Monthly Archives: July 2020

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