Empowering Students with Executive Function: A SMARTS Summer Teaching Guide

Two students jumping excitedly outside of school

As summer break approaches, teachers have a unique opportunity to support their students’ executive function with the SMARTS curriculum. This proactive approach helps prevent the summer slump and sets students up for success when they return to school in the fall.

The Importance of Executive Function

The SMARTS Executive Function curriculum encompasses a range of strategies essential for effective learning, including:

  • Goal setting
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Organizing and prioritizing
  • Memorizing
  • Self-checking and monitoring

By teaching these strategies, educators empower students to learn how to learn, enabling them to tackle academic challenges more effectively.

Summer Slump

The summer slump, also known as the summer slide, refers to the tendency for students to lose some of the academic gains they made during the school year over the summer break. This decline can particularly impact students with less access to educational resources and activities during the break.

Application Across Learning Environments

In today’s educational landscape, where learning occurs in various settings (in-person, hybrid, and remote), students must understand executive function strategies and how to apply them across different learning environments. This is particularly crucial for students with learning differences, such as dyslexia and ADHD, who may benefit significantly from explicit instruction in executive function skills. The SMARTS curriculum can be taught in any setting!

Engaging Summer Activities

Over the summer, teachers can incorporate executive function strategies into activities that are engaging and relevant to students’ lives. For example, students can practice goal setting by setting personal reading goals or refine organizing and prioritizing skills by planning a project they are passionate about. These activities reinforce executive function skills and keep students intellectually engaged during the break.

Bridging the Gap Between School Years

Incorporating the SMARTS curriculum into summer teaching can also help bridge the gap between school years. Students who engage with executive function strategies over the summer are more likely to retain academic skills and be better prepared for the upcoming school year. Additionally, students who struggle with executive function may experience a boost in confidence and academic performance with consistent practice and support.

New to SMARTS? Check out our SMARTS unit overviews or contact us with your questions. To download a free executive function strategy lesson from the SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum, click on the links below:

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About the Author

Caitlin Vanderberg, Ed.M., is a SMARTS Associate and an Educational Specialist. She leads the MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit and provides academic support to students with learning, attention, and executive function challenges. Before joining ResearchILD in 2020, Caitlin worked as an assistant elementary school teacher and with many arts education programs. Caitlin holds an Ed.M. in Mind, Brain, and Education from Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

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