Cognitive Flexibility Executive Function growth mindset

Thanksgiving Executive Function Toolkit

From all of us on the SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum Team, we wish you a very happy Thanksgiving! We hope you find time for moments of tranquility and reflection while you connect with family and friends. For those of you who host Thanksgiving meals, here are some tips to ensure a successful celebration!

Prioritizing Time

The days leading up to Thanksgiving can be overwhelming. Between work, school, travel, and meal planning, it can feel like there isn’t enough time to get everything done.

The weekend before Thanksgiving, it can help to sit down with a blank weekly calendar to schedule when you will complete certain tasks. (If you are interested in learning more about the SMARTS approach to planning production time, you can sign up for the free lesson here). For example, if you’ve ordered a turkey or dessert, when and where is your scheduled pickup? For all the sides you’ll prepare at home, do you have a time blocked out when you can scan through the grocery store aisles for all the ingredients? Finally, plan time to gather the necessities for your Thanksgiving table including place settings for every guest, extra chairs, and dishes for all the sides. 

Shifting Flexibly

Expect the unexpected. Maintaining a flexible mindset and considering multiple solutions to a problem is essential for getting back on track after a setback. If you find that your turkey is taking too long to cook, consider carving it into smaller sections so that it cooks more quickly. You could also offer guests time to enjoy more appetizers, play a game such as charades, or tell some jokes or riddles!

Schedule Reflection Time

When it comes to teaching executive function strategies, strategy reflection helps students develop a deeper understanding of their strengths and areas of growth. The same concept applies to hosting Thanksgiving! Take some time after the holiday to debrief on what went well and where you could improve next year. Would you go food shopping earlier? Where did you need an extra set of hands? Would you swap out any of the sides you prepared? Write your ideas on a sticky note and add it to your planner to revisit next year.

What strategy is an essential part of your Thanksgiving celebration? We’d love to hear about it!

Build your Executive Function Toolkit

Are you interested in building your Executive Function Toolkit? Join us in February and March to hear from EF experts on topics such as metacognition and motivation, strategies to support students with long-term projects and project-based learning, embedding EF in the general education curriculum, and the intersection of EF and social-emotional learning. Learn more and register here

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development:

growth mindset

Stressful Times? A Growth Mindset Can Help

We’ve talked before on this blog about the important role growth mindset plays in boosting executive function skills and strategies. Sometimes the hardest moments, like a difficult transition to remote learning or getting a bad grade, test our students’ growth mindset beliefs, making it difficult for them to develop and use the executive function strategies they need to be resilient. How can we help our students persevere and exercise their struggle muscle

You can start by teaching students about what having a growth mindset looks like and how it can be applied to day-to-day challenges. As always, explicit instruction and self-understanding are key. We are huge fans of Carol Dweck’s work on the subject; however, the growth mindset concept can be hard for students to grasp. This video from BrainCraft offers a succinct and entertaining explanation of growth mindset and why it’s important, especially during this pandemic. 

I think this video can be a great tool for educating the people we work with about the importance of having a growth mindset. What did you think of the video? Let us know in the comments!

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

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development:


growth mindset Metacognition Mindfulness

Maintaining a Growth Mindset in 2020

This year has been full of challenging moments that have disrupted our lives, making it easy to sink into negative thinking patterns and an apathetic mindset. By surrendering to apathy, however, we are yielding our sense of control. Believing that your effort matters is key to maintaining a growth mindset.

Time to Reframe

Many of the things that have made 2020 so challenging are beyond our control. However, rather than viewing our efforts to cope with these challenges as fruitless, we can reframe our approach. Even setbacks that we have no control over are an opportunity to learn how to persist.

Many of us, for example, have experienced disruptions in our daily and weekly schedules. We can reframe these disruptions as a newly allocated time to realign our lives with what matters to us. Whether we find new ways to re-energize or explore personal interests, finding small ways we can reclaim control allows us to move beyond bemoaning what we perceive to be missing out on. Small choices can allow us to regain our growth mindset, helping us be more resilient during tough times.

Ask Questions for Self-Understanding

We can also act on the internal monologue that drives our character by asking questions. For example:

  • What challenges am I experiencing?
  • What can I do to persist in the face of setbacks?
  • What criticisms of me have I been indignant towards?
  • How can I address them in a productive way to grow as a person?
  • Who can I channel as a model for the traits I aspire to embody?

By asking these types of questions, we understand ourselves better (key to addressing challenges strategically) and avoid surrendering to a fixed mindset. Even as we encounter injustice and the unknown, we can choose to apply what we know about ourselves to charting a course through, promoting hope instead of despair.

We are not what we feel, but we feel many things throughout the day as a result of our mindset and approach to the world. By shifting our approach from something fixed to something more generative, we engage with the potential that has yet to be reached.

  • Iris Jeffries, SMARTS Intern