Categories
Distance Learning ILD

Master Your Mind: The SMARTS Way

Do you know a student who would benefit from executive function strategy instruction this summer? Our sister organization, The Institute for Learning and Development, is now offering Master Your Mind courses for students online!

In these small online classes, middle and high school students will learn the necessary executive function strategies and tools that will enable them to be successful in school and in life.

Master Your Mind the SMARTS Way courses offer developmentally appropriate and interactive, hands-on instruction for students in the following executive function areas:

  • Flexible thinking
  • Organization and planning
  • Active reading and note-taking
  • Studying and test-taking
  • Self-understanding
  • Goal setting
  • Time management
  • Remembering

Students will have opportunities for modeled instruction, guided practice, and independent practice. They will leave the course with personalized executive function strategies that they can use as a resource in school.

Each six-hour course is taught over two weeks.

Master Your Mind the SMARTS Way: High School

  • August 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21
  • Entering Freshmen/Sophomores: 2:00-3:00 PM
  • Entering Juniors/Seniors: 4:00-5:00 PM
  • Class size: 8 students

Master Your Mind the SMARTS Way: Middle School

  • August 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21,
  • M-W-F 10:00-11:00 AM
  • Class size: 6 students

Fee: $350 (includes materials)

Learn more about Master Your Mind the SMARTS Way and register through our online form or by contacting Donna Kincaid at [email protected].

  • Elizabeth Ross, M.A., SMARTS Media Manager
Categories
Executive Function Webinar

Strategies Matter: Harnessing Best Practices from the Neuroscience of Learning to Improve Post-Pandemic Teaching

Recently Dr. Lynn Meltzer, president of our parent organization ResearchILD,  participated with Sucheta Kamath, CEO and Founder of ExQ, in a webinar about executive function.

They shared their insights from the science of learning how to learn that can empower learners to connect with strategies that matter to them.

“The brain’s Executive Function skills provide tools for effective self-assessment and intentional capacity for self-redirection. Considering that every child and educator is going through unprecedented times with looming unknowns, it has become even more critical that we highlight the process of intentional learning and strategic thinking so that educational experiences for our children become more meaningful.”

We invite you to watch the webinar recording to learn how to:

  • Help learners assess their self-efficacy
  • Apply the science of metacognition to develop strategies based on self-understanding and self-assessment
  • Cultivate a community of learners who can adapt their learning approaches and subsequently enhance their learning experiences

We hope you find this webinar useful and look forward to hearing your comments. And be sure to check out EQ, a research-informed system designed to enhance the brain’s executive function through game-based personalized training.

  • Elizabeth Ross, M.A., SMARTS Media Manager
Categories
Distance Learning

3 Essential Components of Successful Hybrid Learning

Superintendents and principals are starting to release their plans for the fall, ranging from remote learning to in-person instruction with safeguards and a hybrid model combining the two.

No matter what approach your school is using, there are sure to be unknowns and changes along the way. How can teachers adapt to the new, ever-changing expectations?

On July 8, the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) hosted an online panel titled, “Education Now: What Makes a High-Quality Remote or Hybrid Learning Experience?” Panelists, including Justin Reich, director of the MIT Teaching Systems Lab, HGSE Professor Jal Mehta, and Neema Avashia, a teacher at Boston Public Schools, discussed ways to ensure that schools help their students thrive in what is sure to be a challenging transition. Here are 3 takeaways.

Be Flexible

Things have changed a lot in the past six months and it’s unlikely that we will be able to predict what learning will look like in another six months. Schools must plan to be flexible at every level, from scheduling to attendance. What will a teacher do if one of their students has to quarantine for a month? How can administrators shift if their families do not have the technology or childcare to engage with fully remote instruction? The answers to these questions may change as the year progresses.

Mehta offers one possible solution: plan for time to plan. He references one school in Colorado that switched to a four-day week, dedicating a full day to teacher collaboration. Schools should identify time where teams can come together to address the challenges they are facing and adapt accordingly.

Communicate

Remote learning has radically shifted how teachers, students, parents, and administrators work together. One of the greatest challenges for many students and their parents has been the increased demands in terms of planning, tracking assignments, etc. Many students struggled to keep up, while parents were often frustrated by their inability to follow shifting schedules. Likewise, teachers were frustrated by a lack of connection to their students. If a student did not log in to a Zoom call or turn in an assignment, it was difficult to know why.

Setting up clear communication is going to be vital. Reich points out that clear lines of communication between the school and home will make sure students and parents understand the expectations and resources available. Acknowledging student and parent perspectives is also a tool for equity, giving voice to what is working and what is not.

Support Strong Relationships

Teachers need time and tools to make sure they can nurture relationships in their class (between students and between the teacher and the students). Ice breakers and games offer a way to start; however, Avashia explains that some flexibility is needed. For example, insisting that all students keep their cameras on all the time might backfire. If a student is feeling too vulnerable or exposed, they won’t be able to contribute to the class’s learning.

As you prepare for the reopening of school this fall, keep these three essentials in mind. At SMARTS, we are here to support teachers and their students with executive function strategies that can be implemented in-person and online. If you have any executive function questions, you know who to ask!

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director
Categories
Executive Function

Executive Function and the Superintendent’s Office

Executive function is increasingly becoming a district-wide issue. All students, with and without a diagnosed learning difference, benefit from executive function support. And, as the need for executive function strategy instruction becomes better known, administrators are having to decide how executive function support takes place in their school.

Should executive function be taught explicitly only in special education settings? Should teachers in content area classes receive training in executive function? How does executive function align with other school-wide initiatives or with mandated standardized testing?

The answers to these questions matter. Executive function is becoming an increasingly common goal on students’ IEPs and 504 plans, yet schools often do not have programs in place to help students meet these goals. Teachers are hungry for executive function training and programming, yet professional development and coaching plans rarely address executive function.

Through our work at SMARTS, we have seen administrators tackle this issue in many ways. Some schools may opt to infuse executive function into special education services by teaching SMARTS strategies in academic support settings. Some schools approach executive function school-wide, creating frameworks that establish executive function objectives and corresponding strategies for each grade, which are instituted in general education classes.  (Learn how one district is using  district-wide executive function as a powerful tool for equity here).

There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but schools can be successful when they are able to clearly define the executive function demands they are placing on their students and articulate how they will support students to meet these demands.

The truth is that, because executive function is so essential to successful learning for ALL students, it is crucial that school leaders find a way to integrate executive function strategies into the systems and processes of teaching and learning. As schools struggle to adapt to the demands of remote learning and hybrid models, here at SMARTS we will remain dedicated to helping all educators to develop approaches to teaching executive function strategies that meet the needs for all students, their teachers, and their administrators!

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director
Categories
Distance Learning

20 Icebreaker Questions to Launch Online Lessons

Engaging students at the start of an online lesson can be challenging. How do you quickly connect with students and get them excited and ready for learning online?

We have found that the simplest way to kick-start an online lesson is to ask a fun icebreaker question.

Icebreaker questions are easy to use (no additional technology or extensive preparation required) and students can respond in different ways. You can offer students the option to answer orally or write their response in the Zoom chat. Another great way to encourage low-stakes engagement is to have students use the “thumb up” Zoom reaction to show their agreement with their peers’ answers.

While there are many icebreaker questions available online, most are aimed at adults in remote meetings. I culled these lists for questions that work well with students and provide a fun beginning to any online class. Here are some of my favorites:

Would you rather be reincarnated as a cat or a dog?

If you could try any food, what would it be?

You can only eat one food again for the rest of your life. What is it?

Who’s your favorite Disney character?

What superpower would you most want?

What dog breed would you be?

What’s your favorite holiday?

What’s your favorite magical or mythical creature?

What’s your favorite holiday tradition?

What’s your favorite dessert?

Would you rather go back in time or visit the future?

Would you rather be able to teleport or fly?

Would you rather have a pet lion, pet elephant, or pet whale?

Would you rather live under the sea or on the moon?

What’s the strangest food you ever tried?

If you could have any unlimited supply of one thing for the rest of your life, what would you pick?

If you could be any supernatural creature, which would you pick?

Which movie made you laugh the most?

What is the origin of your name?

Would you rather be the funniest or smartest person in the room?

Do you use icebreakers to engage students during online lessons? Let us know your favorites in the comments!

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

To find more icebreaker questions, check out these links:
The Only List of Icebreaker Questions You’ll Ever Need
Icebreakers, do’s and don’ts, and some that don’t suck
25 Strategies to Engage Students on Your Next Zoom Meeting

Categories
SMARTS

Estimating Time with Elementary Students

Can a nine-year-old estimate time accurately? Many teachers and parents will tell you no. But reality, as always, is more complicated than that.

Ask elementary students to estimate how long it would take to make a soufflé or read a novel, and their times will probably be off. But what about something they are more familiar with? Can they estimate how long it will take to play their favorite game or tie their shoes? Even with something students are extremely familiar with, they may struggle to estimate a realistic time.

If we want students to be able to estimate accurately, we need to teach them how. This process involves helping them understand the passing of time, but teachers can go one step further by helping students break down the steps of a given task (such as completing homework, cleaning out their desk, or getting ready for school in the morning). When students are able to talk through the steps that go into successfully completing a task, they will have a better sense of what it takes to do the task and how much time they will need.What if students still don’t estimate accurately, and end up taking more time or less time than they estimated? That’s actually a tremendous learning opportunity. Why did they go over? Did they lose focus or procrastinate? Do they need help understanding the topic more completely? If they overestimated, was it because they thought the task was harder than it turned out to be? These questions will help students internalize the knowledge they need to estimate successfully.
In SMARTS, teachers often start out by modeling how to estimate fun and consequence-free activities(How long does it take to tie your shoes? To do ten jumping jacks?). Students are then ready to apply a strategic approach to academic tasks, reflecting on how accurate they were and using that knowledge to plan and prioritize.

SMARTS Elementary, our newest curriculum, has 30 lessons you can use to teach young students strategies for accessing important executive function processes — including planning their time.

Many teachers don’t expect that their elementary students will be able to estimate time, but in the words of one SMARTS Elementary teacher, “My students surprised me! My expectations for what a fifth grader can do have grown.”

To learn more about our new curriculum for elementary students, check out the SMARTS Elementary curriculum overview page and download the free preview lesson “Prioritizing Time.”

Categories
ADHD

Why Is ADHD So Often Missed in Girls?

We know that girls are diagnosed with ADHD less frequency than boys, even though both boys and girls have ADHD at the same rates. Unfortunately, this under-diagnosis of girls continues to be a problem.

I’m glad to see that The BBC is covering this issue as one of the keys to fixing this problem is publicizing that there is a problem to begin with! The article lays out clearly exactly what ADHD is and how it affects boys and girls similarly, supporting this important point with easy-to-understand statistics.

The author goes on to address the impact social conditioning has on how girls with ADHD often don’t appear as hyperactive as boys with ADHD:“Girls are far less likely to bounce around the classroom, fighting with the teachers and their colleagues,” says Helen Read, a consultant psychiatrist and ADHD lead for a large London NHS Trust. “A girl who did that would be so criticised by peers and other people that it is just far harder for girls to behave in that way.”While girls with ADHD are more likely to be expected to behave in school, the consequence is that they will fly under the radar and struggle with untreated ADHD for years, often with disastrous consequences. Emily Johnson-Ferguson, an adult woman with ADHD interviewed for the article, describes who her struggles with ADHD led her to self-medicate with alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.

Students with ADHD, regardless of their gender, need to learn about how ADHD impacts them in addition to strategies and supports designed to help them cope with the way their brain functions.

I think this would be a particularly good article to share with any parents or colleagues who are not aware of the prevalence of ADHD and girls. What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

Categories
Executive Function

Executive Function and Helicopter Parenting

When children are young, parents do almost everything for them. Young children are not capable of organizing, self-checking, or thinking flexibly about the challenges they face.  As children get older and become developmentally ready to tackle the executive function demands of life, they take on increased responsibility, eventually emerging as full-fledged adults.

This process is far from smooth. When teenagers begin to take on the executive function demands of the world, there are sure to be fits and starts and a few outright disasters. It can be hard to watch as a parent, or a teacher, and sometimes it might seem easier to just keep doing everything for the student. This desire is at the root of the rise of the “helicopter parent.”

Helicopter parents are parents who monitor every little thing in their childrens’ lives, from homework and extracurricular activities to socializing and beyond. While the motivation may be understandable (no one likes to watch someone they love fail or struggle), the long-term consequences of helicopter parenting can have a negative impact on the development of executive function.

Research shows that students who have more unstructured time develop strong executive function abilities later in life. Why is that? Shouldn’t students who spend more time playing sports, participating in clubs, and getting all of their homework done on time be better at executive function tasks? Not if the student has no choice in the matter. Students develop their executive function abilities when they are able to create their own structures and strategies to pursue goals that are personally meaningful to them. This process does not happen in a vacuum, and parents are important partners in their children’s lives. But autonomy and self-awareness are crucial for this process.

Julie Lythcott-Haims, the former dean of freshmen at Stanford University and author of How to Raise an Adult, makes a passionate case against the dangers of helicopter parenting. Check out her TedTalk below.

Categories
Goal Setting Metacognition

Amishi Jha: How Can We Pay Better Attention to Our Attention?

At ResearchILD, we believe that metacognition — thinking about one’s own thinking — is an essential component of teaching executive function strategies.

The link between metacognition, mindfulness practices, attention, and meditation has been getting a lot of publicity lately, but it can be hard to figure out what ideas are supported by science.

Amishi Jha, a neuroscientist whose research focuses on attention, working memory, and mindfulness, sheds some light on the scientific research about what attention is, how it can be studied, and what mindfulness practices can be used to improve it.Jha explores the role of attention as “the brain’s boss.” How does attention control us? What can we do when attention is not helping us get our work done efficiently? Jha uses the experiences of a former Marine experiencing the symptoms of PTSD to explore how our emotions and thoughts affect our attention, and the power of mindfulness training to help us regulate our attention.

What did you think of Dr. Jha’s talk? Have you used mindfulness practices and meditation to help improve attention and metacognition? Looking for other ways to integrate opportunities to build metacognition into your teaching? Let us know in the comments!

Categories
ADHD

Self-Compassion and Managing ADHD

We all have moments when we experience anxiety, doubt, and frustration. Experiencing stressful emotions is hard enough; managing them, especially if you have ADHD, can be even more challenging. One way to ease the stress is to practice self-compassion.While negative thought patterns are not always harmful, they can become self-destructive when we fixate on them and become paralyzed with self-doubt. This can create a toxic cycle of procrastinating to avoid experiences that trigger negative feelings, which can lead to failure that reinforces those feelings.

There are many brain-based strategies for promoting emotional regulation, but one powerful way to break this harmful cycle is to practice self-compassion. How? One way, described in a recent article from ADDitudemag.com, is to talk to yourself as you would to your best friend.

When a friend is in distress, our first instinct is to comfort them with kind words. However, many of us don’t practice positive self-talk when dealing with our own mistakes, so we can’t learn from our mistakes. If you find yourself thinking, “I am a screw up, I always make mistakes!” offer yourself the advice you would give to a friend. Tell yourself something like, “Everyone makes mistakes. This is not the end of the world. This doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.”

Of course, this is easier said than done. To get started, try this simple mindfulness self-compassion strategy. (As you know, we here at SMARTS are all about systematic strategies!)

Set a timer for several minutes (anywhere from five to 15 minutes will do), and follow these instructions:

  1. Start by sitting or lying down in a comfortable posture.
  2. Take a few deep breaths. Gather your attention… focus on the movement of your body with each full breath.
  3. Next, with each inhalation, observe it all… Then consider, “Everyone has moments like this.”
  4. With each exhalation, set an intention: “May I find strength and kindness for myself right now.”
  5. You will get distracted almost immediately. That’s what our mind does. Treat that distraction in the same way — it happens, no need for frustration, come back to take the next breath.
  6. Continue in this way for a few breaths or until your timer goes off. Do you think this self-compassion strategy would be helpful for your students? What other strategies do you use? Let us know in the comments!

Do you think this self-compassion strategy would be helpful for your students? What other strategies do you use? Let us know in the comments!