Starting the School Year with SMARTS

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It’s never too early to start planning how to maximize student success with the SMARTS Executive Function curriculum! Whether you’re new to SMARTS or you’ve been a SMARTS educator for years, try these quick tips to get the most out of SMARTS this fall.

Quality Over Quantity

When planning your SMARTS lessons, remember that students will benefit from mastering a few executive function strategies rather than skimming through many. Determine which lessons and strategies pair well with academic content at certain grade levels and which can be taught to students year after year. Some elementary teachers may choose a few SMARTS strategies and infuse them in all classroom lessons and activities throughout the school year.

Schedule Reflection Time

Tempted to skip over student reflection because of a lack of time? Resist! Reflection is essential for students to think metacognitively, understand their strengths and challenges, and begin to plan their future executive function strategy use. Each SMARTS lesson includes a strategy reflection sheet. You can also foster reflection through exit tickets, polls, and Google forms. Here are a few questions to promote student reflection.

Another SMARTS resource is the Strategy Reflection Toolkit, which contains planning and reflection sheets (in addition to the reflection sheets that accompany each SMARTS lesson). Students can use these sheets to make a plan and then reflect on how the plan went. Using strategy reflection sheets consistently can develop your students’ metacognition and help them select the strategies that work best for them across a range of tasks with high executive function demand (e.g., planning essays/projects, task initiation, overcoming procrastination).

Customize SMARTS for Your Students

When setting goals for this year, remember to take advantage of SMARTS’ customizable format to ensure that you meet each student’s individual needs. All SMARTS lessons are modular and can be taught in any combination. For example, you can sort your SMARTS strategies by academic tasks, time of year, or lesson focus areas (e.g., time management and planning, self-understanding, perspective taking).

The Lesson Focus Sorter makes it easy to select your lessons. Lesson focus areas, such as time management, self-advocacy, and test-taking, are listed on the first page of each SMARTS lesson. Using the Lesson Focus Sorter, you can sort by focus areas to find lessons that match your students’ needs.

Model Your Own Strategy Use

Too often, students think that adults don’t need to organize and use executive function strategies. Making your strategy use visible to students can help them understand the importance of using strategies. Students may benefit from seeing different examples of organization systems as they begin to build their own. Lastly, modeling persistence and cognitive flexibility can inspire students when they face their own challenges.

Looking for more information about the SMARTS Online Executive Function Curriculum? Visit our Get Smarts page to talk with an experienced SMARTS educator who can help you select the program that fits your needs.

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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.