3 EF Strategies to Start the School Year

3 EF Strategies to Start the School Year

With back-to-school season in full swing, it is more important than ever for students to adopt executive function strategies and tools. Students of all ages can set themselves up for success by implementing these three practices during their first weeks in the classroom.

1. Create an assignment monitoring system 

In elementary grades, pencil-and-paper agenda books can help young students develop both time management and self-monitoring skills. The simple practice of writing down an assignment in an agenda book can help children take ownership of their learning and conceptualize the connection between school and homework.

Many students in older grades continue to benefit from paper-and-pencil agenda books. In addition, pre-teens and older children can begin to strategically incorporate task management systems that include more than a list of tasks to complete. Our SMARTS team recommends the Prioritize→Break down tasks→ Estimate approach, which requires students to plan when and in what order they will complete tasks.

2. Set goals

The beginning of the school year is the perfect time for students to set goals for what they hope to accomplish both academically and outside of school. It is critical, though, for students of all ages to avoid vague and unrealistic goals. Unit 2 of SMARTS teaches students how to utilize the CANDO acronym to create meaningful and enriching goals.

3. Organize materials

Once students know their class load, they should create a place for organizing their class materials, assignments, and notes. Having a central location for all of these resources saves time and makes it easier to gather study materials. Unit 4 of SMARTS teaches students easy-to-remember strategies for organizing their belongings.

Whether students are entering kindergarten or graduate school, creating personalized assignment monitoring systems, setting goals and organizing materials are worthwhile practices to get the school year started on the right foot. For teachers and caregivers looking to support children in developing these skills, the SMARTS curriculum is an invaluable tool.

  • Taylor McKenna, M.A., M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org