All posts by Bethany

Person seated in a brain with a handing reaching down

Promoting Mental Health in the Classroom

ResearchILD is fortunate to host Donna B. Pincus, Ph.D., at our 37th Annual Executive Function Conference, where she will present “Promoting Mental Health in the Classroom: Therapeutic Strategies for Reducing Stress and Anxiety and Enhancing Students’ Self Esteem,” drawing from her expertise as a clinical researcher in psychology and director of the Child and Adolescent Fear and Anxiety Treatment Program (CARD↗(link opens in new tab/window)) at Boston University.

About Dr. Pincus

Concurrent with her role as clinical researcher and director of the Child and Adolescent Fear and Anxiety Treatment Program, Dr. Pincus also serves as Feld Family Professor of Teaching Excellence at Boston University. Dr. Pincus’ research, teaching and practice↗(link opens in new tab/window) focus on the creation of novel approaches to treating child and adolescent anxiety across a variety of settings, including school and child care centers. She has published over a hundred articles on topics surrounding childhood anxiety and created usable tools for those experiencing or supporting someone with anxiety, including guides for therapists, workbooks for teenagers and picture books for children↗.(link opens in new tab/window)

Promoting Mental Health in the Classroom

Dr. Pincus’ decades of experience in addressing child and adolescent anxiety provides her with a wealth of knowledge on practical tools for educators looking to support their students’ mental health. Dr. Pincus will begin her talk by outlining the symptoms and nature of childhood anxiety and related psychopathology, and then share interventions and practices specific to the classroom that educators can implement right away.

Learn More

You can learn more about Dr. Pincus and her work:

  • Visit her personal webpage↗(link opens in new tab/window) and the Child and Adolescent Fear and Anxiety Treatment Program at Boston University’s website↗(link opens in new tab/window).
  • Explore her articles↗(link opens in new tab/window) on her Google Scholar profile and resources↗(link opens in new tab/window) for caregivers.
  • Attend ResearchILD’s 37th Annual Executive Function Conference to hear Dr. Pincus speak about “Promoting Mental Health in the Classroom: Therapeutic Strategies for Reducing Stress and Anxiety and Enhancing Students’ Self Esteem.”

Looking to build your executive function toolkit? Join us for the Executive Function Summer Summit (July 26, July 28, August 2, and August 4) and the SMARTS Executive Function Summer Workshop (August 9, August 11). All summer professional development opportunities are available online via Zoom and through recorded sessions.

  • Taylor McKenna, M.A., 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

Assortment of icons representing gears, speech bubbles, and tools

Fixing a Broken Model, Part 2

This student-authored post is part of a series that highlights student perspectives around learning and executive function in the classroom. You can read part 1 of this post here

An article written in the National Library of Medicine says that when dyslexic students are misunderstood, it “leads to a struggle with the teacher, with the parents and with themselves. The result can be a child deemed to be ‘incorrigible,’ a judgment which can further traumatize the individual.” As a student, I’ve always been annoyed by these misconceptions. Throughout my education, my annoyance led to frustration, my frustration led to anger, and my anger led to despair.

A Broken Model

The current educational system is not working, as it is not acknowledging everybody’s differences. The education system needs to be modernized; schools have been using the same model for decades. Most traditional school practices are outdated, not preparing students for modern life. In the words of Sir Kenneth Robinson, an educator known for working to revitalize the education system, “reforming is no use anymore, because that is simply reforming a broken model.”

Solutions

Schools need to work with their students to foster individualism. They need to create a place where students are able to explore what they want to learn in a way that they can learn it. Everybody has different strengths and weaknesses, so why are we torturing people by penalizing them for having weaknesses?

One of the easiest ways teachers can create a productive classroom environment is to engage with students and ask them how they feel. Making sure students feel comfortable interacting with their teacher and advocating for themselves is crucial. But it’s even more important that the teacher uses that information to help a student. If a student is struggling and has a solution, their teachers need to do everything in their power to make sure the student gets what they need.

A Path Forward

It’s becoming accepted that teachers must address all differences to create an optimal classroom environment. To truly welcome diversity, schools must accept diversity of thought. The goal of educational systems should be to create a world where students’ differences aren’t stigmatized but accepted; where it’s understood that everybody’s brain is just as unique as their physical appearance. We all have two eyes, two ears, one nose, and one mouth—and we look unique.

To truly create change, schools need to acknowledge their shortcomings and try to fix them by listening to student voices. By doing this, schools can help students’ individuality become their strength.

  • 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

Teacher working with two students

Creating Sanctuary Classrooms

At ResearchILD’s 37th Annual Executive Function Conference this November, we are thrilled to feature George Scott, Ed.S., LMFT, who will share ways educators can create nurturing classrooms for students facing developmental trauma and toxic stressors in his presentation titled, “Creating Sanctuary Classrooms: The Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences on Learners.”

About Mr. Scott

In addition to practicing as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) at the Center of Counseling Services LLC in New Jersey, Mr. Scott is certified in Post Traumatic Stress Management (PTSM) and serves as a state-wide Resource Coordinator for the Traumatic Loss Coalition for Youth Program and Rutgers University Behavior Health Care (UBHC). Mr. Scott’s accolades also include his roles as Adjunct Professor at the Counselor Education Department at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) and Senior Presenter for his affiliate business practice Minding Our Children↗(link opens in new tab/window), which focuses on fostering understanding in adults regarding how to raise healthy and resilient children.

Creating Healing Classrooms

Mr. Scott has over 50 years of experience working in the field of special education and sharing his expertise in youth mental health with educators and administrators across the country. His philosophy that “all adults have the power within them to improve the lives of children” drives his belief in the power of educators to be effective and transformative “minders(link opens in new tab/window)”↗ of student well-being.

With decades of experience partnering with schools, Mr. Scott knows educators face intense demands in numerous aspects of their jobs. In his presentation at the 37th Annual Executive Function Conference, Mr. Scott will share with attendees practical ways educators can provide children spaces to heal and thrive.

Learn More

You can learn more about George Scott and his work:

  • Visit his personal webpage(link opens in new tab/window) and Minding Our Children’s website↗(link opens in new tab/window).
  • Watch his interview(link opens in new tab/window) with the New Jersey School Boards Association on the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on students.
  • Attend ResearchILD’s 37th Annual Executive Function Conference to hear Mr. Scott speak about “Creating Sanctuary Classrooms: The Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences on Learners.”

Looking to build your executive function toolkit? Join us for the Executive Function Summer Summit (July 26, July 28, August 2, and August 4) and the SMARTS Executive Function Summer Workshop (August 9, August 11). All summer professional development opportunities are available online via Zoom and through recorded sessions.

  • Taylor McKenna, M.A., 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 with hands on head looking at an assignment

Fixing a Broken Model, Part 1

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

The majority of people have a physical appearance that is unique. Yet on an anatomical level, the components of each face are the same. Your eyes, for example, are in the middle of your face, about a nose width long and a nose width apart. The distance from your chin to the middle of your lip is the same as the distance from the middle of your lip to the corner of your eye.

Yet it is the small differences that shape your likeness, making you unique. The human brain is the same — even though we’re all human, there are a variety of factors that make everyone’s brains different.

In school, people tend to be defined by a few characteristics, and as someone with dyslexia and ADHD, my differences have always seemed to define me. I feel these differences every day.

I started to feel the impact of my dyslexia in first grade, before I was even diagnosed. Like many students with learning differences, I was misunderstood at school, and similar situations led me to feel annoyed, confused, and fearful. All of these emotions came from the message that school was instilling in me, that something was wrong with me.

In my experience, schools ignore, suppress, and neglect the things that they don’t understand, and that leads to students being neglected. When teachers don’t work to understand their students’ differences and how they learn best, it can leave students with the belief that they are inadequate and they will ever be able to do what is expected of them. That mix of emotions can be excruciating.

Thirty-three percent of educators believe learning disabilities are just laziness. This harmful stereotype is a perfect example of how the education system needs to change. The bottom line is in order to create a healthy learning environment for students with learning disabilities, these students need to be fully understood and that starts with education. It starts with ending the belief that learning disabilities are laziness or something that can be easily controlled.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this post. 

  • 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

Student concentrating on a game

Smart but Stuck: Executive Function, Attention, and Emotion

At ResearchILD’s 37th Annual Executive Function Conference this November, we are honored to feature a session on “Smart but Stuck: Executive Function, Attention, and Emotion” from Thomas E. Brown, Ph.D., Director of Brown Clinic for Attention and Related Disorders in Manhattan Beach, California, and Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at the University of California Riverside School of Medicine.

About Dr. Brown

Dr. Brown is a clinical psychologist who received his Ph.D. from Yale University. He specializes in assessment and treatment of high-IQ children, adolescents, and adults with ADHD and related problems. He opened the Brown Clinic for Attention and Related Disorders in Manhattan Beach, California, in June of 2017. In addition to presenting lectures and workshops, Dr. Brown has published more than 30 scientific articles in professional journals and is the author of the Brown Executive Function/Attention Rating Scales. He is also the author and editor of many books.

Emotions and ADHD

What role do emotions play in students with ADHD? Many students who are affected by ADHD-related executive function impairments enjoy a number of activities or hobbies where they do not display the same difficulty exercising certain executive function processes. Positive and negative emotions deeply affect a person’s ability to initiate tasks, sustain their attention, shift their interest, and engage their working memory processes.

At the 37th Annual Executive Function Conference, Dr. Brown will describe the critical role of emotions in ADHD and will provide information about assessment and interventions to help teachers and parents understand and effectively address these difficulties in students of all ages. 

Learn More

You can learn more about Dr. Brown and his work:

Looking to build your executive function toolkit? Join us for the Executive Function Summer Summit (July 26, July 28, August 2, and August 4) and the SMARTS Executive Function Summer Workshop (August 9, August 11). All summer professional development opportunities are available online via Zoom and through recorded sessions.

  • 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

Two dogs sitting facing the ocean

EF in the Dog Days of Summer

Long days, peak temperatures, and high humidity…we are officially in the dog days of summer! During this time, humans and their canine companions in the Northern Hemisphere will do their best to rest and avoid extended exposure to the sun and heat.

Over the summer you might have more time to observe your dog’s daily patterns. Have you ever wondered what your dog is thinking and how they learn? This is the perfect time to explore new research around the similarities in cognition among humans and dogs.

Over the summer you might have more time to observe your dog’s daily patterns. Have you ever wondered what your dog is thinking and how they learn? This is the perfect time to explore new research around the similarities in cognition among humans and dogs.

Executive Function and Dogs

According to a recent study from La Trobe University (link opens in new tab/window), dogs and humans regulate their behavior in similar ways. Researchers focused on a few executive function processes: the ability to follow instructions, control physical impulses, and use working memory.

Over thousands of years of domestication, the survival of dogs has depended on their ability to obtain sufficient food and care by regulating their behavior to suit the human environment. Just as considering the context is crucial when examining executive function processes in humans, the same concept applies when observing dogs and their processes.

Working dogs, such as farm dogs or assistance dogs, have demonstrated highly developed executive function processes. For example, seeing-eye dogs have the ability to inhibit urges to chase other animals and closely follow sequences of instructions.  

Developing EF Strategies

Research in humans has shown that a structured, systematic, and explicit approach to teaching executive function strategies (the foundation of the SMARTS curriculum) fosters self-understanding and empowers students to learn how to learn. Training, it turns out, is the key factor in dogs’ development of executive function processes. Next time you want to teach your dog a new trick, consider using a SMARTS strategy!

Looking to build your executive function toolkit? Join us for the Executive Function Summer Summit (July 26, July 28, August 2, and August 4) and the SMARTS Executive Function Summer Workshop (August 9, August 11). All summer professional development opportunities are available online via Zoom and through recorded sessions.

  • 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

Students reaching in to touch hands

Harnessing the Power of Micromoments

At ResearchILD’s 37th Annual Executive Function Conference this November, we are honored to feature a session on “The Power of Micromoments in Our Lives and the Lives of Our Students” from Robert Brooks, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, faculty member of Harvard Medical School (part-time), and former Director of the Department of Psychology at McLean Hospital.

About Dr. Brooks

In addition to the appointments listed above, Dr. Brooks has lectured nationally and internationally and written extensively about motivation, resilience across the lifespan, psychotherapy, education, parenting, and a positive school and work environment. He is the author or co-author of 19 books including Raising Resilient Children, Raising Resilient Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Understanding and Managing Children’s Classroom Behavior: Creating Sustainable, Resilient Classrooms, and more.

The Magic of Micromoments

Over the years, Dr. Brooks has examined the importance of empathy as an essential element necessary to form positive interpersonal relationships. More recently, Dr. Brooks has investigated the impact that micromoments(link opens in new tab/window)↗ (microaffirmations and microaggressions), especially between teachers and students, can have on students’ well-being and the emotional culture of a classroom or school.

Sharing emotions and perspective taking are at the heart of receiving and offering expressions of empathy. At the 37th Annual Executive Function Conference, Dr. Brooks will discuss how brief moments in our everyday lives can communicate empathy and have a lifelong impact.

Learn More

You can learn more about Dr. Brooks and his work:

Looking to build your executive function toolkit? Join us for the Executive Function Summer Summit (July 26, July 28, August 2, and August 4) and the SMARTS Executive Function Summer Workshop (August 9, August 11). All summer professional development opportunities are available online via Zoom and through recorded sessions.

  • 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

Brain networks with words written on it.

The Stories Students Tell: Narrative Building to Shape Neural Networks

At ResearchILD’s 37th Annual Executive Function Conference this November, we are honored to feature a session on “Building Meaning Builds Students’ Brains: Implications for Re-inventing Schools” from Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Ed.D, Professor of Education, Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Southern California and Director of the USC Center for Affective Neuroscience, Development, Learning and Education (CANDLE).

About Dr. Immordino-Yang

Dr. Immordino-Yang studies the psychological and neurobiological development of emotion and self-awareness, and connections to social, cognitive and moral development in educational settings. She uses cross-cultural, interdisciplinary studies of narratives and feelings to uncover experience-dependent neural mechanisms contributing to identity, intrinsic motivation, deep learning, and generative, creative and abstract thought. Her work has a special focus on adolescents from low-SES communities, and she involves youths from these communities as junior scientists in her work.

Narratives that Shape Neural Networks

Dr. Immordino-Yang and her colleagues are investigating how patterns of thinking and feeling influence the growth of students’ brain networks(link opens in new tab/window). Analyzing students’ narratives reveals their dispositions of mind. When students effortfully deliberate on their internal narratives and engage in deep thinking for themselves, their patterns of brain activity demonstrate developmental effects over time. These changes in their brain networks were driven by students making meaning of their lives in both concrete (here-and-now) and abstract (big picture, systems level) ways.

How can we recognize, model, and promote deep thinking? It is important to focus more on the way that students think instead of focusing on what they know as well as to empower adolescents to build strong relationships with their peers and teachers. At the 37th Annual Executive Function Conference, Dr. Immordino-Yang will discuss these concepts and how we can reinvent schools by redefining what is relevant to our students.

Learn More

You can learn more about Dr. Immordino-Yang and her work:

Looking to build your executive function toolkit? Join us for the Executive Function Summer Summit (July 26, July 28, August 2, and August 4) and the SMARTS Executive Function Summer Workshop (August 9, August 11). All summer professional development opportunities are available online via Zoom and through recorded sessions.

  • 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 reading book with math symbols and numbers in background

Metacognitive Strategies for Math

Teaching students to actively think about their thinking and monitor their comprehension of concepts and procedures is an important part of becoming a successful math student.

It is no secret that metacognition is an integral component of academic and lifelong success. When students think about their thinking and learn about their learning, they are better able to understand their strengths and challenges. When it comes to math, there are a number of ways that teachers can help their students become strategic learners and promote students’ self-awareness.

Find What Works

When you find a strategy that works for you, stick with it. Write it down and keep using it. This is a simple and often overlooked strategy, but it helps to stick with what makes sense for each student.

Acronyms

Acronyms can help students remember organizational processes. Here are a few examples:

RAPS Math Strategy - read and rephrase, art, plan and predict, solve
RAPS Math Strategy

RAPS:

  • Read and rephrase
  • Art
  • Plan and predict
  • Solve

CUBES:

  • Circle the numbers
  • Underline the question
  • Box the key words
  • Evaluate and eliminate
  • Solve and check
Two column chart that has know in the first column and need to know in the second column
Know/Need to know Chart

KNEES:

  1. What do you KNOW?
  2. What do you NEED to KNOW?
  3. Which Equation will you need?
  4. Substitute and solve

Brain Dumps + Self-Checking

Many students may be familiar with brain dumps as the first step in the writing process, but they can also be used in a math context. Encourage students to write down their remembering tricks for procedures and formulas to use as a reference at the top of a test or quiz.

One effective way to help students check their work for the most common errors is to teach the SMARTS lesson Top 3 Hits. In this lesson, students use previously graded assignments to check for their most common errors. Then, students generate a list of their personal Top-3-Hits and create a funny phrase to check their own future assignments. Interested in trying out the Top 3 Hits lesson? Request your free Top 3 Hits lesson plan (please indicate the grade level you teach).

Metacognition is the key to success in school and beyond, not to mention the use of executive function strategies. Thanks to Joan Steinberg, Director of Educational Therapy at ILD, for sharing her expertise and tips for this blog post.

  • 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

August calendar with blank to do list

Hack Your To-Do Lists with EF Strategies

Do you create to-do lists with the intention of organizing your tasks and relieving stress? According to research and interviews(link opens in new tab/window) , it turns out that to-do lists can actually make us more stressed because they don’t account for how long tasks take. There are tips for making the lists in planners more effective–as Michael Greschler, director of SMARTS, says, we should use planners as planners and not just as due daters

While brain dumps or listing out all our tasks are good first steps in organizing ourselves and our schedules, it is important to take time to prioritize tasks, break down tasks into steps, and estimate how long they will take.

Step 1: Prioritize

After a brain dump, take time to categorize your list into obligations (have to’s), aspirations (want to’s), and negotiations. Sorting tasks and activities in this way helps make it clear where to begin. Once you know your starting point, you can move on to step 2.

Step 2: Break Down Tasks

It is easy to create to-do lists without considering that each task could contain multiple sub-tasks. When tasks go unfinished, it can create unneeded stress and pressure. According to the Zeigarnik Effect(link opens in new tab/window) , unfinished tasks tend to linger in our minds and interfere with our ability to move forward. One way to counteract the Zeigarnik Effect is to break down each task into parts and schedule each sub-task into a planner or calendar.

Step 3: Estimate

When scheduling sub-tasks into a planner, remember to estimate how long they will take. This is a step that is often missed when using a planner as a due dater. Estimating the time pays off—we are more likely to complete a task if we know exactly when we will start and how long it will take. 

While setting up to-do lists with executive function strategies may take time upfront, you will reduce stress and save time in the long run. For more information about these lessons, check out the SMARTS Curriculum

  • 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