn More

Has your school already implemented a mindfulness program to support students? What questions do you have about the research around best practices for mindfulness in schools? To learn more, we invite you to attend ResearchILD’s 37th Annual Executive Function Conference on November 3 and 4, 2022, to hear from these presenters and more.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
Goal Setting Organization Self-Checking

3 EF Strategies to Start the School Year

With back-to-school season in full swing, it is more important than ever for students to adopt executive function strategies and tools. Students of all ages can set themselves up for success by implementing these three practices during their first weeks in the classroom.

1. Create an assignment monitoring system 

In elementary grades, pencil-and-paper agenda books can help young students develop both time management and self-monitoring skills. The simple practice of writing down an assignment in an agenda book can help children take ownership of their learning and conceptualize the connection between school and homework.

Many students in older grades continue to benefit from paper-and-pencil agenda books. In addition, pre-teens and older children can begin to strategically incorporate task management systems that include more than a list of tasks to complete. Our SMARTS team recommends the Prioritize→Break down tasks→ Estimate approach, which requires students to plan when and in what order they will complete tasks.

2. Set goals

The beginning of the school year is the perfect time for students to set goals for what they hope to accomplish both academically and outside of school. It is critical, though, for students of all ages to avoid vague and unrealistic goals. Unit 2 of SMARTS teaches students how to utilize the CANDO acronym to create meaningful and enriching goals.

3. Organize materials

Once students know their class load, they should create a place for organizing their class materials, assignments, and notes. Having a central location for all of these resources saves time and makes it easier to gather study materials. Unit 4 of SMARTS teaches students easy-to-remember strategies for organizing their belongings.

Whether students are entering kindergarten or graduate school, creating personalized assignment monitoring systems, setting goals and organizing materials are worthwhile practices to get the school year started on the right foot. For teachers and caregivers looking to support children in developing these skills, the SMARTS curriculum is an invaluable tool.

  • Taylor McKenna, M.A., M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
Recommendations Teaching EF Tips Writing

Enhance Project-Based Learning with EF Strategies

In a recent article from Harvard’s “Usable Knowledge,”(link opens in new tab/window), the authors point out that project-based learning is not worthwhile if students are only engaged but not taking away something meaningful.

One way to boost the benefits of project-based learning is to embed executive function strategies. Executive function strategies can not only help students engage with subject-area content, but also engage in high-order metacognitive thinking processes.

Set Up a Plan

Helping students develop a plan can explicitly address executive function strategies in the areas of organizing/prioritizing time and information. Teachers and students can collaborate to determine the timeline for each project step and identify dedicated slots for “production time.” When students actively engage in the planning portion of a long-term project, they can learn to use the strategy and apply it to future assignments.

Support the Development of Research Skills

The research skills portion of long-term projects requires a high executive function demand. This could include taking notes, understanding multi-step directions, determining which resources are trustworthy, and shifting between many pieces of information. As “guides on the side,” teachers can provide students with support and resources to research their area of interest. These may include graphic organizers, project planners, calendars, and more.

Reflect and Assess Progress

As students complete their long-term projects, it is helpful to take a few minutes for self-reflection. Students can fill out surveys to reflect on the executive function strategies they learned and used. Ask them to think about what aspects of completing a long-term project were challenging or exciting and decide what they might do differently next time.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
autonomy self-reliance Working Memory

EF at Home: The Benefits of Chores

Are you looking for a compelling, research-backed reason to get your children involved in household chores? Research shows that the benefits of chores are numerous! A new study published by researchers at La Trobe University(link opens in new tab/window) demonstrated that children who engage regularly in age-appropriate chores showed a stronger ability to plan, self-regulate, switch between tasks, and remember instructions.

Promoting Executive Function

While household tasks such as cooking may have become automatic for those who frequently complete them, there are systematic processes that make up each of these tasks that can be explicitly taught and modeled to children. Whether someone is cooking or completing homework, it is crucial to self-monitor and self-check to help ensure that we are doing our best work.

Working memory helps us make sense of what is happening around us. When it comes to cooking, the chef must keep instructions and lists of ingredients in mind while moving from step to step, and they must pivot and adapt when they run out of an ingredient or encounter other issues along the way. This can lead to a greater ability to think flexibly.

Developing Autonomy and Self-Reliance

The report builds on previous research that has shown that engaging in age-appropriate chores can lead to increased feelings of autonomy. Children who complete household chores have also demonstrated greater pro-social behaviors. In addition to learning strategies to tackle household chores like cooking a meal, children may experience the positive emotions that come with preparing and sharing a meal with family members and friends.

Encouraging children to complete chores is an excellent way to demonstrate the importance of sharing responsibilities at home and offers many chances for embedding executive function strategies outside of school. 

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
Metacognition Quick Tip Teaching EF Tips

Teaching Metacognitive Talk in the Classroom

Students are often told, “Complete the assignment independently and quietly,” or “Be quiet. Your peers are trying to focus.”

Encouraging students to think in their heads and work quietly can suggest an air of academic and behavioral success. It also raises a question: Does this silent way of thinking benefit student learning?

Thinking Out Loud

Metacognitive talk is a concept that encourages students to think aloud as they work through their ideas. When students work through the steps of a task out loud, they gain a deeper understanding of their thinking processes.

For students to learn this method of deeper thinking, it is essential to see people modeling the behavior. In the classroom, teachers can show metacognitive talk in action by verbally breaking down a problem into smaller steps.

Asking questions is a vital aspect of metacognitive talk. When teachers model and then explicitly teach how to ask questions and what questions to ask, students can build a “question toolkit” to aid their metacognitive understanding.

Questions to Promote Metacognition

Some questions that could be used are:

  • What previous knowledge do I have on this topic?
  • What am I trying to find out?
  • What do I need to do first?
  • Who could I ask for help?
  • What strategies can I use? (Think about the EF toolkit)
  • What can I do differently next time?

While a classroom full of students talking and exploring their ideas could be perceived as raucous to an outsider, I challenge you to rethink this perception and look closer at the possibilities of creative collaboration and metacognitive talk.

  • Julia Ronkin, SMARTS Student Intern

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
ADHD Dyslexia Learning Differences Student Perspective

Fixing a Broken Model, Part 2

This student-authored post is part of a series that highlights student perspectives around learning and executive function in the classroom. You can read part 1 of this post here

An article written in the National Library of Medicine says that when dyslexic students are misunderstood, it “leads to a struggle with the teacher, with the parents and with themselves. The result can be a child deemed to be ‘incorrigible,’ a judgment which can further traumatize the individual.” As a student, I’ve always been annoyed by these misconceptions. Throughout my education, my annoyance led to frustration, my frustration led to anger, and my anger led to despair.

A Broken Model

The current educational system is not working, as it is not acknowledging everybody’s differences. The education system needs to be modernized; schools have been using the same model for decades. Most traditional school practices are outdated, not preparing students for modern life. In the words of Sir Kenneth Robinson, an educator known for working to revitalize the education system, “reforming is no use anymore, because that is simply reforming a broken model.”

Solutions

Schools need to work with their students to foster individualism. They need to create a place where students are able to explore what they want to learn in a way that they can learn it. Everybody has different strengths and weaknesses, so why are we torturing people by penalizing them for having weaknesses?

One of the easiest ways teachers can create a productive classroom environment is to engage with students and ask them how they feel. Making sure students feel comfortable interacting with their teacher and advocating for themselves is crucial. But it’s even more important that the teacher uses that information to help a student. If a student is struggling and has a solution, their teachers need to do everything in their power to make sure the student gets what they need.

A Path Forward

It’s becoming accepted that teachers must address all differences to create an optimal classroom environment. To truly welcome diversity, schools must accept diversity of thought. The goal of educational systems should be to create a world where students’ differences aren’t stigmatized but accepted; where it’s understood that everybody’s brain is just as unique as their physical appearance. We all have two eyes, two ears, one nose, and one mouth—and we look unique.

To truly create change, schools need to acknowledge their shortcomings and try to fix them by listening to student voices. By doing this, schools can help students’ individuality become their strength.

  • C. Solomon, Student Contributor

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
EF Conference Recommendations Social-Emotional Learning

Creating Sanctuary Classrooms

At ResearchILD’s 37th Annual Executive Function Conference this November, we are thrilled to feature George Scott, Ed.S., LMFT, who will share ways educators can create nurturing classrooms for students facing developmental trauma and toxic stressors in his presentation titled, “Creating Sanctuary Classrooms: The Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences on Learners.”

About Mr. Scott

In addition to practicing as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) at the Center of Counseling Services LLC in New Jersey, Mr. Scott is certified in Post Traumatic Stress Management (PTSM) and serves as a state-wide Resource Coordinator for the Traumatic Loss Coalition for Youth Program and Rutgers University Behavior Health Care (UBHC). Mr. Scott’s accolades also include his roles as Adjunct Professor at the Counselor Education Department at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) and Senior Presenter for his affiliate business practice Minding Our Children↗(link opens in new tab/window), which focuses on fostering understanding in adults regarding how to raise healthy and resilient children.

Creating Healing Classrooms

Mr. Scott has over 50 years of experience working in the field of special education and sharing his expertise in youth mental health with educators and administrators across the country. His philosophy that “all adults have the power within them to improve the lives of children” drives his belief in the power of educators to be effective and transformative “minders(link opens in new tab/window)”↗ of student well-being.

With decades of experience partnering with schools, Mr. Scott knows educators face intense demands in numerous aspects of their jobs. In his presentation at the 37th Annual Executive Function Conference, Mr. Scott will share with attendees practical ways educators can provide children spaces to heal and thrive.

Learn More

You can learn more about George Scott and his work:

  • Visit his personal webpage(link opens in new tab/window) and Minding Our Children’s website↗(link opens in new tab/window).
  • Watch his interview(link opens in new tab/window) with the New Jersey School Boards Association on the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on students.
  • Attend ResearchILD’s 37th Annual Executive Function Conference to hear Mr. Scott speak about “Creating Sanctuary Classrooms: The Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences on Learners.”

Looking to build your executive function toolkit? Join us for the Executive Function Summer Summit (July 26, July 28, August 2, and August 4) and the SMARTS Executive Function Summer Workshop (August 9, August 11). All summer professional development opportunities are available online via Zoom and through recorded sessions.

  • Taylor McKenna, M.A., M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org