Why Do You Come to ResearchILD’s Learning Differences Virtual Conference?

Are you looking for a conference where you can learn about learning differences and how executive function strategies can help mediate stress and foster persistence and resilience?

We are excited to announce that registration is open for the 35th Annual Learning Differences Conference — now presented virtually!

This year’s conference will take place over Zoom from October 8 – 10, 2020. Conference participants will:

  • Explore innovative research and the implications for effective clinical practice and classroom teaching.
  • Learn about executive function strategies that benefit all students from kindergarten into high school and the college years and span reading, writing, math, and other content area subjects.
  • Receive a Certificate of Participation for 12 hours of instruction.

This year is the 35th anniversary of our Learning Differences Conference. What brings back our attendees year after year? Stephen Stuntz, Assistant Director of Instructional Support for Woodstock Vermont area schools, shares why he attends in the video below:

To find out more, check out these posts about the LD Conference.

Register today. Hope to see you there!

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

3 Strategies to Help Students Manage Stress

The start of the school year can be stressful for teachers and students alike. This year, with the uncertainty between remote learning, in-person instruction, and complicated hybrid models, stress is at an all time high.

How can we help our students navigate the emotional impact of this challenging time? Here are three general strategies you can teach for managing stress:

1. Identify stress

The impact of stress is not always obvious. When we are feeling stressed out, it is challenging to stop and say to ourselves, “This is stress that I’m feeling.” Instead, the effects of stress make us lash out at others or ourselves. By teaching students how too much stress feels, they will be better able to understand the effect stress has and resist self-destructive impulses.

2. Create a context to control stress

One of the easiest ways to control stress is to minimize the chances of being overwhelmed. This means paying attention to things like sleep, exercise, and nutrition, which help our body to regulate stress.

We can also help students understand their personal stressors. What tasks or situations do they find stressful? How can they control their environment to support themselves when facing  these moments? For example, if a student finds their math homework to be stressful, they could consider starting their homework with the teacher or a buddy to minimize stress.

3. Reduce stress, don’t eliminate it

The goal of managing stress is not to remove all stress. Stress is a natural part of life; it’s what makes us get to school on time and pay attention to our deadlines and obligations. Help students see that stress is an opportunity to learn more about who we are and what we need to succeed. When we understand what stresses us out and the strategies that help us in those moments, we can bring our stress level down to where it can be managed and worked through.

Interested in learning more about how to help students manage their stress in school?  David Anderson, Ph.D., the Senior Director of the Child Mind Institute, is presenting a talk titled, “Stress Management Strategies to Accelerate Student Performance” at this year’s Learning Differences Conference. You can learn more and register here.

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director

Managing Emotions and Expectations Around School

During these difficult times, we know that many students are feeling anxiety and intense emotions, especially about school. It can be hard for parents to know how to help their children. That’s why we felt it was important to share information about an upcoming webinar that McLean Hospital is presenting: Managing Emotions and Expectations Around School.

From the McLean website:

Everything You Want to Know About School and Anxiety

Whether children are returning full-time in person to school, part-time, or fully remote for their year, this uncharted territory for education has caused anxiety for kids and parents alike. Regardless of the environment they’ll be learning in, it’s important to manage the expectations of kids and help with their transition into a new school year. How can we help support them and lower their anxieties while also balancing work and parenting?

Join us live on Wednesday, August 26 at 12pm EST as Dr. Macht-Greenberg will share ways to support the new educational experience, methods to successfully balance the many demands that come with parenting, working, and teaching kids during a pandemic, and answers your questions about child development and returning to school.

Register here!

Would you like us to highlight more resources like this in the future? Let us know in the comments!

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

Why Do Teachers Love ResearchILD’s Learning Differences Conference?

Looking for a conference where you can learn more about executive function, ADHD, social emotional outcomes, and how to support the success of all students? We are excited to announce that registration is open for the 35th Annual Learning Differences Conference — now presented virtually!

This year’s Virtual Conference will take place over Zoom on October 9, 2020 – October 10, 2020. The conference will emphasize current work on the importance of executive function strategies in mediating stress and fostering persistence and resilience in students as they navigate the many school challenges.

  • Explore innovative research and the implications for effective clinical practice and classroom teaching.
  • Learn about executive function strategies that benefit all students from kindergarten into high school and the college years and span reading, writing, math, and content area subjects.
  • Receive a Certificate of Participation for 12 hours of instruction.

Is this conference for you? Why should you attend? What do other teachers get out of the conference? Samara Gupta, an attendee from last year, shares what she loved about the conference in the video below:

Find out more and register today!

Hope to see you there!

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

Master Your Mind: The SMARTS Way

Do you know a student who would benefit from executive function strategy instruction this summer? We are now offering our Master Your Mind executive function courses for students online!

In these small online classes, middle and high school students will learn the necessary executive function strategies and tools that will enable them to be successful in school and in life.

Master Your Mind the SMARTS Way courses offer developmentally appropriate and interactive, hands-on instruction for students in the following executive function areas:

  • Flexible thinking
  • Organization and planning
  • Active reading and note-taking
  • Studying and test-taking
  • Self-understanding
  • Goal setting
  • Time management
  • Remembering

Students will have opportunities for modeled instruction, guided practice, and independent practice. They will leave the course with personalized executive function strategies that they can use as a resource in school.

Each six-hour course is taught over two weeks.

Master Your Mind the SMARTS Way: High School

  • August 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21
  • Entering Freshmen/Sophomores: 2:00-3:00 PM
  • Entering Juniors/Seniors: 4:00-5:00 PM
  • Class size: 8 students

Master Your Mind the SMARTS Way: Middle School

  • August 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21,
  • M-W-F 10:00-11:00 AM
  • Class size: 6 students

Fee: $350 (includes materials)

Learn more about Master Your Mind the SMARTS Way and register through our online form or by contacting Donna Kincaid at [email protected].

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

20 Icebreaker Questions to Launch Online Lessons

Engaging students at the start of an online lesson can be challenging. How do you quickly connect with students and get them excited and ready for learning online?

We have found that the simplest way to kick-start an online lesson is to ask a fun icebreaker question.

Icebreaker questions are easy to use (no additional technology or extensive preparation required) and students can respond in different ways. You can offer students the option to answer orally or write their response in the Zoom chat. Another great way to encourage low-stakes engagement is to have students use the “thumb up” Zoom reaction to show their agreement with their peers’ answers.

While there are many icebreaker questions available online, most are aimed at adults in remote meetings. I culled these lists for questions that work well with students and provide a fun beginning to any online class. Here are some of my favorites:

Would you rather be reincarnated as a cat or a dog?

If you could try any food, what would it be?

You can only eat one food again for the rest of your life. What is it?

Who’s your favorite Disney character?

What superpower would you most want?

What dog breed would you be?

What’s your favorite holiday?

What’s your favorite magical or mythical creature?

What’s your favorite holiday tradition?

What’s your favorite dessert?

Would you rather go back in time or visit the future?

Would you rather be able to teleport or fly?

Would you rather have a pet lion, pet elephant, or pet whale?

Would you rather live under the sea or on the moon?

What’s the strangest food you ever tried?

If you could have any unlimited supply of one thing for the rest of your life, what would you pick?

If you could be any supernatural creature, which would you pick?

Which movie made you laugh the most?

What is the origin of your name?

Would you rather be the funniest or smartest person in the room?

Do you use icebreakers to engage students during online lessons? Let us know your favorites in the comments!

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

To find more icebreaker questions, check out these links:
The Only List of Icebreaker Questions You’ll Ever Need
Icebreakers, do’s and don’ts, and some that don’t suck
25 Strategies to Engage Students on Your Next Zoom Meeting

Frameworks for Goal Setting

It’s summer break for many students, which means it’s time for summer goals! As camps are canceled and pools stay closed, many teenagers are facing the challenge of wide-open summers. This is especially difficult for students with ADHD who may do poorly with unstructured time.

Time for Exploration

Students may tell you that their favorite part of summer is “no homework” or “no tests,” but the truth is that summer is an important time in their development. Summer is when students explore who they want to be beyond school. This could take the form of building leadership skills in a summer job or developing social identity at sleepaway camp.

When students feel they have nothing to do, cut off from the chance to explore, they are prone to feeling depressed and isolated. The “fresh start” of summer is an ideal time to set some goals and salvage their summer.

Use Goal-Setting Frameworks

This goal-setting framework, from Maurice Elias, director of Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab, is a great place to start.

Dr. Elias proposes pushing students to think about the many dimensions of their lives and to set goals in eight areas.

  1. Academics
  2. Social life
  3. Sports and exercise
  4. Healthy eating
  5. Family and community
  6. Hobbies and interests
  7. Screen time
  8. Long-term plans

Each of these areas represents an important part of a student’s identity. Too often, students may only focus on a few of these priorities, perhaps only thinking about areas of strength or weakness. With the slower tempo of summer, students can pay attention to often neglected areas like healthy eating and long-term plans.

Set Realistic Goals

Watch out for vague or idealized goals; instead, encourage students to use CANDO goals (Unit 2 in SMARTS) to set a realistic goal in each area. By using the CANDO goal-setting acronym, students’ goals will be more realistic and have a built-in plan for reaching success.

In the words of Dr. Elias, “goals provide anchors, especially valuable in high winds and rough seas.” Take the time to help students create meaningful goals, and they will find the motivation and direction they need during these turbulent times.

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director

Strategies Matter: Harnessing Best Practices from the Neuroscience of Learning to Improve Post-Pandemic Teaching

Recently Dr. Lynn Meltzer, president of our sister organization ResearchILD,  participated with Sucheta Kamath, CEO and Founder of ExQ, in a webinar about executive function.

They shared their insights from the science of learning how to learn that can empower learners to connect with strategies that matter to them.

“The brain’s Executive Function skills provide tools for effective self-assessment and intentional capacity for self-redirection. Considering that every child and educator is going through unprecedented times with looming unknowns, it has become even more critical that we highlight the process of intentional learning and strategic thinking so that educational experiences for our children become more meaningful.”

We invite you to watch the webinar recording to learn how to:

  • Help learners assess their self-efficacy
  • Apply the science of metacognition to develop strategies based on self-understanding and self-assessment
  • Cultivate a community of learners who can adapt their learning approaches and subsequently enhance their learning experiences

We hope you find this webinar useful and look forward to hearing your comments. And be sure to check out EQ, a research-informed system designed to enhance the brain’s executive function through game-based personalized training.

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

Free Webinar: Executive Function in Schools

No matter which definition of executive function you use, it’s clear that executive function and teaching executive function strategies are key to successful learning. What is harder to pinpoint is this: whose job is it to teach executive function strategies?

In some schools, executive function is the domain of Student Services teachers. These teachers (including special education, ELL teachers, Speech and Language Pathologists, and social workers) often work with students who have been identified as being at-risk of school failure. These students can have unique executive function challenges and may have IEPs or 504 Plans that mandate executive function support.

Student Services teachers are often experts at differentiation and meeting students where they are. However, if executive function strategies are taught exclusively in these settings, how will students learn how to generalize executive function strategies to their other classes?

Another approach is for schools to integrate executive function into academic contexts that put a high executive function demand on all students. Certain assignments (such as Project Based Learning or standardized testing) or certain times of year (such as transition years like sixth grade or ninth grade) can easily overload students’ and teachers’ executive function capacity. Integrating executive function strategies, taught by student support teachers or general education content teachers, can address executive function needs proactively for entire classrooms or grade levels.

However, will general education teachers, often strapped for time and concerned with curriculum standards, be able to find the time to teach executive function strategies? And how can these teachers differentiate to meet the needs of diverse learners?

As administrators and teachers grapple with these questions, some schools are looking at ways to integrate executive function into the broader systems and structures of the school district. While there are no federal or state standards for executive function, schools can develop their own frameworks that identify executive function expectations and strategies across grade levels and content areas. This approach, though complicated, embeds executive function across the district, making everyone responsible for supporting students’ executive function development.

Each of these approaches to integrating executive function into schools has advantages and disadvantages. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, we are committed to helping educators find their unique path to developing executive function supports that engage and empower their students.

Want to learn more? Join us for two free webinars this July.

Join  me, Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director, and Shelly Levy, M.Ed., SMARTS Curriculum Coordinator, to learn about executive function, best practices for integrating executive function into schools, and the content and structure of the SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum.

Hope to see you there!

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director

Tips & Tricks to Make Your Online Classroom More Engaging

One of the most difficult things about distance learning is keeping students engaged and creating a warm, inviting atmosphere for online classes.

Edutopia.com recently outlined tips for engaging students when teaching online. Here are a few of my favorites.

Show Yourself

  • Your physical presence, warmly represented, provides key support to your students, so maintain eye contact and talk in a relaxed, friendly tone.
  • Set up your physical space so that your face is easily visible and warmly lit.

Relationships are the foundation of learning, and humans naturally look at each other’s faces in order to understand what is happening. Make sure your students can see your face to foster connection and engagement.

Ask Questions

  • Survey your students often on what they need to feel engaged and connected. Provide ways for them to give anonymous feedback and to be heard.
  • Build in frequent opportunities for engagement during your lesson by asking for thumbs up, thumbs down, or one-word answers in your meeting’s chat window, for example. Pause and ask students to check in with how they are feeling, and let them provide a silent gesture or signal that reflects how they are doing. Check-ins do not need to be long to be effective.

The more we ask students to share their opinions or provide feedback, the more engaged they will be. Zoom has a number of features that promote active learning, including polls, reaction icons, and the whiteboard. You can also use timers and encourage fidgeting to keep students engaged.

Stay Organized

  • If you’re distracted during your lesson, students will pick up on that, so have everything you need ready. Struggling to find files, links, or browser tabs can cause your stress level to rise, which students will feel and mirror.

Staying organized is a common challenge when teaching, whether in your classroom or online. Your students will benefit from clearly defined organizational strategies that keep the lesson moving fluidly.

If something goes wrong, own it. Students often do not understand how adults create and maintain organizational strategies. Share how your systems for organizing time and materials are evolving. Ask students how they are adapting their own organizational strategies.

Have you found it difficult to engage students online? What strategies have helped you create a more inviting online classroom? Let us know in the comments!

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