student at whiteboard

executive function strategies

Lessons Learned from Remote Learning: Tips for Parents

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Thursday, September 3, 2020

girl raising hand remote class

By Stacey Sargent and Robert Kahn

Mid-March of 2020 thrust all of us into a brave new world, and parents, students, educators, and administrators worked hard to bring their expertise and experience along for the ride!  Ultimately, June arrived and curriculum, teaching strategies, and personnel had become more or less accustomed to a routine of remote learning. But while educators came at this task from a perspective of “How does pedagogy, methodology, and curriculum translate?”, families often had to confront broader and more challenging perspectives involving multiple students in different schools, utilizing differing models, and competing for shared resources. Heading into this school year, at least we have been forewarned of the uncertainty ahead. There are factors we cannot control, and learning may take several different forms, including remote or hybrid phases, before we return to the world we knew in early 2020. Here are some tips from our experience to date specifically for parents on how to make remote learning most effective.

Create a successful learning environment

Just like in a classroom, it is important for students to feel comfortable and productive in their learning environment. Talk to your child about where in your home would be a good place to attend remote classes and complete school work. Ideally, the spot you choose should be a quiet, well-lit area with a desk or table and a comfortable chair. Remove items that could be a distraction and add needed supplies, such as writing utensils and paper. Many schools have published an at-home supplies list for the hybrid model, focused on the home learning center. In some cases, items like printers and articulating cameras are useful but costly. Less expensive versions are often fine, and schools or districts may have these items to loan out. Some parents may want to explore a cooperative pod approach to resources, bearing health mitigation in mind, where multiple families have access to items which may not be cost effective for individual households. 

If your home allows, we recommend avoiding bedrooms as a learning venue, but space may be an issue, especially when multiple family members are going to school online and parents are working remotely. Teachers understand the drawbacks and constraints of virtual learning. However, as parents, you can help students focus and stay on task by being aware of the distractions posed by siblings or even adults passing through the learning area or lingering just off screen. In general, recreate the ‘class experience’ by not being a presence when your student is going to school. It’s an issue to talk about as a family if necessary.

Establish consistent routines

Your child’s school day is filled with routines at different parts of the day. Establishing routines at home can provide structure and consistency conducive to learning. Talk to your child about what routines they think would be important. Some routines to consider are meal and snack times, organization of school work and supplies, getting ready for classes, and break times. One consistent observation of many faculty was the need for supplemental executive functioning (EF) support in an all-remote mode.  

Time management, preparation, memory aids, planning organizers, focus, and motivation are different depending on the level of monitoring available to your student. Several veteran instructors noted that they were impressed at how students responded to the EF challenges of remote learning. It was a “learning to swim by being tossed in the deep end” experience: overwhelming for some but a trigger for independent growth in others. As a parent, the more you can be a supportive observer and coach, while keeping it positive and collegial, the better.  One tried and true method to avoid mixing the roles of parent and EF coach is to consult with your student’s teacher, advisor, or counselor about any observations before directly intervening with a strategy. Once a rapport is established, a school counselor or teacher can connect with other faculty, and meet with your student directly. In the case of an all-remote mode of learning, they will also have the opportunity to reach out to a person designated as your student’s executive function coach. Private tutorials in the pandemic have not dried up at all; many educators are available to help students with their organization, work load, and proactive planning.

Make the most of breaks

Help your child make the most of their down time in between classes. This is the time to use the restroom, grab water or a snack, and engage in movement activities. After class, encourage your child to step away from all screens, including phones and televisions. Take a family walk or engage in physical activities outside. Talented remote educators have learned the value of alternating activities on screen with other parts of the lesson that explicitly send students away for a task or a reflection. Screen fatigue is real; many working parents need no convincing of this. If the remote learning mode does result in some post-pandemic aversion to screen time, we may agree it’s a silver lining.

Keep in touch

When your child is learning at home, it is important for him/her to maintain a connection with the school. Check emails on a consistent basis for important school-wide updates. Maintain communication with teachers and advisors and reach out to counselors if needed. Even when your child is at home, he/she is still a supported and valued member of the school community. Deans, advisors, and counselors all conduct meetings virtually, similar to the drop-ins or scheduled visits they would normally have on campus. Take advantage of these extra opportunities to connect with faculty and team members. We’ve found a variety of creative ways that schools are continuing to build community online. One very simple one is for teachers to allow classes to have some group discussion time before and after the lesson. While maintaining an adult presence in the group is critical for safety, student feedback to teachers has been amazing when teachers allow less-structured ‘extended time’ for students to connect at the end of class for 10-20 minutes. Website hubs are great places to browse for community-building opportunities. In a remote mode, be alert for options to connect with school faculty and peers in non-class settings built into the school day, such as meetings, clubs, office hours, designated breaks, while continuing to encourage time away from the screen once the school day is done. As a parent, you may have a chance to provide input into your school’s plan for remote learning, so take that opportunity to suggest ways for student-faculty connection apart from the classroom hour, in hopes of approximating the way a school community functions.

As we navigate through the pandemic, remote learning has taught us a great deal; not only about the strategies and techniques that do and do not adapt to a digital interface, but also about the emotional and psychological demands of being a student and a teacher in circumstances where you often cannot control the interaction in expected ways. As an overall tip, patience and flexibility are even more essential to remote teaching, where despite the best efforts of both teachers and students, communication can take some unexpected turns. We will all benefit from absorbing the lessons that make us better, and making peace with the factors that are simply beyond our control.

About the Authors

Stacey Sargent is a teacher at Landmark Elementary•Middle School. She has over three years of remote teaching experience as a reading tutor and an English language instructor. She has taught students all over the world through virtual learning platforms. 

Rob Kahn was head of Landmark's Elementary•Middle School from 1985 to 2020, and before that was a tutor, teacher, academic advisor, department head, and dean of students at the school. He began teaching at Landmark in 1972 while at Harvard, and has his Master's Degree from Simmons University. He continues to stay involved at Landmark in a variety of roles.

more learning posts

Tags:  remote learning tips for parents executive function strategies

Dyslexia: Learning Disability or Entrepreneurial Advantage?

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Thursday, October 13, 2016 Byline:  By Elliot S. Weissbluth

typewriter

Having dyslexia doesn't mean you can't learn or be successful, but you may have to go about it a little differently.

I was first diagnosed with dyslexia as a child, and then again 20 years later as an adult law school student.

Dyslexia affects each individual a little differently, but generally creates difficulties for processing written language. It is often characterized as a “learning disability.”

Early on, I struggled to keep up in grade school, especially with reading and studying. My parents purchased a Smith Corona typewriter, and every day I typed my notes from class onto onionskin paper. The process of deciphering my own handwriting (not easy even today!) and then typing the words onto a page I could read later was critical to helping me learn. Imagine my delight later in life when computers came along and I was already so comfortable on the keyboard.

Having dyslexia doesn’t mean you can’t learn or be successful, but you may have to go about it a little differently.

In fact, people with dyslexia are often highly creative thinkers, likely because in compensating for or overcoming the challenges of dyslexia we develop a strategic intelligence, as well as a stubborn persistence. It is no surprise to me that entrepreneurs exhibit higher rates of dyslexia than the general population. We’re wired to approach challenges in new ways, to work around obstacles, and to solve problems.

And we’re in pretty good company: Woodrow Wilson, Andy Warhol, Albert Einstein, Richard Branson, Steven Spielberg, Agatha Christie, and Cher, are just a few examples of dyslexics who have achieved amazing things.

Effective coping strategies vary from person to person, but here are a few I’ve learned:

  • Take your time. In school, dyslexic students are often allotted extra time to complete assignments. In the real world, the best way to avoid the sensation of not having enough time is to start things early. I’ve always been an early riser, so I usually get up at 4:30 in the morning so I can have an hour or so to myself before the kids wake up and the day begins in earnest. This allows me to look at my calendar, slowly read important e-mails, and think through everything ahead of me that day. My habit of extensive and early preparation developed out of my need to not feel rushed to “keep up” with my non-dyslexic peers.
  • Be purposefully attentive. Attention requires effort. Try “active listening,” a technique used in conflict resolution, in which the listener paraphrases and repeats back the speaker’s message to ensure mutual understanding (you can keep this feedback silent and write down what you think they mean). Look for clues about what the speaker FEELS rather than just hearing what they SAY. I’ve found that journaling helps me stay in the present.
  • Reject the myth of multitasking.If you are trying to listen to someone speak or you are reading something important, you can’t text, talk, tweet, check your email, or perform some other function without degrading your attention.
  • Recognize your strengths and develop them rather than improve a weakness. Turn your compensatory tactics, whatever works for you, into assets. I could type 30 words per minute in seventh grade, and by the time the Internet caught on, I was naturally composing on the keyboard, able to transcribe spoken words and typing nearly as fast as a professional typist.

About the Author:

Elliot Weissbluth

Elliot Weissbluth is the Founder and CEO of HighTower Advisors, a financial services company that serves high-net-worth clients. He's also a LinkedIn Influencer. Follow him on LinkedIn.

more learning disability posts

Tags:  Agatha Christie Albert Einstein Cher confidence dyslexia dyslexia awareness Elliot Weissbluth entrepreneurs with dyslexia Executive Function executive function strategies language-based learning disabilities learning disabilities learning style multitasking Richard Branson Steven Spielberg Woodrow Wilson

Executive Function 101: Balance

Blog Type:  Teaching Date Posted:  Wednesday, May 2, 2018

This is the fifth post in a five-part series about Executive Function. Each post includes downloadable templates to use at home and in the classroom. The first article is about managing time, the second addresses managing materials, the third discusses managing information, and the fourth achieving independence.

Effectively managing time, materials, and information offers students independence and ultimately provides balance for life inside and outside of school.

Helping students balance academics, sports, after-school activities, employment, and hobbies should be an ongoing priority for parents and teachers. They should encourage students to communicate their needs to parents, teachers, coaches, and employers and to self advocate. Doing so will help them become independent in all areas of their lives.

Download the Daily Life Balance worksheet.  Brainstorming a list of priorities and managing a calendar are critical components in achieving balance. Andrea Meade, assistant dean of Students at Landmark High School, points out that “identifying personal traits and habits helps students prioritize work accordingly. For instance, some students are more productive with homework completion immediately after school, while others work more efficiently later in the evening after engaging in physical exercise. I also suggest that students tackle easier tasks when they are tired.” Meade points out that “approaching students with empathy is also a key to helping them manage time, materials, and information. These are new skills for most students and mastering them and seeing the rewards takes self control, mindfulness, and time.” Robin Day-Laporte, Head of Landmark High School's Study Skills department, embeds tips on stress management through exercise, healthy eating, adequate sleep, down time, and positive personal relationships throughout her lessons.

daily life balance worksheet tearoff
Download the Daily Life Balance worksheet.

Tips

  • Be realistic.
  • Review priorities.
  • Encourage healthy, fulfilling habits.
  • Foster supportive and positive relationships.
  • Seek guidance from teachers, parents, coaches, employers.

 

"Teaching our students to understand their learning style is very important to gaining independence and developing self-advocacy skills. Students should be active in their learning and use the supports available to them."— Suzanne Crossman, Director of Transition and Guidance at Landmark High School

 

skills+ ad

more teaching posts

Tags:  Executive Function executive function strategies Executive Functioning prioritizing

Executive Function 101: Time

Blog Type:  Teaching Date Posted:  Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Executive Function time management clock

This is the first post in a five-part series about Executive Function. Each post includes downloadable templates to use at home and in the classroom. The second article is about managing materials. The third addresses managing information, the fourth achieving independence, and the fifth finding balance between school and extra-curricular activities.

Developing a sense of time is an essential ingredient to managing executive function.

Experts agree that time management is a challenge for many people. Students with executive function deficits should learn to adopt tactics, including:

homework log
Download this Homework Log template.
  • defining the task
  • creating a vision
  • maintaining an agenda
  • predicting time
  • using a timer to account for the passing of time
  • prioritizing tasks
  • making a plan
  • noting and revisiting deadlines
  • initiating an activity
  • regulating attention and focus
  • setting up systems to avoid distractions
  • revising the plan
  • reflecting on the progress

These skills draw on tools and a mindset that must be developed over time—with plenty of reinforcement and practice—to build new and productive habits. As students become more proficient in managing time, they can adapt their methods to suit their style and the challenge at hand.

“When we can implement effective time-management strategies in our day-to-day routines, we greatly reduce our stress- and anxiety-levels, leading to a healthier and calmer state of mind. Similarly, when we are less stressed and anxious we are able to utilize better time management strategies.” —Melody O'Neil, Associate Director of Admissions

Tips

  • Use visuals—like hands on a clock, to plan and predict time.
  • Use a timer to measure manageable chunks of time.
  • Estimate time before starting work and revisit this upon completion.
  • Set long- and short-term goals.

Strategies to Avoid Distractions

  • Clear clutter from work area.
  • Turn off phone.
  • Close web browser.
  • Use noise-cancelling headphones.
  • Set a timer.​
     

skills+

more teaching posts

Tags:  executive function strategies time management

Executive Function 101

Blog Type:  Teaching Date Posted:  Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Executive Function Backpack calendar watch
Executive function deficits are very common among young people, especially those with ADHD, dyslexia, and other learning differences. These challenges show up as weaknesses in getting and staying organized, managing time, planning and prioritizing, and initiating tasks. Sound familiar? It should because many of us, whether we’ve been diagnosed with a learning difference or not, experience these challenges on a daily basis. Landmark School offers an effective model that delivers skills and strategies across the curriculum to improve executive function deficits. We're sharing some of their lessons in this series for parents, teachers, and students to implement at home, school, and beyond. The result of effective executive function skills leads to healthy, productive habits—life skills.

What Is Executive Function?

According to Patricia W. Newhall in her text, Language-Based Learning Series: Executive Function: Foundations for Learning and Teaching, “Executive Function is the brain’s ability to coordinate the cognitive and psychological processes needed to initiate, sustain, monitor and adapt the behaviors and attitudes required to achieve a goal” (2012, p.2).

Skills for School. Skills for Life.

Students with executive function deficits need to be taught skills to get and stay organized. These skills include managing time, materials, and information. Mastery of these skills leads to independence and ultimately provides balance for life inside and outside of school. Primary among the “what” and “how” of executive function strategies is to help students understand themselves as learners. This is called metacognition, and it’s what makes  students successful—it’s a key ingredient to the secret sauce. Because the recipe is slightly different for each student, it's important to expose them to a variety of skills so they can determine which ones work best for them. We hope this series and the tools and strategies included for download help your student succeed in school and beyond. The series is posted in the following installments:

The following members of the Landmark School faculty contributed to this series, sharing tips, templates, and years of experience that parents, teachers, and students alike can use to help boost executive function.

Suzanne Crossman, director of Transition and Guidance
Robin Day-Laporte, director of the Landmark High School Study Skills Department
Andrea Meade, assistant dean of students, Landmark High School
Deirdre Mulligan, Elementary Science/Social Studies Department Head/Elementary•Middle School Training Coordinator
Melody O'Neil, associate director of Admissions

  Skills+

more teaching posts

Tags:  attention deficit hyperactivity disorder executive function strategies Executive Functioning time management
Subscribe to RSS - executive function strategies