SMARTS in Action! Teaching Executive Function Strategies in a Dynamic School Setting – Part 1

I’m Jamie Cutler, marketing director for the SMARTS Online curriculum, and recently I had the opportunity to be an observer in a classroom that is implementing strategies from the SMARTS Online Executive Function curriculum.

The Conservatory Lab Charter School (CLCS) in Dorchester, MA, is an Expeditionary Learning school for grades K–8 that offers an Expeditionary Learning curriculum and the El Sistema music program. Musical instruments line the hallways, and sounds of practice stream from doorways. Every student at the school plays a musical instrument, and it is obvious that the love of the arts pervades the halls of this school.

This is also where SMARTS Online is being piloted with groups of sixth and seventh graders.

SMARTS was introduced to CLCS by Hilary Shea, an inclusion specialist with the Boston Public Schools and the coordinator of professional learning at CLCS. Administrators at the school, including Hilary, Principal Nicole Mack, and Executive Director Linda Nathan, embrace the importance of explicit instruction of executive function, an idea that was first ignited when Hilary and Nicole attended ResearchILD’s 31st Annual Learning Differences Conference in March 2016.

Sean Ingle, a humanities and civics teacher at the school, was selected to teach SMARTS within a six-week timeframe, supplementing his daily instruction with SMARTS strategies and then having students apply what they have learned to their lessons. He co-teaches SMARTS strategies with Jessica Shank, CLCS’s learning specialist.

The results are impressive. Not only have these teachers seen a need that extends beyond the existing school curricula and addressed it through SMARTS lessons, but these students have embraced both the practical and theoretical basis for the program and its applications to school and daily life. It is obvious that this school is invested in helping all students meet their potential.

One major takeaway is that SMARTS has helped these students to understand why it is important to reflect on their own learning process in every task they undertake. This process alone has made a significant impact on their approach to studying, learning, and setting goals for future college and career readiness.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this post, coming soon!

And if you want to hear the story of SMARTS at the Conservatory Lab in person, come to their presentation at the 32nd Annual Learning Differences Conference on March 10–11.

  • Jamie Cutler, M.S., Director of Marketing