Question your maps and models of the universe, both inner and outer, and continually test them against the raw input of reality. Our maps are still maps, approximating the landscape of truth from the territories of the knowable — incomplete representational models that always leave more to map, more to fathom, because the selfsame forces that made the universe also made the figuring instrument with which we try to comprehend it.Maria Popova
2020 challenged all of our maps and understandings of our lives and how we live them. There has been disruption and innovation in so many areas of life. I started 2020 with a new blog post, marking my first deep breath after transitioning to a new country and school. It was my attempt to recommit to this blog. I utterly failed. Covid hit and I retreated so far into my turtle shell I had no capacity to create and express in this format. It started with a lockdown here in South Africa that was so strict we could not even walk the dog. We could only leave to go to the grocery store or the hospital. So while I was literally forced to shelter in my actual home for many months, I retreated into my figurative home. Like so many, I have been in survival mode and that has not left me space to return to this blog. I am trying to emerge from that self-protective shell. This is my attempt to peek my head out. I hope that I will be able to recommit in 2021 to this blog in the way that I would like. Hopefully 2021 will allow the mental space and health to do that.
SENIA 2020 Virtual Conference
A highlight of the end of semester 1 was to participating in the SENIA 2020 Virtual Conference. A new way of experiencing PD, conferences, and networking in the COVID environment was through significantly increased virtual learning opportunities. A number of us at AISJ participated in a watch party. Because of the lower conference cost and not needing to pay for travel costs, more teachers at the school were able to participate than typically. I do hope that some sort of hybrid model of conference might enable more participants in this way for future conferences.
Our favorite session from the AISJ watch party was Sarah Ward’s keynote on Practical Solutions for Executive Function (EF) Challenges. It provided some needed inspiration AND practical tools and strategies to immediately use in the classroom.
Nonverbal Working Memory and EF
Sarah Ward began by exploring the connection between nonverbal working memory and executive functioning. She explained how individuals with weak executive functioning skills need support to develop situational intelligence or the ability to “read the room” and know what to do in that context. One process she suggested is the use of a mental dress rehearsal in which individuals visualize and simulate what they will do in space and time to achieve the goal required – a process she calls MIME IT.
|M||Make an image of the future scene: What will it look like?|
|I||What do I look like?: episodic future thinking|
|M||Mental time travel (temporal-spatial): How am I moving to achieve this?|
|E||The future Emotion: How will I feel: Emotional Physical State|
|i||If this is to happen, then I will or must . . .|
|T||Self-Talk through the process|
As 90% of planning takes place in a different space than the activity occurs, it means that we need to teach students to be “mind mimes” and coach them through the process of visualizing and simulating the activity to rehearse in advance what will happen to the point of completion. This helps individuals to hold on to the complete plan.
Get Ready, Do, Done
Students with weak Executive Functioning Skills can be working multiple developmental years below their chronological age. A way to bridge that gap is to help them to develop their future glasses. As EF always starts in nonverbal working memory ,checklists, copying homework in words, and other strategies typically used are less effective. Instead, Ward suggest that we start by helping students to visualize what DONE looks like, and then working them backward through the process of miming in their minds, how they will get there. She offers a simple, yet impactful strategy for doing this.
|What do I need to do to get ready to make it look like that?||What do I need to do to make it look like that?||What will it look like when I am done?|
Get Done: Submit
You always start on the right with DONE. This must be done visually – a picture of what an organized desk looks like, a picture of the completed assignment with all the parts done, etc. Then you move to DO. Use representational co-thought gestures to point and describe the sequence and location of what will happen. Talk and point through the process of completing the task. This includes setting time goals and making time visible during the doing process so students can check their time as they go and acknowledge any time robbers that impacted the completion of their plan. Last, you get ready. You get together everything you need to work through the task.
The key is that the DONE be visual, not a checklist because it must create that mental image of what needs to be done, not a bunch of words that will be forgotten.
It is a relatively simple strategy that is really only a small tweak to what many teachers are already doing. Yet she maintains the difference for all students, but especially those with EF weaknesses, can be quite powerful.
Several of our teachers who were in the watch party are in the process of getting it ready to try in their classrooms. It will be interesting to see how it goes for them and I will certainly share as time goes on. I would be curious if any of you are already using this approach or something similar that has helped you students with EF challenges? I would love to hear any strategies and tools that are working for your students.
I hope 2021 brings us all health, peace, and the capacity to continue to innovate in our educational settings to support our kids.