Categories
Cognitive Flexibility growth mindset Social-Emotional Learning

Thinking Flexibly to Start the New Year

When it comes to traditions, many people carry out the same tried-and-true ones year after year. To start off 2023, here’s a fresh idea—shift perspectives and try out a “new” New Year tradition from another country or region!

Global Citizenship

As the world grows more interconnected, students need to prepare for global citizenship. Helping students become aware of their own family traditions as well as different, international traditions can expand their knowledge of the world and help them take on a different perspective.

We all understand the world through the lens of our own cultural identity, experiences, and personal values. It is important for students to develop self-awareness of their own values and judgments. Equally important is equipping students with the skills to understand others’ perspectives. Students use metacognition and flexible thinking to develop the social awareness and relationship skills that are essential for connecting with others.

Perspectives + Projects

Most countries and regions around the world have unique and meaningful traditions to bid farewell to the closing year and usher in a new year. Invite your students to research different New Year’s traditions to explore multiple perspectives of a single tradition and expand their metacognitive and flexible thinking skills.

For example, students might be interested in learning about the following New Year’s traditions:

  • United States: Watching the ball drop
  • Spain: Eating 12 grapes
  • Haiti: Sharing soup joumou
  • Philippines: Serving 12 round fruits

Keep Exploring

For ideas of virtual trips around the country and around the world, check out these educational online field trips. Students can “travel” to explore different places and perspectives with the click of a button!

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

Categories
focus growth mindset Mental Health Metacognition

Mindful Holiday Moments

Happy Holidays from everyone on the ResearchILD and SMARTS Executive Function teams! We wish you a relaxing break, and we hope that your 2023 is filled with effective executive function strategies.

Making Time for Mindful Holiday Moments

The holiday season can be an overwhelming time of year, so it’s important to make time for mindful moments. Why not take time to incorporate mindfulness practices while reflecting on the past year and setting intentions for 2023?

Before the holiday break begins, it can help to carve out quiet times for students as well. Over the past two decades, school-based mindfulness programs have risen in popularity to help address the stress, anxiety, and dysregulation students are facing in their daily lives.

To get started at home or in school, check out these mindfulness-centered blog posts:

Build Your Executive Function Toolkit in 2023

Are you interested in building your Executive Function Toolkit? Join us in February and March to hear from EF experts on topics such as the intersection of EF and social-emotional learning, time management, Universal Design for Learning, and goal setting. Learn more and register today.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS 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
EF Conference growth mindset Social-Emotional Learning

Learning to Give Students Grace

This post is part of a series that highlights themes and takeaways from ResearchILD’s 37th Annual Executive Function Conference: Executive Function & Social-Emotional Learning: Promoting Resilience, Stress Management, and Academic Success. 

Teachers play an important role in students’ lives. Teachers are expected to juggle delivering more content year after year, and they are also responsible for their students’ well-being. It is understandable why some teachers push back against additional social-emotional learning (SEL) lessons. Most teachers simply don’t have the time.

However, presenter after presenter at ResearchILD’s 37th Annual Executive Function Conference made it clear that we are at a place where students cannot learn without explicit SEL lessons. As Rose Delorme Metayer, M.Ed., director of the McCarthy Institute at Boston Latin School, said on the SMARTS School Panel:

I think the biggest thing for me when doing this work is remembering that young people need a lot of grace.

As teachers, how can we give our students grace and the space to make mistakes? How can we teach them to grow from these mistakes while staying on learning goals for the year?

There is no easy solution, but pairing SEL and executive function strategies is a way to start. With explicit executive function strategies, students can learn how to learn more efficiently. They can self-monitor, stay on task, and learn how to reach and set their own goals.

As Ned Hallowell, M.D., child and adult psychiatrist and founder of the Hallowell ADHD Centers, stated,

Kids need hugs, and touch, and expressions of love, and reassurance and you just cannot say it enough. They need daily doses of reassurance.

A teacher can be one person in students’ lives to give them the daily dose of reassurance, the grace to learn, and the space to grow.

And, as teachers, we need to give ourselves grace and reassurance. By making time for ourselves and for reflection, we will be better able to offer our students the support they need to thrive.

  • Tziona Chernoff, SMARTS Intern

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
growth mindset Metacognition Motivation

Motivation Monday: Flow State

Can you remember the last time you completed a task and were really “in the zone”? Positive psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jeanne Nakamura (Claremont Graduate University) describe this mental state as flow state. (link opens in new tab/window) Achieving flow state is about the careful balancing of skill level (low, medium, or high) with challenge level (low, medium, or high). 

A graph displaying skill level on the x-axis and challenge level on the y-axis. Flow state is achieved when skill and challenge levels are both high.
Courtesy of Amber Case on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/caseorganic/5528981189

Those who have experienced flow state describe feeling the following characteristics:

  1. Intense moments of concentration
  2. Deep involvement in task; merging of action and awareness
  3. Feelings of control over one’s actions
  4. Thorough enjoyment of the task at hand
  5. Time feels like it flies by

Why it matters for education

Helping students reach flow state means helping them balance their skill levels with the appropriate level of challenge. This process can start with activities that promote self-awareness and self-understanding. When students reach this state, they will feel successful, confident, and empowered.

The research around flow state can also have a positive impact on the way educators approach deep learning and the structure of the school day(link opens in new tab/window) . While the noise and energy of a bustling classroom may be beneficial for some students, constantly shifting attention from one subject to another after brief periods of time can prevent students from reaching flow state. When time and other factors allow, offering students extended periods of time (with short movement, brain, or sensory breaks) can allow them to engage more deeply with tasks and topics. 

Takeaways

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS 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
Goal Setting growth mindset Motivation

Motivation Monday: Goal Orientation Theory and Growth Mindset

Goal orientation theory posits that students engage in any given learning activity for one of two reasons. If an individual has a performance orientation towards a task, they complete it because they want to demonstrate competence, usually to an audience they seek approval from (e.g., peers, teachers, parents). Contrarily, an individual with a mastery orientation towards a goal hopes to gain knowledge or develop a skill for understanding purposes. In other words, someone with a mastery orientation wants to learn out of interest in a particular domain, to “learn for the sake of learning.”

Why it matters for education

Research shows that mastery orientations support the highest quality of learning for students. Students with mastery orientations are more likely to seek academic challenges and persist in learning difficult concepts. Further, mastery orientations bolster the effects of executive function strategy use by providing students with the intrinsic motivation to think flexibly and focus their effort on furthering their academic knowledge and understanding.

Educational psychologist Carol Dweck presents a particularly meaningful perspective on goal orientation theory by encouraging teachers to support students’ growth mindsets. A student with a growth mindset believes their skills and talents are malleable and a product of effort, and they are more likely to develop mastery orientations towards academic tasks.

Takeaways

Teachers and parents can make small adjustments to their language to help foster a growth mindset in children. Here are some ideas.

  • Praise student effort rather than ability. For example, instead of telling a student who aced a math test, You’re so good at fractions! say, I can tell you studied a lot for this test — keep up the hard work!
  • Remind students of their ability to grow. Carol Dweck’s talk on growth mindset highlights the positive effects of infusing “yet” into conversations with frustrated and overwhelmed students. Help students reframe I’m so bad at math to I just don’t understand this topic yet.
  • Teach students that mistakes are learning opportunities. You can do so by embracing mistakes yourself — own up to a time you did something incorrectly and explain what you learned from the experience.
  • Keep students’ academic scores private from peers. Re-consider hanging scored student work on the wall and academic award assemblies. For students who value peer recognition as a reward, praise students’ effort and actions.

Growth mindset interventions have the potential to lessen the effects of poverty on academic achievement. With this exciting possibility, it is important to note that applications of growth mindset theory cannot succeed without robust academic skill instruction and support. SMARTS’ executive function curriculum helps all students develop the strategies they need to benefit from growth mindsets.

  • Taylor McKenna, M.A., SMARTS Intern

Build Your Executive Function Toolkit in 2022

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 today

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
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: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

Categories
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: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

 

Categories
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