Executive Function Curriculum for Elementary School

New! A comprehensive curriculum for grades 2-5  teaching students critical executive function strategies that promote academic success.

This curriculum provides explicit instruction in the 5 key executive function processes:

  • Goal setting
  • Cognitive flexibility/thinking flexibly
  • Organizing and prioritizing
  • Accessing working memory
  • Self-monitoring and checking

If you are having trouble accessing your lessons, please email mgreschler@researchild.org for assistance.

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  • Unit 1: Introduction to Executive Function Strategies: Building Metacognitive Awareness

    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.

    Click on the blue buttons below to access each lesson.

    How do I think about my thinking?

    The following lesson introduces students to the concept of metacognition. Students learn the definition of metacognition, explore their strengths, and reflect on ways that metacognitive awareness can help them to become strategic learners.

    How can I manage my work?

    In this lesson, students are introduced to the five executive function processes and identify their strengths and challenges in three of these processes.

    How do I think flexibly?

    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.

    How can I use strategies to help me?

    Students identify how to make strategies 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: Creating Meaningful Goals

    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

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    I CANDO my goals!

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

    Thinking through individual goals

    Students review common obstacles that prevent them from achieving their goals. 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: Thinking Flexibly: Shifting and Flexible Problem Solving

    Objectives: By the end of this unit students will be able to:

    • Understand the importance of shifting
    • Read and interpret text according to multiple perspectives
    • Shift between the main ideas and details

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    Being flexible and shifting expectations

    Students explore shifting between multiple perspectives in reading and writing.

    I’m wearing your shoes

    Students explore shifting between multiple perspectives in social situations.

    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.

    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”).

    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: Organizing Materials and Time

    Objectives: By the end of this unit students will be able to:

    • Understand strategies for organizing belongings
    • Estimate time more accurately
    • Prioritize tasks
    • Use calendars and tools for daily and weekly planning

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    Organizing your materials (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.

    Developing an understanding of time

    Students examine their understanding of time and see the importance of measuring time.

    Estimating time

    Students learn to improve their ability to estimate time while completing tasks, as well as gain an understanding of the importance of time estimation.

    Prioritizing time

    Students learn to think in terms of Have To’s (obligations) and Want To’s (aspirations) while expressing their intentions visually in a daily planner.

    Planning production time

    Students employ strategies to practice short-term planning and to identify ‘production time’ then apply them for use in their own planners/calendars.

  • Unit 5: Organizing and Prioritizing: Organizing Information

    Objectives: By the end of this unit students will be able to:

    • Understand strategies for organizing thoughts in writing, note-taking, and summarizing
    • Integrate memory strategies into organizing to enhance understanding of the topic

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    Sorting and categorizing using BOTEC

    Students learn strategies for organizing information to improve their writing. The BOTEC strategy will help students learn to brainstorm, organize, write topic sentences, provide evidence, and reach a conclusion.

    Note-taking

    Students learn why taking notes is important and how to effectively organize information from a text.

    Triple-Note-Tote

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

    Summarizing stories

    Students learn to create summaries using the Star strategy, which helps them to understand the “who, what, where, when, why and how” of a text.

  • Unit 6: Remembering: Strategies to Access Information

    6By the end of this unit students will be able to:

    • Understand the role memory plays in successful learning
    • Define memory strategies including acronyms, cartoons, crazy phrases, visualization and storytelling
    • Apply memory strategies to important information across the content areas.

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    Why is memory important?

    Students will identify their own strengths and challenges in working memory and learn how memory connects to following directions and completing school related tasks.

    Using cartoons and associations

    Students learn two mnemonic strategies that help support working memory, using pre-existing knowledge to create cartoons and associations to remember important information.

    Acronyms and crazy phrases

    In this lesson, students learn to use acronyms and phrases in order to lock information into long-term memory.

    Visualizing and storytelling

    Students will practice remembering unfamiliar processes or information through visualization and storytelling.

  • Unit 7: Self-monitoring and Checking: Strategies for Self-regulation

    Objectives: By the end of this unit students will be able to:

    • Identify strategies for self-monitoring their mood and their behavior
    • Develop strategies to check their work and recognize their most common types of errors
    • Engage in a deep reflection of their use of executive function strategies

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    Focus and distraction

    Students discuss and define what it means to be focused and not distracted. They will identify the situations that do and do not help them focus, and they will practice monitoring their behavior to stay on task.

    Check your sources

    Students learn the definition of self-checking and participate in activities to help them understand when and how to use self-checking strategies, including the STOPS strategy to help them check tests and compositions.

    Top 3 Hits

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

    Manage my mood

    Students learn to develop an awareness of their mood in different situations and the impact it has on learning.

    What hat am I wearing?

    Students will check their behavior to ensure that it matches the situation they are in and the task at hand.

    Wrap-up: Stop, review, reflect

    Students review the SMARTS strategies they have learned and then they create a Strategies for Success sheet they can use in the future.