Like every field education has its buzzwords--one particularly relevant one for us in middle school is the idea of "executive function."
The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University explains that "our ability to hold onto and work with information, focus thinking, filter distractions, and switch gears is like an airport having a highly effective air traffic control system to manage the arrivals and departures of dozens of planes on multiple runways. Scientists refer to these capacities as executive function and self-regulation—a set of skills that relies on three types of brain function: working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control. Children aren’t born with these skills—they are born with the potential to develop them."
We can all intentionally teach these executive functioning skills--at home, in school, on the playing field students learn to organize their work, focus their attention, switch gears from one topic to another, manage long-term projects, etc.
At the Nock we have a number of "universal supports" (also education jargon, meaning strategies that you will find in every classroom to benefit every student) to help students create habits and practice strategies to stay organized:
- Are You Ready? Boards...large white boards can be found in every hallway. Each team has a board where the daily schedule, materials needed for each class, homework and announcements are posted:
- Classroom Information Boards...Students will find the daily agenda, class objectives, and homework assignments posted. Every team has a system that is shared across all classrooms. For example, 6 Crimson rooms all have a system for finding the handouts from a class or homework assignment
- Binder Systems...throughout middle school students will learn a number of systems for organizing papers and keeping their materials in order. Each department (math, ELA, science, social studies) uses a similar system. Many classes I was in today were working on getting their binders set up.
- Middle UnMuddle...students also learn to use a calendar book to record homework and map out long-term assignments. We call this calendar book the Middle UnMuddle (MUD). In 6th grade students will be required to write all assignments down during class. As students progress through 8th grade and develop their own systems, the requirement for using the MUD will be less stringent.
- Get to Know you Activities...additionally, teachers will spend time on activities designed to help students feel comfortable in our environment, with our systems and with each other. A predictable and transparent work environment is helps all of us function better!
Executive function skills are taught throughout the middle school years. The goal is for students to experience a number of different strategies so that they can eventually make decisions about how to "function" on their own.