Goal Setting Organization Self-Checking

3 EF Strategies to Start the School Year

With back-to-school season in full swing, it is more important than ever for students to adopt executive function strategies and tools. Students of all ages can set themselves up for success by implementing these three practices during their first weeks in the classroom.

1. Create an assignment monitoring system 

In elementary grades, pencil-and-paper agenda books can help young students develop both time management and self-monitoring skills. The simple practice of writing down an assignment in an agenda book can help children take ownership of their learning and conceptualize the connection between school and homework.

Many students in older grades continue to benefit from paper-and-pencil agenda books. In addition, pre-teens and older children can begin to strategically incorporate task management systems that include more than a list of tasks to complete. Our SMARTS team recommends the Prioritize→Break down tasks→ Estimate approach, which requires students to plan when and in what order they will complete tasks.

2. Set goals

The beginning of the school year is the perfect time for students to set goals for what they hope to accomplish both academically and outside of school. It is critical, though, for students of all ages to avoid vague and unrealistic goals. Unit 2 of SMARTS teaches students how to utilize the CANDO acronym to create meaningful and enriching goals.

3. Organize materials

Once students know their class load, they should create a place for organizing their class materials, assignments, and notes. Having a central location for all of these resources saves time and makes it easier to gather study materials. Unit 4 of SMARTS teaches students easy-to-remember strategies for organizing their belongings.

Whether students are entering kindergarten or graduate school, creating personalized assignment monitoring systems, setting goals and organizing materials are worthwhile practices to get the school year started on the right foot. For teachers and caregivers looking to support children in developing these skills, the SMARTS curriculum is an invaluable tool.

  • Taylor McKenna, M.A., M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development:

Recommendations Self-Checking Self-Monitoring Student Perspective

Students Speak: What Is Self-Monitoring and Self-Checking?

What exactly does it mean to monitor and check our work? Self-monitoring and self-checking are two executive function areas that are often overlooked and not explicitly taught. In the SMARTS curriculum, these areas are clearly defined and modeled for students.

  • Self-monitoring is an ongoing process of noticing what one is doing.
  • Self-checking is the process of finding and correcting mistakes in one’s work.

What do students think about self-monitoring and self-checking? Throughout ResearchILD’s Student Ambassador Program this fall, students were encouraged to collectively think about their thinking and how executive function processes impact their day-to-day experiences in school and at home. Here are some of their ideas about what self-monitoring and self-checking mean to them:

Students Speak: What do self-monitoring and self-checking mean to you?

  • “Checking my language and tone while speaking with various people/making sure I recall certain facts.”
  • “Correcting and checking your own work.”
  • “Self monitoring and self checking is how to act in different environments.”
  • “Self-monitoring means having the ability to change how you act in different places or situations. Self-checking means the ability to make a list to keep you organized for whatever activity you are doing.”

Students Speak: What is one way that you monitor your progress or self-check?

  • “I look back on myself and my actions and try to think if they were smart or not.”
  • “I make a list.”
  • “Plan ahead and adjust accordingly by making mental checks to complete each day.”
  • “One way that I monitor my own progress or self-check is by saying to myself what I have to do for the activity I am doing.”

How to Encourage Students to Self-Monitor and Self-Check

Students struggle with self-monitoring when they don’t check what they are doing and have trouble setting goals for themselves. Strategies that improve self-awareness can help strengthen students’ ability to self-monitor and refocus.

  • Be clear about which materials students need to bring to and from school.
  • Set aside time for self-checking at the start and end of the school day and after students complete assignments.
  • Utilize theater games and literacy activities, such as Reader’s Theater, to help students monitor their tone, voice, and actions. 
  • Attend our free webinar on May 10: Executive Function and Self-Checking: Helping Students Learn from Their Mistakes. Learn more and register
  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development: