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

Promoting Resilience and Equity for All Students

ResearchILD’s 36th Annual Executive Function Conference brought together educators, researchers, and practitioners from across the globe to hear from speakers at the forefront of executive function research and implementation in schools. The focus of this year’s conference was on promoting resilience and equity for ALL students.

Connection and Relationships

To promote equity in schools, we must create learning systems and relationships that ensure all students experience a sense of belonging and feel supported in their own learning. Irvin Scott, Ed.D, senior lecturer on education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, shared this statement:

“Bias happens all the time for our students. It happens in a way that sometimes we don’t necessarily see the immediate impact.” 

These experiences compound over time and can impact students’ identities. Therefore, educators must seek to deeply know their students and create space to understand students’ stories and identities.

Putting students first and honoring their identities is key to building the connections that enable change. At the same time, educators must examine the systems and structures that are preventing students from accessing certain opportunities.

Paradigm Shift

Pedro Noguera, Ph.D., Dean of the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, also emphasized the importance of creating student-centered school cultures that are built upon strong relationships between students and the school.

In this student-centered model, Dr. Noguera emphasized that educators must devise strategies to break stereotypes and acknowledge the barriers that exist in schools and learning environments. Starting at the classroom level, we can support students in building self-awareness and self-management strategies, which can lead to more peaceful interactions between students and their peers. 

Dr. Noguera suggests that the pandemic has opened the door to an opportunity to shift our focus as we rebuild schools. Returning to “normal” is not an option: 

“The schools we have have been designed to get the results they obtain now…Schools reproduce inequality.”

As we create a new educational system, we must place equity, health, and social-emotional needs at the center of our work. This means recognizing that race and place matter when it comes to many issues, such as environmental impacts on children’s development. We know that environmental toxins and toxic stress impact students’ health and learning. Therefore, we cannot only focus on what is happening in schools. We must also consider the context of the communities in which schools are situated. 

Takeaways: Defining Equity

Equity means…

  • Acknowledging and addressing that different students have different needs. 
  • Giving students what they need to be successful both in school and in life.  
  • Examining implicit biases and how they impact day-to-day interactions. 
  • Addressing the barriers that exist in schools and classrooms and working to remove them.   

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

Quick Tip: SMARTS Curriculum Extensions

Struggling to make time to teach executive function? SMARTS Curriculum extensions are an easy way to embed executive function strategies in natural moments within instruction. 

Extensions require little to no preparation, and they can either stand on their own as a quick mini-lesson or serve as a way to review and reinforce a strategy taught in the full lesson.

You’ll find extensions located at the end of each SMARTS lesson plan.

  • SMARTS Secondary has over 400 extensions, which are organized into six categories: creating strategic learning communities, reflection/self-advocacy, test strategies, projects, math/science, and ELA/social science. These categories offer a way to easily align strategy instruction with your teaching setting and learning goals.
  • SMARTS Elementary, updated in August 2021, features extensions for every lesson. Teachers can also use the new lesson sorter for SMARTS Elementary to curate lessons by areas such as active reading, flexible thinking and problem solving, self-understanding, perspective-taking, and more.

With SMARTS Curriculum extensions, you can address executive function explicitly in small pockets of time during the school day to establish meaningful routines that set students up for success.

Join us this November for the 36th Annual Executive Function Conference, which will focus on promoting resilience and equity for ALL students.

  • 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

36th Annual EF Conference Spotlight: SMARTS Strand Concurrent Speakers

This post is part of a series that highlights the events and speakers of this year’s 36th Annual Executive Function Conference, which will focus on promoting resilience and equity for ALL students.

At ResearchILD’s conference this November, you can learn practical strategies to bring into your classroom on Monday morning. SMARTS experts are offering three pre-recorded concurrent sessions that will be available starting on November 5. Conference attendees will have unlimited access to all concurrent sessions and the recordings of the live plenary sessions through January 31, 2022.

Concurrent Presentations: SMARTS Strand


Executive Function and Organization: Unlocking Students’ Ability to Stay Organized
Michael Greschler, Ed.M. and Shelly Levy, M.Ed., M.S.

Michael Greschler is the director of the SMARTS program for ResearchILD. Over the past 7 years, he has worked to develop and grow the SMARTS program, collaborating with teachers and administrators in schools and leading a nationwide pilot of SMARTS Online in its first year. Shelly Levy is the SMARTS curriculum coordinator, teacher trainer, and educational specialist at the Institutes of Learning and Development. She has over 25 years of experience in the field of Special Education. 

The session will emphasize practical classroom approaches that integrate strategy instruction and self-understanding into day-to-day classroom activities through the organization of materials and time management.

Flexible Thinking: Practical Strategies to Improve Academic Performance and Reduce Stress
Donna Kincaid, M.Ed.

Donna Kincaid, M.Ed., is the assistant director and director of outreach and training for ILD and ResearchILD. Donna holds certification in Elementary/Special Education K-9, a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction, and a Supervisor/Director Certification in the area of Special Needs.

In this session, participants will learn about the importance of cognitive flexibility, one of the cornerstones of executive function, and its critical role in school performance, growth mindsets, and reduced stress in school and life. This session will also focus on evidence-based strategies for promoting students’ cognitive flexibility so that they learn to shift and think flexibly in academic and social situations. 

Self-Monitoring and Self-Regulation: From School to Home and Back
Mindy Scirri, Ph.D.

Mindy Scirri, Ph.D., is a learning (dis)ability specialist and consultant in private practice and former chair and professor of education. Dr. Scirri also homeschools her daughter and is a content writer for homeschooling curriculum and resource websites.

In this workshop, Dr. Scirri will explore how expectations impact self-monitoring and self-regulation, how different contexts affect these expectations, and how various executive function components play a role. Participants will learn strategies from the SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum, as well as other strength-based strategies, to help students build self-monitoring and self-regulation skills both at school and at home.

Learn More

You can learn more about the concurrent speakers and their work by attending ResearchILD’s 36th Annual Executive Function Conference on November 11th and 12th. 

  • 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

36th Annual EF Conference Spotlight: SMARTS Special Events

This is the tenth post in a series that highlights the events and speakers of this year’s 36th Annual Executive Function Conference, which will focus on promoting resilience and equity for ALL students.

At our conference this November, we are excited to offer a number of special SMARTS sessions. The evening before our conference begins, we will gather with SMARTS educators from around the world to explore how they are teaching executive function. We are also offering two optional lunchtime sessions, which will be recorded and available for viewing until January 31, 2022.

SMARTS Conversation

  • SMARTS Around the World
    Michael Greschler, M.Ed., Shelly Levy, M.Ed., M.S.
    November 10, 6-7 pm EST

Ever wonder how teachers in different countries teach executive function? The SMARTS Executive Function curriculum is currently being implemented by educators in 25 different countries. Michael Greschler, M.Ed., director of the SMARTS program, and Shelly Levy, M.Ed., M.S., SMARTS curriculum coordinator, will be joined by teachers from schools around the world for a panel on executive function with an international focus. Bring your questions, ideas, and whatever is on your mind. While SMARTS conversations are typically only open to SMARTS users, this special event is open to all. Register for SMARTS Around the World

Optional SMARTS Lunchtime Sessions

  • SMARTS and MTSS School-Wide: Administrator and School Leader Panel
    Michael Greschler, M.Ed., Rajneet Goomer, M.A., Kristina Mannino, M.Ed.
    November 12, 12:30-1:05 pm EST

Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) provides a powerful framework for the development of levels of executive function intervention that can be used to support the success of all students and identify students who need more support. Michael Greschler, M.Ed., director of the SMARTS Program, will be joined by Rajneet Goomer, M.A., and Kristina Mannino, M.Ed., from the Robbinsville Public Schools, to explore how they have used SMARTS to create tiers of executive function support in their schools. Register for SMARTS and MTSS School-Wide

  • MetaCOG Online: A New Survey for Helping Teachers Understand Each Student’s EF Strengths and Challenges
    Lynn Meltzer, Ph.D., Kim Davis, M.Ed., and Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed.
    November 12, 12:30-1:05 pm EST

MetaCOG Online is an interactive executive function survey system that helps students develop an understanding of their learning profiles, including their executive function strengths and challenges. This self-understanding is the foundation for building students’ metacognitive awareness and their efficient and effective use of EF strategies. MetaCOG Online highlights students’ understanding of the strategies they use for planning, organizing, memorizing, shifting, and self-checking. This unique online survey enables students to understand and reflect on their personalized EF profiles. The tool also provides teachers with a class summary and action plan framework based on their students’ needs. Join us to explore the features of MetaCOG Online and how you can use this online survey tool to support your students. Register for MetaCOG Online

Learn More

You can learn more about our speakers and their work by attending ResearchILD’s 36th Annual Executive Function Conference on November 11 and 12. 

  • 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

Student Perspective: Multisensory Learning

What are the benefits of teaching with multisensory activities? This student-authored post is part of a series that highlights student perspectives around learning and executive function in the classroom. 

One of the best ways you can engage your students with learning differences is by using multisensory practices.

What is Multisensory Learning?

Multisensory learning occurs when a student uses multiple senses to learn information. The goal of multisensory learning is to allow your students to connect to the material being taught in many different ways. Students with and without learning differences can benefit from a multisensory approach since it allows students to make new connections and strengthen memories.

Engaging through Multisensory Activities

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that teachers use the same multisensory techniques from first grade through high school, but it is important for teachers to adapt their multisensory practices to better serve older students.  

For instance, watching videos in class is a multisensory activity. In biology class, dissecting an animal is multisensory because it allows the students to see and touch the parts of the animal that are being studied. Science is a great subject for multisensory teaching because many experiments are naturally multisensory — a great reason to increase the number of hands-on experiments in science. 

One multisensory activity for English and history classes is acting out scenes of a book or scenes from history. This allows students to immerse themselves in the time or book, helping them learn by interacting with the text in another way. 

Students will learn best if you try to integrate different multisensory activities, instead of relying only on traditional teaching practices like lecturing. There are many different ways that you can approach multisensory teaching. It can be helpful to experiment and think of new multisensory activities that fit with what you are teaching.

Join us this November for the 36th Annual Executive Function Conference, which will focus on promoting resilience and equity for ALL students.

  • C. Solomon, Student Contributor

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

36th Annual EF Conference Spotlight: Concurrent Presentations

This is the eighth post in a series that highlights the speakers of this year’s 36th Annual Executive Function Conference, which will focus on promoting resilience and equity for ALL students.

This November, we are honored to feature seven speakers who will offer recorded presentations addressing the close connections between executive function, stress, persistence, and school performance. Conference attendees can begin viewing these presentations on November 11, with unlimited access through January 31, 2022.

Hate or Hurt: Rethinking Social Exclusion, Isolation, and the Need-To-Belong in ASD Youth
Sucheta Kamath, M.A., M.A., CCC-SLP, BC-ANCDS

Sucheta Kamath is the founder/CEO of ExQ, LLC, a game-based online curriculum designed to systematically train fundamental cognitive skills. She is a speech-language pathologist, TEDx speaker, and entrepreneur in the Ed-Tech space.

Student Identity and Student Agency: Strategies for Engagement, Inclusion, and Equity
Kim Carter, M.Ed.

Kim Carter is the founder and executive director of the Q.E.D. Foundation, an organization of adults and youth working together to create and sustain student-centered learning communities. The Q.E.D Foundation centers students’ voices and works with adults who are deeply invested in their students’ success.

Mindfulness, Metacognition, and Stress Reduction
Christopher Willard, Psy.D.

Christopher Willard is a lecturer in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a psychologist and educational consultant specializing in mindfulness. Dr. Willard works with parents, educators, and counselors, teaching them to embody and teach mindfulness skills to promote resilience in students of any age.

The Role of Working Memory in Speaking and Written Language
Anthony S. Bashir, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Bonnie Singer, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Anthony Bashir is a professor at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development and an educational consultant. Dr. Bashir was the director of the speech-language pathology department at Children’s Hospital in Boston for 25 years and is an honored fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Dr. Bonnie Singer is the founder and CEO of Vivido and Architects for Learning. Vivido offers professional development in language, literacy, and learning; Architects for Learning provides academic intervention, assessment, and consultation services.

Comprehension Strategy Instruction for Students with Executive Function Difficulties
Joan Sedita, M.Ed.

Joan Sedita is the founder of Keys to Literacy, a leading provider of literacy teacher training, curriculum, ongoing coaching, and materials to educators across the country. Since 1974, she has held the roles of teacher, school administrator, teacher trainer, and literacy consultant.

Transforming Trauma: Helping Schools Become Healing Places
David Melnick, LICSW

David Melnick is the co-director of Outpatient Services at the Northeastern Family Institute in Vermont and a fellow of the Child Trauma Academy. For 35 years, he has worked in many settings including outpatient, residential treatment, and public and day treatment schools. His expertise is in development trauma, family therapy, adolescence, attachment, and trauma-informed schools.

Learn More

You can learn more about the concurrent speakers and their work by attending ResearchILD’s 36th Annual Executive Function Conference on November 11th and 12th.

Raffle for New Registrants! All new conference registrants will be entered into a special raffle through October 17. Choose one of many prize options, including a full year’s access to the SMARTS Executive Function program, a seat at the upcoming Executive Function Essentials Workshops, or your own library of executive function 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

36th Annual EF Conference Speaker Spotlight: Dr. Lynn Meltzer on Creating Strategic Classrooms

This is the seventh post in a series that highlights the speakers of this year’s 36th Annual Executive Function Conference, which will focus on promoting resilience and equity for ALL students.

This November, we are honored to feature the Director of the Institutes for Learning and Development (ResearchILD & ILD), Lynn Meltzer, Ph.D., who will speak about “Creating Strategic Classrooms: Re-Engaging Students to Promote Self-Understanding and Resilience.”

Dr. Meltzer is a fellow and past-president of the International Academy for Research in Learning Disabilities. She is the founder and program chair of the Annual Executive Function Conference, which she has chaired for over 35 years. For 30 years, she was an associate in education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Child Development at Tufts University. Dr. Meltzer’s 40 years of clinical work, research, publications, and presentations have focused on understanding the complexity of learning and attention differences.  

Dr. Meltzer’s extensive publications include articles, chapters, and books, most recently, Executive Function in Education: From Theory to Practice (2018), Promoting Executive Function in the Classroom (2010), and The Power of Peers in the Classroom: Enhancing Learning and Social Skills (2015). Together with her ResearchILD staff, Dr. Meltzer developed SMARTS, an evidence-based Executive Function and Peer Mentoring/ Coaching Curriculum for elementary, middle, and high school students.

2021 Executive Function Conference

Dr. Meltzer founded the “Learning Disabilities Conference” thirty-six years ago while at Harvard Medical School. This conference was the first of its kind, connecting theorists, researchers, and teachers to improve the lives of students with learning and attention difficulties. Over the years, the name of the conference has changed to emphasize students’ strengths and resilience. However, the focus has remained on executive function as the foundation of success for ALL students. At this year’s conference, you can hear from Dr. Meltzer and a number of distinguished speakers who will address issues related to executive function, resilience, and equity. Dr. Meltzer’s talk will focus on building strategic classrooms. 

Strategy Use in the Classroom

How can teachers ensure that their classrooms are places where students can develop and refine their strategy use? At ResearchILD’s 36th Annual Executive Function Conference, Dr. Meltzer will describe how teachers can create strategic classrooms and learning environments. Dr. Meltzer will also highlight ways to promote students’ self-awareness and self-understanding. Self-understanding is a critical aspect of metacognition, which is the key to academic and lifelong success. Dr. Meltzer’s talk will cover strategies for promoting metacognitive awareness so we can help students to learn HOW to learn. She will also discuss the new MetaCOG Online survey system, an interactive executive function survey tool that highlights students’ perceptions of their executive function strategy use, self-concept, perceived effort, and persistence.

Learn More

You can learn more about Dr. Lynn Meltzer and her work:

Raffle for New Registrants—starting 9/24! All new conference registrants will be entered into a special raffle through October 17. Choose one of many great options, including a full year’s access to the SMARTS Executive Function program, a seat at the upcoming Executive Function Essentials Workshops, or your own library of EF 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

Student Perspective: Interdisciplinary Learning

What are the benefits of interdisciplinary learning? This student-authored post is part of a series that highlights student perspectives around learning and executive function in the classroom. 

I will start by saying that I have had few encounters with interdisciplinary learning. What I have gathered from those few experiences has led me to a favorable view of the practice.

In my experience, interdisciplinary learning is when students are taught a topic or idea through multiple subjects. For instance, learning about the dangers of climate change from a scientific perspective in science class while reading a dystopian novel based on climate change in English. 

As someone with ADHD, it can be hard for me to focus on anything, let alone the thousands of facts I’m supposed to know in any given week. I feel this becomes more complex because my different classes seem to have no relevance to each other.

For example, this year my English class was reading a book on World War II, while at the same time my history class was teaching us about apartheid in South Africa. This was difficult for me because I would get the dates and facts about the two time periods mixed up in my head. If these two classes had synced up their curriculums, I could have spent less time focusing on remembering mere facts and more time on essential skills.

Another benefit of interdisciplinary learning is that it allows me to link different topics together. In school, teachers will tell me to draw from experiences that I’ve had or issues I’ve already learned about to influence my understanding of what I’m learning. But often, I find that my experience or previous education is not relevant to what I’m studying. Going in-depth on one topic and teaching it through multiple classes would allow me to draw more of those connections, even if I don’t have prior knowledge of the topic.

Join us this November for the 36th Annual Executive Function Conference, which will focus on promoting resilience and equity for ALL students.

  • C. Solomon, Student Contributor

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

36th Annual EF Conference Speaker Spotlight: David Flink on Identity, Advocacy, and Accommodations

This is the fifth post in a series that highlights the speakers of this year’s 36th Annual Executive Function Conference, which will focus on promoting resilience and equity for ALL students.

This November, we are honored to feature David Flink, Ed.M., who will offer a session on “Identity, Advocacy, and Accommodations: Transitioning to a World After COVID.”

Building Stronger Classroom Experiences

How can educators work to rebuild stronger classroom experiences than the ones we left behind before COVID-19? At ResearchILD’s 36th Annual Executive Function Conference, David Flink will discuss the importance of embracing students’ identities, providing effective accommodations, and promoting self-advocacy to build stronger and better classroom experiences for all students. This session will focus on taking advantage of the opportunity we currently have to build a more equitable education system that meets the needs of all students.

David Flink is the Founder & Chief Empowerment Officer of Eye to Eye, an organization dedicated to improving the life of every young person with learning differences.

Through Eye to Eye’s mentoring program, high school and college students with learning differences are trained to mentor similarly-identified middle school students. Eye to Eye is the only national organization run for and by people with learning and attention issues, like dyslexia and ADHD. In March of 2021, David was named a CNN hero for helping to unlock greatness in the 1 in 5 students who learn differently.

Learn More

You can learn more about David Flink and his work:

Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Program Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org