Executive Function Curriculum for Secondary Grades

  • Unit 1: Introduction to Executive Function Strategies: Building a Community of Metacognitive Learners

    WELCOME This unit is designed to teach students the importance of metacognition, provide background knowledge of the core executive function processes, and help them to apply their knowledge of executive function processes to better understand themselves as learners.

    Unit 1 provides a foundation for teaching the Executive Function curriculum. Each lesson builds students’ understanding of EF strategies and links these strategies to the academic demands of middle school, high school, and college.

    IMPORTANT: Be sure to watch the Overview Instructional Videos.

    These videos are not just the overview for Unit 1 but an essential foundation for teaching the entire SMARTS curriculum. It is important to take the time to watch these videos before teaching the SMARTS lessons so you have a good understanding of the SMARTS educational system.

    Unit 1 Overview

    Lesson 1: What is metacognition?

    Students engage in a discussion about “metacognition” and identify their personal strengths and challenges. Students begin their own strategy notebooks that they will use for the duration of the SMARTS program to record reflections and collect handouts.

    Lesson 2: What is cognitive flexibility?

    Students discuss the concept of cognitive flexibility and its importance for strategy use. They complete an activity that illustrates how words can have multiple meanings.

    Lesson 3: What is executive function?

    Students complete an activity that introduces them to the five executive function processes and helps them to identify their strengths and challenges in these areas.

    Lesson 4: I-SEE a strategy: what makes a strategy a strategy?

    Using case studies, students identify which strategies are individualized, systematic, efficient, and effective (I-SEE). Then, they examine their own strategies, refining them to ensure they fit the I-SEE model.
  • Unit 2: Goal Setting: Understanding the Big Picture and Breaking it Down

    Objectives: By the end of this unit students will be able to:
    • Define CANDO goals
    • Understand the elements of “good goals”
    • Create a rubric to assess goals
    • Design CANDO goals that demonstrate reflective thinking

    Lesson 1: Goal setting: Identifying CANDO Goals

    Students learn to create personalized and achievable goals that are Clear, Appropriate, Numerical, Doable, and with Obstacles considered (CANDO).

    Lesson 2: Goal setting: Thinking through individual goals

    Students review common obstacles that prevent them from achieving their goals. Building off of Lesson 2.1, students take the goals they have already set and develop strategies to achieve these goals (e.g., students break goals into steps and think about the obstacles they may face when trying to achieve their goals).
  • Unit 3: Cognitive Flexibility: Shifting and Flexible Thinking

    Objectives: By the end of this unit students will be able to:
    • Understand the importance of shifting
    • Write according to multiple perspectives
    • Shift between the main ideas and details

    Lesson 1: Being flexible and shifting expectations

    Students explore shifting between multiple perspectives in writing at both the sentence and paragraph levels.

    Lesson 2: Shifting perspectives in writing

    Students consider the importance of a flexible approach to writing that addresses multiple audiences and rewrite a paragraph from a different perspective.

    Lesson 3: Skim and Scoop

    Students learn how to comprehend what they read efficiently and how to differentiate between the main ideas and details of a text.

    Lesson 4: Purposeful Highlighting

    Students use highlighting to identify multiple perspectives when reading and taking notes. This strategy also helps students highlight effectively and to avoid over-highlighting (the “yellow page syndrome”).

    Lesson 5: Shifty Math

    Students identify multiple methods for solving a problem and understand how the same problem can be analyzed in multiple ways.
  • Unit 4: Organizing and Prioritizing: Materials and Time

    Objectives: By the end of this unit students will be able to:
    • Understand strategies for organizing belongings
    • Understand the importance of planning
    • Use calendars and tools for daily, weekly and monthly planning
    • Apply their knowledge of planning to breaking down assignments into meaningful parts

    Lesson 1: The 4 C’s strategy

    Students learn the 4 C’s strategy for organizing and then apply the strategy to the organization of their own belongings.

    Lesson 2: Understanding Time

    Students examine their understanding of time and their time estimation abilities.

    Lesson 3: Prioritizing Time

    Students learn to prioritize events within a metacognitive framework. They then differentiate between mandatory tasks (“have-to’s”) and optional tasks (“want-to’s”) and learn that time can be flexible.

    Lesson 4: Monthly Planning

    Students practice breaking down long-term assignments into manageable steps and using calendars to plan for these long-term assignments.

    Lesson 5: Weekly Planning

    Students practice using weekly schedules and daily timeframes for short-term planning.
  • Unit 5: Organizing and Prioritizing: Information and Ideas

    Objectives: By the end of this unit students will be able to:
    • Understand strategies for organizing thoughts in note taking, essay writing and for studying
    • Integrate memory strategies into organizing to enhance understanding of the topic

    Lesson 1: Sorting and categorizing using BOTEC

    Students learn strategies for organizing information to improve their reading comprehension and writing. They also learn how to focus on “big ideas” or important concepts in relation to the details.

    Lesson 2: Bottom-up vs. top-down thinkers

    Students shift from organizing ideas using a detail-oriented, bottom-up approach to using a big-picture, top-down approach.

    Lesson 3: Note-taking from a lesson

    Students learn strategies to help them identify, record, and organize critical information from a class lesson.

    Lesson 4: Using the Triple-Note-Tote

    Students learn “Triple-Note-Tote,” a three-column strategy for note-taking, which can be used across the content areas.

    Lesson 5: Studying with the PPCQ

    Students learn to prioritize information for studying and to create a “Triple-Note-Tote” study guide.
  • Unit 6: Remembering: Accessing Working Memory

    Objectives: By the end of this unit students will be able to:
    • Define memory strategies including acronyms, cartoons and crazy phrases
    • Apply memory strategies to important information across the content areas.

    Lesson 1: Why is memory important?: An introduction to memory and how it works

    Each student learns about his/her own memory system and how this works. Activities focus on the basic types of memory (short-term memory, long- term memory, and working memory) as well as exercises for accessing working memory.

    Lesson 2: Using cartoons and associations to remember information

    Students are introduced to two memory aids that help support working memory, using their pre-existing knowledge to make verbal and visual connections.

    Lesson 3: Using funny phrases and stories to remember information

    Students learn two strategies that require them to use working memory to build stories and phrases in order to lock information into long-term memory.

    Lesson 4: Creating Strategies for Remembering

    Students combine the memory strategies they learned in previous sessions to create study tools to help them review for tests.
  • Unit 7: Self-monitoring and Checking

    Objectives: By the end of this unit students will be able to:
    • Identify strategies for self-monitoring and checking
    • Engage in a deep reflection of their use of EF strategies

    Lesson 1: What is self-monitoring?

    Students learn the definition of self-monitoring and practice monitoring their behavior to ensure that they stay on task and reach their goals.

    Lesson 2: What is self-checking?

    Students learn the definition of self-checking and participate in activities to help them understand when and how to use self-checking strategies.

    Lesson 3: Top 3 Hits: Creating personalized checklists

    Students use previously graded assignments to check for their most common errors. Students generate a list of their personal Top-3-Hits for checking their own future assignments.

    Lesson 4: Breaking down directions

    Students learn to develop checklists for self-checking from the directions of an assignment.

    Lesson 5: Stop, Review, and Reflect: Completing checklists of all the EF strategies

    Students review the SMARTS Online strategies they have learned and create a checklist of strategies they can use for their schoolwork.