“Planning” Ahead for 2017

By Amy Jones, Director of Resource at The Langley School

I love the comics. Here’s a strip from Luann by Greg Evans. The girl exclaims, “This is great!  No homework!!”  Her classmate stares at her in disbelief, “What about that huge science project that’s due in two days?  You haven’t even started it!”  She replies with delight, “I mean no homework TONIGHT!”

Executive functions, the thinking which takes place primarily in the pre-frontal cortex, are the functions responsible for planning — or lack thereof as we see in Luann. Many refer to these brain functions as an air traffic controller or the conductor of an orchestra. Students and adults alike use these functions not only to plan, but also to prioritize, organize, remember, reflect, and shift attention from one task to another. These functions help regulate emotions, inhibit desires, and attend to tasks. These capacities don’t mature until the mid 20s, but can be strengthened with practice — and it’s a perfect time to practice with a new year ahead!

Here at The Langley School, we are teaching these skills from an early age. In the Primary School, children are learning about time management and planning as they discuss the “before and after” as well as the present. During morning meeting, the children and their teachers review the calendar. “Today is Tuesday, December 20, yesterday was Monday, and tomorrow will be Wednesday.” In Lower School, the work continues. Schedules are on the board and teachers help students break down long-term assignments. Teachers give students more opportunities for reflection, allowing them to develop their metacognitive skills. In some grades, students keep track of their goals on their desks as well as use checklists for important routines.

Executive functions Skills Building

Middle School often presents challenges and opportunities for students, as they are changing classes and keeping track of homework in at least five different subjects. During sixth-grade orientation in the fall, teachers explicitly work with students to understand planning, time management, studying, and metacognition. In advisory at the beginning of the year, students “map” their week so they have a better understanding of the time that they have to manage. Self-reflection is built into many assignments, and students prepare to lead parent-teacher conferences by spending time in advisory thinking of their strengths and areas for improvement.

You can help your children develop better executive functioning at home. To learn more about executive functioning, and executive dysfunction, click here to view a recent PALS talk given to Langley parents by Kathy Essig of The StudyPro and to access other resources.

The Importance of Summer Reading

By Amy Jones, Director of Resource

As I recently said to a rising sixth-grader, summer reading isn’t something that teachers devised to torture students – it’s advice from practitioners, coaches if you will, who know what it takes to keep the mind in shape. Most teachers would argue that reading also nurtures the imagination and even the soul.

The brain is a muscle that needs exercise. No one would expect an athlete or musician to train without practice. Musicians play their instruments or train their voices daily; athletes practice at least a few times a week along with playing games.  Without frequent use, skills wither and die. The same holds true with reading. One doesn’t become a stronger reader without reading.

Langley’s summer reading program is designed for students to practice the skill of reading over the summer. Instead of drills, however, students get to “play” each and every day. They are the first string; they’re starring. Each rising first- through eighth-grader should be reading almost daily. Primary School students have a Summer Enrichment Calendar that provides daily activities, many of which are literary in nature. At this age, parents or other adults should read to their children daily.

For older students, particularly those who are moving from the learning-to-read stage to the reading-to-learn-and-enjoy phase, choice of text is the name of the game as it serves to provide more pleasure and motivation for the reader. Students should be reading texts that interest them and are comfortable, not too difficult; reading at a child’s comfort and skill level builds fluency and confidence and is essential for growth. Reading text that is too hard defeats the reader and does not strengthen skills. If you see your child not making progress with a book, give him or her permission to abandon the book; it may be too hard, or just not engaging. Ultimately, reading should provide new knowledge, pleasure, or both!

Thanks for supporting our efforts to encourage your child to exercise his or her reading brain! Ask to see your child’s Reading Time Log and list of completed books. We’ll be looking for these in September, with your signature!

For more information about Langley’s summer reading program, current parents may click here to log in to CampusNet.