Categories
ADHD

Student Perspective: Creating a Safe Environment for Students with Learning Differences

Creating a safe classroom environment for students with learning differences can have a lasting positive impact on their educational experiences. This post is part of a series that highlights student perspectives around learning and executive function in the classroom. 

One critical aspect of every student’s learning experience is the classroom environment created by the teacher. Every teacher has a different classroom environment, and some may be a better fit for certain students. In my post, I will highlight the factors that I find critical in creating a positive and inclusive classroom environment for students with learning differences. 

Encourage Positive Self-Talk

Within a classroom, it is vital to encourage positivity. In many classrooms, teachers either encourage or don’t discourage people with executive function disorders to be demeaning to themselves. This can lead to other students in the class feeling that it is acceptable to be demeaning to these students as well.

There were many students in my English class with dyslexia and ADHD. My teacher created an environment where these students constantly called themselves ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid.’ Then students without learning differences in the class called someone ‘dumb’ because they could not perform a ‘normal’ English task like spelling words. Other students called a boy with ADHD highly disruptive because he forgot to take his medication. When I expressed to my teacher that I felt uncomfortable with my classmates calling each other ‘dumb’ because of their neurodiverse identities, she dismissed my claim and said it is just normal teenage behavior.

Discourage Negative Talk about Intelligence

As a teacher, if you want to foster a healthy classroom environment, you must try to discourage negative talk about students’ intelligence. It harms the students in the class who have learning differences for two reasons. First, it can make them think they are stupid for having a learning difference. Second, a negative classroom cannot foster learning.

Teachers need to help neurotypical students realize it’s not ok to make fun of the kids with learning differences. When you want to discourage this type of negative behavior, it isn’t effective to tell students to stop within the classroom. If you do, students with learning differences may have more negative thoughts about themselves. Instead, you should talk to the student one-on-one outside of class time to try to find out why they feel they are dumb and help them realize that they are just as intelligent as everyone else in their classes. 

To read more student perspectives, check out the Real-Life Experiences with Remote Learning series. If you are interested in building your executive function toolkit, join us for the Executive Function Summer Summit (July 27th, July 29th, August 3rd, and August 5th).

  • 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
ADHD Dyslexia Executive Function Stress Studying

Student Perspective: The Need to Preview Material

Incorporating executive function strategies into your curriculum can make a big difference for students. This post is part of a series that highlights student perspectives around learning and executive function in the classroom. 

As a learner, it’s hard for me to finish assignments or do them correctly if I don’t know why I’m doing them. It is important for teachers to take time to preview material and explain the purpose behind assignments. Here are a couple of examples.

Preview Upcoming Topics

At the beginning of each trimester, it is beneficial to go over what the class will be studying. Many teachers try to do this, but in my experience, they don’t go in-depth enough. I would encourage teachers to give students more background information.

For instance, if you’re teaching about World War II in history class, tell students many aspects of what they will be studying instead of just telling them they will be covering World War II. Doing this helps students understand the scope of the material they will be covering in class and slowly eases them in, making them feel they have more control in the classroom. It’s also good for students to know what to expect once they get to the topic because it will seem less overwhelming than just jumping right in.

Preview Large Projects

It is also helpful to preview material before a large project. When introducing a new project to a class, it is essential to explain to students why the project is important. If students do not understand the reasoning behind the project, they may feel that the project is not relevant to them.

Another important step is to outline what the project should look like. While it may be difficult to present guidelines for more open-ended projects, it is vital for people who struggle with executive function.

Before you formally teach a topic or introduce new material, make sure your students have a brief understanding of what lies ahead so they won’t feel overwhelmed when they get to that topic. Previewing material can ensure that students are better prepared to complete their work and turn in higher-quality assignments.

To read more student perspectives, check out the Real-Life Experiences with Remote Learning series.

  • 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
News Training Webinar

Happy 4th of July from SMARTS

Happy 4th of July from all of us here on the SMARTS Executive Function team! We wish you a happy and safe holiday. After a challenging school year, we hope that your summer is full of rest and relaxation.

Summer is also a great time to reflect on the year and set meaningful goals for the future. Many of your students may also be tackling their summer reading lists; here are some strategies that can help.

As you contemplate the new school year, we hope you will find ways to incorporate executive function into your work. Get an early start with our Executive Function Summer Summit and SMARTS Executive Function Summer Workshop. 

  • Executive Function Summer Summit
    July 27, July 29, August 3, August 5
    The Executive Function Summer Summit will cover topics such as metacognition, organization, flexible problem solving, motivation, engagement, and even math and dyslexia. The four sessions of the Summer Summit (July 27th, July 29th, August 3rd, and August 5th) can be purchased as a bundle for a special price and will be recorded in case you cannot attend live.
  • SMARTS Executive Function Summer Workshop
    August 10, 12, 17, 19

    If you will be teaching SMARTS next year, join us for the SMARTS Executive Function Summer Workshop on August 10th, 12th, 17th, and 19th. Come spend time with the SMARTS team to explore the curriculum, dig into SMARTS strategies, learn with your peers, and develop a customized implementation plan for a new year. As always, there are discounts for SMARTS users.

Wherever your summer plans take you, SMARTS is here to help. Here’s to a great summer!

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Program 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
Executive Function Metacognition

Lessons from ResearchILD’s 2020-2021 EF and Equity Fellows: Part 1

All educators play a crucial role in counteracting systemic racism and developing new and equitable approaches that support the success of every student. During the 2020-2021 school year, we launched our Executive Function (EF) and Equity Fellowship, bringing together six educators from across the US to explore how schools are addressing students’ executive function needs through an equity lens. This post, part one of a series, highlights the work of our 2020-2021 EF and Equity Fellows.

Meet Your Students Where They Are 

Considering the learning context in which students operate is vital for successful EF strategy instruction. Dr. Kayoung Kim, a 2020-2021 EF and Equity Fellow and assistant professor of psychology at Tennessee State University, a historically black college and university (HBCU), worked closely with her students of color to support them during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of her students were motivated but not college-ready, and she was aware that intergenerational trauma was affecting students. While students were balancing school, families, and work, barriers prevented them from accessing supports, ranging from students not knowing how or where to access supports to a lack of time

To address these issues, Dr. Kim implemented a trauma-informed metacognitive skills training course for first-semester freshmen that focused on time management. Her students completed time-waster analyses to understand the breakdown of their days. They then took time to reflect on their analyses to develop weekly or semester-long study plans. Self-reflection, explained Dr. Kim, was a critical part of this process.

Dr. Kim’s work is an example of trauma-informed teaching with students’ identities in mind. Throughout the academic year, Dr. Kim maintained open channels of communication with her students and held space for them to express how they learn best.

Equity Through Executive Function 

ResearchILD’s mission, under the direction of Dr. Lynn Meltzer, is to empower ALL students to learn how to learn and to promote persistence and resilience through executive function strategies that build academic and life success.

At ResearchILD, we work closely with teachers and administrators to integrate executive function strategy instruction into project-based learning with an emphasis on student and community empowerment. Teaching executive function strategies systematically through the SMARTS curriculum is a tool for equity—it ensures that all students have strategies to draw upon when they face novel challenges in their academic and personal lives.

Are you interested in applying to be a 2021-2022 EF and Equity Fellow? Learn more about the fellowship and application process

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Program 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
Persistence

Modeling Persistence to Students

When it comes to students’ learning and growth, we know that persistence matters. When we think about persistence, we typically think about students’ internal motivational states. But what about external factors that impact students’ persistence? 

Research has shown that beginning in infancy, children make more attempts to achieve a goal (such as unlocking a keychain or making a toy sound) when they observe adults around them persisting. Infants who watched adults fail at a task and attempt the task multiple times were more likely to attempt a challenging task for a longer period of time. The infants were more likely to persist when the adults around them made eye contact and spoke directly to the infants. 

When it comes to the classroom, teacher influence and modeling really matter! Here are a few ways to encourage persistence among your students. 

Model Your Own Challenges to Students

When students see their teachers at the start of class, they do not see the time and detail that went into preparing for the day’s lesson. Many students may think that their teachers do not face any challenges simply because students are not witnessing them. When teachers model how they work to overcome a personal area of challenge, students may feel understood and encouraged. Depending on the context, teachers can model how they thought about a problem in a different way, or how they used a tool like a sticky note to help remember an idea. The next time students face an area of challenge, they may think back to the way you modeled your moment of persistence. 

Intervene Less

When adults intervene and take over tasks for students very quickly, students often feel less motivated to try again or try a different approach. At times, it may make sense for parents and teachers to step in and help. If time allows, it could help students in the long run to spend more time on a challenging task, to make more attempts to solve a problem, and to try a new approach. Teachers can also encourage their students to try a number of different strategies before asking for help. A strategy anchor chart for the classroom can be helpful as students learn to look to these resources as they persist. 

Praise Effort 

When it comes to praise, it is important to help students develop a growth mindsetand help them see that their effort and persistence matter. Having a growth mindset enables students to think more deeply about their areas of strength and challenge and go back into their toolbox to try another strategy when they need one.

Greater persistence has been linked to numerous positive outcomes for students, including higher graduation rates. When students see their teachers modeling persistence and they realize that their effort impacts their outcomes, they are more likely to persist.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Program 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
Uncategorized

Announcing the 2021 Executive Function Conference

Thirty-six years ago, while at Harvard Medical School, I founded the “Learning Disabilities Conference.” The first of its kind, this conference brought together theorists, researchers, and teachers to improve the lives of students with learning and attention difficulties.

Over the last three decades, we have worked to shift the paradigm in special education from an emphasis on deficits to an emphasis on strengths and resilience. Beginning this year and moving forward, ResearchILD’s annual conference will be titled the “Executive Function Conference, a natural transition for the mission and goals of our program.

From disabilities to differences

As ResearchILD’s Annual Conference, co-sponsored with the Harvard Graduation School of Education, evolved and changed over the years, we replaced the term “learning disabilities” with “learning differences.” We also emphasized the importance of fostering the strengths of students who think and learn differently through a lens that is both positive and affirming.

Executive function for ALL students

The one constant throughout has been a focus on executive function as the foundation of success for all students, not only for those with learning and attention differences. Our conference audience has expanded to include more superintendents, school principals, and general education teachers as our sessions reflect the importance of executive function strategies for ALL students.

2021 Theme: Attention and Stress

This year’s conference theme is “Executive Function, Attention and Stress: Promoting Resilience and Equity for ALL Students”. We have put together a wonderful slate of speakers on a range of important topics, and we are excited to welcome you to learn with us. Learn more about this year’s conference and register to save your seat.

  • Lynn Meltzer, Ph.D. Conference Founder and Chair, President, Institutes for Learning and Development (ResearchiLD and ILD)

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

Executive Function at Home: Metacognition

When it comes to school (in person, remote, or homeschooling), parents know a lot about their children. They can often describe, in detail, the strengths and challenges of their children’s academics, and they know plenty about their child’s personality, interests, and other unique features. That makes parents a valuable partner in their child’s education!

Parents also have a strong sense of responsibility to help their children engage with their learning and become independent and self-aware. Metacognition, or thinking about thinking, may not happen easily for many students, but the benefits of supporting metacognition in children are many. Students who understand their own strengths and challenges:

  • have more self-confidence because they don’t overgeneralize difficulties
  • know why they use specific strategies
  • can better monitor their own performance and behaviors. 

How can parents promote metacognition at home? Here are a few easy ways a parent can support the development of metacognition in their child.

Point out what you notice

In the beginning, lead the way by pointing out the things you are noticing about your child’s learning. Try to address the positive as much as possible and make sure your feedback is detailed and concrete. Whether you are monitoring homeschooling or homework, you may, for example, notice that your child has good sentence or paragraph structure or may need to work a bit more on using transitions. Specific feedback can help your child determine strengths and challenges and avoid making global statements like “I can’t write.” 

Ask questions

The simple act of asking questions can move your child toward a more metacognitive mindset. Ask your child, “What are you doing correctly on this math problem?” and “Where are you getting stuck?” When your child makes a less-than-great decision, ask “Why did you make that choice?” and “What could you do better next time?” Asking questions encourages students to reflect and explore their reasoning.

Help your child verbalize and document

Give your child a language to talk about metacognition. Teach what “metacognition” is and how to word strengths and challenges, how to talk about thinking, and how to explain why things are done or said by your child. Have your child create a “self” poster or write an autobiography, a great activity for homeschooling or any child really. Create opportunities to explore metacognition, make their thinking visible, and document your child’s thinking in words or pictures when possible.

Promote reflection

At the end of an academic or household task, ask your child to reflect on how it went: “What did you do well? How could you improve? What strategies did you use? What strategies could you use next time?” Following a social interaction, have your child look at the event critically. Was your child being a good friend? Reflection is the path to a growth mindset, defusing negative emotions, and instilling that kind of atmosphere in your home can benefit everyone in the family—at home and in other settings outside of the home.

Encourage positive self-talk

One important aspect of metacognition is acknowledging challenges with a focus on strengths. This translates to the type of self-talk our children use, encouraging them to be realistic but compassionate with themselves. Help your child to understand that thinking positively makes things easier. Encourage your child to say “I can” and to notice when negative self-talk comes around. Ask your child to reframe negative statements into positive ones so that the power of self-aware thinking can be used effectively.

You can support executive function development by making metacognition part of your home environment. Role model your own discovery of your strengths and challenges, why you do and say what you do, and your choice and use of strategies. Infuse the language of metacognition in your daily academic and household tasks. Become a more self-aware and reflective family, and then reap the benefits!

Empowering parents to support the development of executive function at home can support students in school and at home. If you want to learn more about building bridges between home and school, join us for “The Home-School Connection: Essential for Learning Executive Function Strategies” on August 3rd!

  • Mindy Scirri, Ph.D., SMARTS Trainer and Consultant

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 Uncategorized Video

Dr. Lynn Meltzer on Metacognition

Metacognition is the key to success in school and beyond, not to mention the use of executive function strategies. In SMARTS, we believe wholeheartedly that all students, with or without ADHD or learning differences, need explicit instruction in executive function strategies paired with opportunities to foster metacognition. Without these opportunities to promote reflection, students may develop unrealistic and unhelpful views of themselves as learners.

Dr. Lynn Meltzer, founder and president of the Institutes of Learning and Development and creator of SMARTS, explains:

“Metacognition at its core is thinking about how you think, learning about how you learn, and understanding who you are as a student.”

With training, students can develop a resilient and accurate view of who they are. In this video, Dr. Meltzer discusses the importance of metacognition.

Want to learn more about metacognition with Dr. Meltzer? Join her for our Summer Executive Function Summit!

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
Studying

Effective Study Tips

Everyone knows the importance of good study habits, but studying and test-taking look very different these days. With remote learning, students often have to figure out for themselves how to study, organize their time, and manage the added distractions at home. What study strategies are best during remote or hybrid learning?

There are many study strategies out there. When tests are a source of stress and anxiety, it can be hard to determine which strategy suits a student’s needs. In SMARTS,  we believe that students should be explicitly taught a range of strategies and then given the chance to reflect and decide which strategies are best for them.

Recently, one of our favorite websites Mind/Shift posted an article listing 13 study effective practices and tips for students. Here are a few of our favorites.

Change Your Space

One of the most important ways to study effectively is to create a space where you can work productively. Limiting distractions, such as phones or video games, can be a game-changer when it comes to fighting procrastination. Creating a quiet space, or a space with the right amount of ambient background noise, will help students save their brainpower for getting work done instead of fighting off distractions. If possible, students may benefit from finding another place to work that is not their bedroom, as many of the most potent distractions can be found there.

Practice Breaking Down Tasks

Students need to learn how to break down large tasks into bite-sized chunks. Teachers should explicitly model and practice this process with students. In SMARTS, we love to make personalized checklists out of study guides and test directions. Give students a blank checklist along with a practice test or a new project. Students can work in small groups to brainstorm strategies for dividing up tasks and filling out the checklist.

Create a Study Buffer

A student’s typical study plan may save all the work to the last minute, hoping to get a 100% on a practice test the night before so they feel ready for the actual exam the next day. Students should plan for a buffer between the practice test and the real event (you may have heard of this strategy called spaced repetition). This buffer time will reduce the likelihood of forgetting important information (sleep is an important part of memory) and allows for more time to analyze mistakes and review challenging concepts.

“Knowing” Means Being Able To Explain

Active study strategies are essential. Students might think they know a concept through a passive review of their notes, but they can’t be sure they have mastered it until they can explain it in some way — verbally, written, or otherwise. This is one reason note-taking strategies are so important. A strong study plan includes opportunities for students to actively explain what they are studying, either out loud to themselves, to a fellow student, or even to a parent or guardian. The act of explaining is a great check for understanding and ensures that the student is ready to explain their thinking on the test.

What study tips from this article do you think are the most useful? What other study habits do you find work best for your students? Let us know in the comments!

  • Elizabeth Ross, M.A., SMARTS Media Manager

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
Homeschool

Homeschooling: Building Executive Function Strategies, Part 2

Homeschooling is an ideal environment to address the executive function demands of both the home and school setting. Here are a few practical strategies for integrating executive function into homeschool teaching. (For more ideas, check out part 1 of this blog.)

Adapt Executive Function Strategies between Settings

As a homeschool teacher, you can help your child deepen their understanding of strategy use by applying strategies introduced in an academic setting to the home setting, and vice versa. For example, the strategy your child learns to estimate and prioritize their homework can be used to plan a weekend trip. Likewise, organizational strategies can be used for a bedroom closet or a homeschool workspace. 

Create Opportunities for Strategy Use

Since you are both teacher and parent, you have the opportunity to make time to help your child practice using executive function strategies and reflect on how effective the strategy was. Homeschool parents also have unique insight into the level of support that is necessary. For example, you can step back from planning your homeschool day and ask your child to take the lead. Provide support by adjusting the steps in a project to where your child can handle breaking it down and scheduling it for completion. You can offer calendars and other resources in the environment and then urge your child to use the tools available. These purposeful opportunities ensure that your child can successfully apply the strategies they are learning.

Role Model Your Own Strategy Use

One of the most important teaching strategies you can use to build executive functioning in your child is to role model when you are using your own executive function. (This true for both homeschool teacher and parent roles.)

Kids greatly underestimate the time parents and teachers spend doing tasks that require executive function processes. When students see parents and teachers, and parent-teachers, using strategies, they understand that even adults face executive function demands and need strategies to be successful. Share the strategies you rely on, such as your menu planning and agenda book, lesson plan schedule, and grading process. Make executive function visible and part of your daily conversation.

Using these methods, you are not teaching executive function strategies for the sake of teaching them. You are teaching them when a strategy is needed to help your child with a challenging academic or household task. This makes the learning of the strategy relevant, and a successful result can be very motivating for your child to use the strategy in the future.

By generalizing strategy instruction across academics and home, you can help your child build a strategy toolbox for any setting—home, school, clubs and activities, sports, college, career, and beyond!

  • Mindy Scirri, Ph.D., Educational Consultant and SMARTS Trainer

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org