Category Archives: Stress

Student Perspective: How to Make Summer Work Less Stressful

How can teachers make summer work less stressful for their students? This student-authored post is part of a series that highlights student perspectives around learning and executive function in the classroom. 

As the end of summer approaches, I have started to stress about my summer work. Therefore, I have three suggestions for teachers to make summer work more manageable for students.

Reconsider Assigning Work

My first suggestion is not to assign any work. I know many teachers will roll their eyes at this suggestion, but it’s valid. Once students get into high school, they have more on their plates, even in the summertime. Many students have jobs, work on preparing for college, take extra classes, or complete any number of other activities. Adding more academic work to their plate makes students feel as though they have no break at all. As a student with dyslexia and ADHD, it’s tough for me; it takes me double the time of my classmates to complete most assignments.

Avoid Testing on Summer Material

Another way to make work less stressful is to avoid testing on summer material. Summer academic work is assigned to prevent backslide, to teach students new things, or help them spark an interest in something. It should by no means feel like a punishment. 

Teachers also need to consider that students’ priorities change in the summer. They don’t have as much time, so many students have to pick and choose what to do first. So when they get to school, not all the material will be fresh in their minds. All of this is especially true when applied to students with learning differences. For example, I have a different experience reading a book than many of my classmates. It can be challenging when tested on a book, especially when I started reading it three months ago.

Be Clear About the Purpose of Summer Work

My final suggestion to mitigate summer stress is to tell your students ahead of time what the work will be used to accomplish. As I suggested, summer work should be just for the experience and not graded. But if you think it’s crucial to assign summer work, tell your students ahead of time what their end goal should be. For example, if you want your students to write a paper on a summer reading book, tell them ahead of time, so they can prioritize all of their work.

Will you be teaching SMARTS next year? Join us for the SMARTS Executive Function Summer Workshop (August 10th, August 12th, August 17th, and August 19th). If you are interested in hearing from equity-minded educators from across the country, join us for the 36th Annual Executive Function Conference. Learn more and register today.

  • C. Solomon, Student Contributor

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development:

Student Perspective: The Need to Preview Material

Incorporating executive function strategies into your curriculum can make a big difference for students. This post is part of a series that highlights student perspectives around learning and executive function in the classroom. 

As a learner, it’s hard for me to finish assignments or do them correctly if I don’t know why I’m doing them. It is important for teachers to take time to preview material and explain the purpose behind assignments. Here are a couple of examples.

Preview Upcoming Topics

At the beginning of each trimester, it is beneficial to go over what the class will be studying. Many teachers try to do this, but in my experience, they don’t go in-depth enough. I would encourage teachers to give students more background information.

For instance, if you’re teaching about World War II in history class, tell students many aspects of what they will be studying instead of just telling them they will be covering World War II. Doing this helps students understand the scope of the material they will be covering in class and slowly eases them in, making them feel they have more control in the classroom. It’s also good for students to know what to expect once they get to the topic because it will seem less overwhelming than just jumping right in.

Preview Large Projects

It is also helpful to preview material before a large project. When introducing a new project to a class, it is essential to explain to students why the project is important. If students do not understand the reasoning behind the project, they may feel that the project is not relevant to them.

Another important step is to outline what the project should look like. While it may be difficult to present guidelines for more open-ended projects, it is vital for people who struggle with executive function.

Before you formally teach a topic or introduce new material, make sure your students have a brief understanding of what lies ahead so they won’t feel overwhelmed when they get to that topic. Previewing material can ensure that students are better prepared to complete their work and turn in higher-quality assignments.

To read more student perspectives, check out the Real-Life Experiences with Remote Learning series.

  • C. Solomon, Student Contributor

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development:

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