Categories
focus Memory Metacognition

Thankful for Thinking

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.

Here’s some food for thought for this Thanksgiving: What are the benefits of letting our minds meander? We often push our students to remain on-task and focused during the school day, but it’s impossible to avoid letting our minds wander once in a while.

For biological and psychological reasons, humans hardly “do nothing.” When we add in the constant connection, noise, and busyness of our modern world, we’re probably always doing something (like checking email or sending a message), even when we feel like we’re doing nothing.

It turns out, however, that there are many benefits to mind wandering(link opens in new tab/window), including creativity and a positive mood. When we allow ourselves space to brainstorm and wonder, we can shift out of auto-pilot and make new connections.

Mind wandering requires shifting into a reflective space. This is a good reminder to make time for reflection and giving thanks in the classroom, too!

In SMARTS, empowering students through metacognition is the name of the game. We use strategy reflection as an opportunity to ask questions that build students’ self-awareness. These reflections can take place at the beginning or end of a lesson, after a major assignment (such as a test or essay), after students receive a progress report or report card, and even in preparation for a parent-teacher conference or IEP meeting.

One idea for reflection could be to encourage students to list everything they are wondering about before or after learning new content, and they can also list thoughts that pop up along the way.

This Thanksgiving, let’s think about and give thanks for reflective thinking and letting our minds wander!

  • 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
Memory Metacognition Teaching EF Tips

The Power of Protocols in Facilitating Learning

Protocols are tools that can be used to facilitate learning in formal or informal settings, whether it be a class on executive function strategies or a meeting with the purpose of product brainstorming.

Developed by school reformers in the 1990s, protocols consist of a set of agreed-upon guidelines for conversation that groups use when exploring ideas. According to EL Education (link opens in new tab/window), using protocols as a routine of every independent reading time, discussion, or collaboration will allow students to learn effectively and develop the habit of taking responsibility for their own learning.

The Pros of Protocols

Protocols have many benefits because they teach important skills such as:

  • Giving and receiving safe and honest feedback
  • Analyzing complex problems carefully without rushing to judgment
  • Grounding interpretations of complex texts on evidence

Ready to Give Protocols a Try?

Here are four of our favorite protocols:

Drawbacks and Suggestions

Common criticisms of protocols are that they may have too much structure and lead to limits in creativity and organic conversations. Additionally, protocols could unintentionally reinforce inequities in participation in a group discussion if someone constantly dominates the discussion. In these cases, the facilitator or teacher can modify the protocol to address the needs of students and the activity.

Remember to Reflect

Reflections at the end of a protocol allow students to develop their metacognitive skills. Encourage small groups or the entire class to reflect by asking, What worked well? What might we do differently the next time? Through using protocols and carving out time for reflection, educators can help students elevate their ability to think critically and shift flexibly.

  • Andrea Foo, 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
Executive Function Metacognition Webinar

Free Webinar: Executive Function Strategies as a Blueprint for Academic Success

Success in our fast-paced, high-stakes schools is dependent on executive function processes. Why do so many students seem to struggle with executive function? How can teachers and parents support students to handle the executive function demands of academic and everyday life?

Join staff members from ResearchILD for an in-depth explanation of executive function and the SMARTS curriculum in our free webinar on Tuesday, October 11, at 3:30 p.m. EST (link opens in new tab/window).

Why Is Executive Function Important? 

Executive function is a hot topic in education these days, but what does it mean and why do so many students struggle with it? In our 21st-century schools, a large gap still separates the strategies that are taught from the skills needed for success in school and in the workplace. Classroom instruction often focuses on the content, or what, of learning rather than the process, or how, of learning. Furthermore, students are not taught to understand how they think and how they learn, a process known as “metacognitive awareness.”

Nevertheless, academic performance depends on students’ self-understanding as well as their ability to plan their time, organize and prioritize ideas, think flexibly, monitor their progress, and self-regulate.

These executive function processes have become increasingly important from the elementary grades onwards as students complete complex reading and writing assignments as well as online research for long-term projects.

Webinar Topics 

SMARTS is an executive function curriculum that empowers all students by helping them understand their strengths and challenges and teaching them executive function strategies for academic and life success.

In our free, one-hour webinar, staff members from the Research Institute for Learning and Development will explore:

  • How understanding executive function and providing strategies at school and at home can support students across grades and content areas
  • The history and research behind the SMARTS Curriculum
  • Different ways schools use SMARTS
  • The structure and format of SMARTS, how to create a unique scope and sequence, and how to measure student strategy use

Learn More and Register

You can learn more about executive function and the SMARTS curriculum in our free webinar on Tuesday, October 11, at 3:30 p.m. EST (link opens in new tab/window). We look forward to seeing you!

  • 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
Metacognition Quick Tip Teaching EF Tips

Teaching Metacognitive Talk in the Classroom

Students are often told, “Complete the assignment independently and quietly,” or “Be quiet. Your peers are trying to focus.”

Encouraging students to think in their heads and work quietly can suggest an air of academic and behavioral success. It also raises a question: Does this silent way of thinking benefit student learning?

Thinking Out Loud

Metacognitive talk is a concept that encourages students to think aloud as they work through their ideas. When students work through the steps of a task out loud, they gain a deeper understanding of their thinking processes.

For students to learn this method of deeper thinking, it is essential to see people modeling the behavior. In the classroom, teachers can show metacognitive talk in action by verbally breaking down a problem into smaller steps.

Asking questions is a vital aspect of metacognitive talk. When teachers model and then explicitly teach how to ask questions and what questions to ask, students can build a “question toolkit” to aid their metacognitive understanding.

Questions to Promote Metacognition

Some questions that could be used are:

  • What previous knowledge do I have on this topic?
  • What am I trying to find out?
  • What do I need to do first?
  • Who could I ask for help?
  • What strategies can I use? (Think about the EF toolkit)
  • What can I do differently next time?

While a classroom full of students talking and exploring their ideas could be perceived as raucous to an outsider, I challenge you to rethink this perception and look closer at the possibilities of creative collaboration and metacognitive talk.

  • Julia Ronkin, SMARTS Student 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
EF Conference Metacognition Social-Emotional Learning

The Stories Students Tell: Narrative Building to Shape Neural Networks

At ResearchILD’s 37th Annual Executive Function Conference this November, we are honored to feature a session on “Building Meaning Builds Students’ Brains: Implications for Re-inventing Schools” from Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Ed.D, Professor of Education, Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Southern California and Director of the USC Center for Affective Neuroscience, Development, Learning and Education (CANDLE).

About Dr. Immordino-Yang

Dr. Immordino-Yang studies the psychological and neurobiological development of emotion and self-awareness, and connections to social, cognitive and moral development in educational settings. She uses cross-cultural, interdisciplinary studies of narratives and feelings to uncover experience-dependent neural mechanisms contributing to identity, intrinsic motivation, deep learning, and generative, creative and abstract thought. Her work has a special focus on adolescents from low-SES communities, and she involves youths from these communities as junior scientists in her work.

Narratives that Shape Neural Networks

Dr. Immordino-Yang and her colleagues are investigating how patterns of thinking and feeling influence the growth of students’ brain networks(link opens in new tab/window). Analyzing students’ narratives reveals their dispositions of mind. When students effortfully deliberate on their internal narratives and engage in deep thinking for themselves, their patterns of brain activity demonstrate developmental effects over time. These changes in their brain networks were driven by students making meaning of their lives in both concrete (here-and-now) and abstract (big picture, systems level) ways.

How can we recognize, model, and promote deep thinking? It is important to focus more on the way that students think instead of focusing on what they know as well as to empower adolescents to build strong relationships with their peers and teachers. At the 37th Annual Executive Function Conference, Dr. Immordino-Yang will discuss these concepts and how we can reinvent schools by redefining what is relevant to our students.

Learn More

You can learn more about Dr. Immordino-Yang and her work:

Looking to build your executive function toolkit? Join us for the Executive Function Summer Summit (July 26, July 28, August 2, and August 4) and the SMARTS Executive Function Summer Workshop (August 9, August 11). All summer professional development opportunities are available online via Zoom and through recorded sessions.

  • 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
Equity Executive Function Metacognition

Promoting Equity through Executive Function

How can executive function curricula help level the playing field in education? Our mission at ResearchILD is to empower ALL students to learn how to learn and to promote persistence and resilience through executive function strategies that build academic and life success. 

Executive function (EF) processes—goal setting, cognitive flexibility, organizing and prioritizing, memorizing, self-checking and monitoring—are critically important for learning and social behavior.

Research has shown that executive function mediates socioeconomic status (SES) disparities in school achievement; therefore, interventions targeting executive function could help to close the SES-related achievement gap. Executive function represents a powerful tool for developing equitable and anti-racist educational systems. 

From the earliest grades, academic tasks require the coordination and integration of numerous processes as well as the ability to think flexibly and self-check. Consider common academic tasks like reading for meaning, solving math problems, elaborating in writing, summarizing, note-taking, and studying. Each of these requires students to set goals, organize and prioritize information, shift perspectives, think and problem-solve flexibly, memorize, and self-monitor. These executive function processes impact the accuracy and efficiency of students’ performance in academic and social situations.

Executive function strategies are for all students. When EF strategies are systematically taught, new pathways are opened as students learn to successfully navigate novel situations in their classrooms, schools, and personal lives. You can read ResearchILD’s complete white paper on executive function and equity 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
Goal Setting Metacognition Self Advocacy

Teaching Financial Literacy with EF Strategies, Part 2

This post is part of a series that highlights ways to teach financial literacy with executive function strategies. It’s never too early to teach your students financial literacy and EF strategies that can have a lasting impact (link opens in new tab/window)↗.

Goal Setting + Life Beyond High School

Teaching students to set goals and monitor their progress is an essential part of setting them up for long-term success. To help students set goals for college and careers, begin with exercises that promote self-understanding around their strengths, challenges, interests, hobbies, and more. Encourage students to define the what, why, and how of their goals, and provide opportunities for them to envision what their life might look like beyond middle and high school. 

After high school, students have many options such as four-year colleges, two-year colleges, and trade schools. These options can vary in terms of time and cost, so it is beneficial to help students consider the return on investment (ROI).

For students who are considering college, the Education Data Initiative offers research and resources to tackle the rising costs of higher education. They have several resources that can help students balance their long-term goals and the cost of higher education(link opens in new tab/window) .

If students are unsure of their path, taking a semester or year off can help students gain experience, develop self-understanding, and find clarity about their path forward. 

Once students determine the outcomes they would like to achieve, encourage them to monitor their goals and consider obstacles that might arise. CANDO Goals Lesson from unit 2 of the SMARTS Curriculum is an excellent way to get students thinking about setting meaningful goals

Stay tuned for part 3 of our EF and Financial Literacy series. 

  • 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 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
Cognitive Flexibility Equity Metacognition

Preparing Students for Global Citizenship

As the world grows more interconnected and interdependent, how can we prepare our students for global citizenship? Help them to develop their skills in metacognition and cognitive flexibility.

Preparing Global Citizens

In the Curriculum for Global Citizenship, Oxfam proposes key knowledge, skills, and values students need in order to thrive as global citizens.

s the world grows more interconnected and interdependent, how can we prepare our students for global citizenship? Help them to develop their skills in metacognition and cognitive flexibility.

Many of these elements, such as exploring the complexity of global issues, engaging with multiple perspectives, and self-reflection, ask students to shift perspectives, XXX and XXX. In short, they rely on metacognition and cognitive flexibility.

Metacognition and Cognitive Flexibility 

Metacognitive awareness is an integral component of academic and lifelong success. You can promote students’ self-awareness by helping them think about their thinking and understand their strengths and challenges.

Students also use metacognition and flexible thinking to develop the social awareness and relationship skills that are essential for connecting with others. It is also important for students to develop self-awareness of their values and judgments–they understand the world through the lens of their cultural identity, experiences, and personal values. Students should understand that conflict arises out of misunderstanding and that exploring multiple perspectives on a situation is a path towards mutual understanding or resolution. When students can step into their peers’ shoes XXXXXX.

 Perspective Taking: 3 Whys 

The 3 Whys thinking routine (also available in Spanish) from Project Zero can get students thinking beyond their own experience.

  1. Why might this [topic, question] matter to me?
  2. Why might it matter to people around me [family, friends, city, nation]?
  3. Why might it matter to the world?

This routine ensures that students first establish a personal connection to the issue at hand. Students are then asked to switch perspectives and step into the shoes of the people and the world around them. This thinking routine aligns well with cognitive flexibility strategies featured in the SMARTS curriculum, such as the “I’m Wearing Your Shoes” lesson.

For both the elementary and secondary SMARTS curriculum, the lesson focus sorter (available under “tools” when logged in to SMARTS) is a great resource for selecting lessons that address areas such as flexible thinking, perspective taking, self-advocacy, social awareness, and self-understanding.

For more information on global citizenship, check out these resources: 

  • 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
Metacognition Quick Tip Reading Comprehension

Metacognition and Reading Comprehension

Teaching students to become active readers and monitor their comprehension is an important part of becoming a successful reader.

For many readers, the process of decoding is taxing and can interfere with comprehension. When students think about their thinking and pay attention to the story that is developing in their head as they read, they can more actively check their comprehension and seek help resolving any inconsistencies.

Teaching students to think about their thinking can take many forms.

  • Thinking routines (from Project Zero) can help make students’ thinking visible while they read. A thinking routine is a set of questions or a brief sequence of steps used to scaffold student thinking. These routines help make students’ learning processes visible, offering a way for them to make sense of what they read.
  • When students aren’t sure if they understand what they’ve read, you can offer them strategies such as rereading or leaving a sticky note in places where they have questions.
  • Use “turn-and-talk partners” to encourage peer collaboration and let students articulate and discuss their understanding of a text.

For more metacognitive strategies that can boost reading comprehension, check out these suggestions from the Landmark School Outreach Professional Development for Educators.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

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