Monday, January 30, 2012

Strengthening the Executive Skill of Task Initiation

Dear Friends,

     In this post we will be exploring the executive skill of “Task Initiation.”  Task Initiation is about getting started!  Sometimes when students begin a task, they are eager to get started and other times, they may feel overwhelmed or nervous about beginning.  Sometimes, students are afraid to begin a project because they are worried that they won’t be doing it perfectly.  Being able to take on new tasks is an important skill for life as is managing the emotions that show up.

     Some strategies for strengthening Task Initiation include helping students look at the whole task in front of them and be able to break it down into very small manageable pieces.  Students may also need permission to take a risk and permission to make mistakes as they learn something new.  Students feel safer in beginning projects when they know that the result does not have to be perfect.  It can also be helpful to talk about the project and any feelings that are associated with it too. 

Best wishes to you and your students for successful new beginnings!
Kimberly Borin
Learning Specialist

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Dear Friends,
     A favorite lesson of mine is to teach about the Bantu term, "Ubuntu." I have taught this to graduate students, kindergarten students and high school students too. This is a beautiful word from South Africa that helps us understand our connection to others. There is no word in the English language that has the same meaning as Ubuntu so it can be a little bit difficult to understand. Below are some examples of what it means:
  • “A person with “ubuntu” is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share. Such people are open and available to others, willing to be vulnerable, affirming of others, do feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole.”
  • “They know that they are diminished when others are humiliated, diminished when others are treated as if they were less than who they are.”
     In Africa when they want to give a compliment to someone they would say, “Yu u nobuntu!” – Which means that that person has “ubuntu!” Ubuntu reminds us that “we need each other and that we can not survive and thrive without one another.” These quotes were taken from, God Has A Dream by Desmond Tutu
     When teaching young children we take a few minutes to explore the special gifts that each person brings to the classroom or to the world too! This helps to bring Ubuntu to life. We talk abut how some people are good at telling jokes, some people are good at laughing, or math, or sweeping or working with clay or drawing. I want them to know that there are so many talents to celebrate and we each contribute to the goodness of the classroom when we share our best. I want them to know that we all make the class feel special when we contribute.
     We also talk about some of the other tools that we always have at our disposal to bring more “Ubuntu” to our classroom and world. Aside from our gifts and our breath, we talked about our smiles, our imagination, our words, behaviors and small acts of kindness. What is most important is that students understand how important their presence is in the world – and that all of the small things that we together do make a positive difference for everyone.

Kimberly Borin
Learning Specialist

Monday, January 23, 2012

Strengthening the Executive Skill of Working Memory

Dear Friends,

In this post we will be exploring the executive skill of “Working Memory.” The definition of working memory is the ability to hold a certain amount of information in the mind in order to carry out a task or activity. Some strategies for strengthening working memory are:

· Chunk small pieces of information together into groupings

· Physical exercise

· Games – such as memory, crosswords, etc.

· Have student repeat back what they just heard

· Encourage child to participate in discussion

· Rehearse the information

· Be active in reading – highlight, underline, write in the margins

· Learn to use a spell checker or calculator

· Put the information into simple sentences

· Establish clear routines for/with the child

· Method of Loci (see link: for explanation

· Mnemonics

o Acronyms – the beginning initials are used to create a saying or word to help with memory

o Rhymes – make up a silly rhyme

o Visualization – use images to make a memory stand out – the more outrageous the easier it will be to recall

Remember the goal of teaching strategies is for the child to learn compensating methods to overcome areas of weakness and in the long run gain independence.

Have a Wonderful Day,

Kim Turse, M.Ed

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Being an Amabassador of Peace

Dear Friends,
     Small things can make an enormous difference in the world.  This is the message that we give to students when we teach them that very simple things like a smile can bring more kindness to the community around them. Recently I taught a simple lesson for all first grade students.  In the lesson we talked about how we can be an "Ambassador of Peace" by offering some good social skills to one another.  We also talked about how these skills help us to be a success in all that we do for the rest of our lives.
     I hope you find this little list helpful!
Kimberly Borin
Learning Specialist

     In the lesson we practiced some social skills including:
  • Taking time to be good to yourself and to ask for help if you need something
  • Saying, "Good Morning" and "Good Evening"
  • Waving "Hello" or "Goodbye"
  • Asking someone how they are doing or feeling and waiting for the answer 
  • Taking the time make good eye contact with those around us and with those to whom we are speaking
  • Listening to what someone is saying
  • Smiling
  • Trying to include everyone, even those that may seem different than you
  • Offering to help someone if they need it
  • Offering a compliment to someone
  • Knowing that you make a positive difference in the world by simple, kind gestures

Monday, January 16, 2012

Strengthening the Executive Skill of Emotional Control

Dear Friends,

     In this post we will be exploring the executive skill of “Emotional Control.”  Here we want students to have social and emotional skills where they can become aware of their own emotions, understand how they are manifested and how to take of their emotional needs.  This is not an easy skill, and like inhibition, takes time to listen and reflect upon how one is feeling.

     Some strategies for strengthening Emotional Control are to help students become aware of what the feel in different situations.  It is important to give students permission to talk about the variety of feelings they may have and how they often exist all at the same time!  Students can sometimes feel embarrassed of how they feel, so it is important to create a safe environment for them to explore their feelings.   Next, it is important for students to understand how they respond to these emotions – or how they express what they are feeling.  Do they feel like crying, do they want to be alone, do they need a hug, or a nap, or a friend?  

     Once students become aware of what they feel, they can learn to ask for what they need.  Adults are needed to help students choose things and people that will help them to feel better allow for healthy understanding and expression of emotions.  This skill also takes time, and practice and is something we all work on for the rest of our lives.

Wishing you a good day!
Kimberly Borin
Learning Specialist

Monday, January 9, 2012

Strengthening the Executive Skill of Inhibition

Dear Friends,

     In this post we will be exploring the executive skill of “Inhibition.”  When a student is able to stop, think about their actions and then make a good decision, they are able to inhibit and control their actions.  It is important for students to not make rash or impulsive decisions in and outside of school.  This ability to stop, think, and react appropriately can be helpful for everything from playground issues, to signing on the dotted line for a contract later in life.

     Some strategies for strengthening Inhibition are asking students to take their time when making a decision or taking action.  Teach children to slow down, be present, and reflect on what they would like to do and then have them take action.  This is a difficult skill, especially in this fast-paced, digital age, where we are taught to automatically respond to everything!  

      It is also important to have students talk about the decisions they plan to make and why.   Ask students to explain their decisions before they take action and ask them to think through all of the consequences and results.  It is important to let students know that these skills take time to learn and must be practiced throughout life.

Best of Luck to You!
Kimberly Borin
Learning Specialist

Monday, January 2, 2012

Overview of Executive Skills

Dear Friends,

The gray mass that sits in your skull is such a fascinating organ. In particular, the frontal lobes of the brain, which are the location of a set of mental processes known as executive functions. These processes are “responsible for our ability to plan ahead and organize our behavior in order to accomplish future goals. We use these skills every day when we think about what we have to do, organize our thoughts, control impulses, come up with ideas, solve problems and integrate feedback from our environment.” (Salimpoor 2004)

When a baby is born the brain weighs only about twelve ounces and by the time that same child has reached puberty the brain is moving closer to the three pounds of final weight. The increase in weight is due to the changes and development the brain is undergoing. The brain is making and fine tuning connections. There are two significant growth periods for these connections, about age five and then again around age twelve. Since development is individualized to the person, people develop their executive skills at varying rates. By around age twenty-one, executive skills are usually well-developed.

A breakdown of the executive skills and a brief explanation of each:
· Inhibition: Inhibition is the ability to resist being impulsive. The motto, “Think, before you act” fits this skill. By strengthening this skill one is more able to evaluate a situation or event and react in a well-thought out manner.
· Emotional Control: Is one’s ability to respond to stimuli without an emotional meltdown or outburst. By keeping one’s behavior and emotions under control, one is less likely to respond to disappointment, failure or frustration with excessive lengths of time of feeling upset, or an emotional explosion.
· Working Memory: Is one’s ability to hold a certain amount of information in the brain in order to carry out a task or activity. This is essential in order to complete multi-step directions. This also incorporates the ability to use their past learning and apply it to a current situation.
· Task Initiation: This is the ability for one to start a task without being told to do so.
· Time Management: Is the ability to determine how much time needs to be allotted to complete the task. This is important in order to meet deadlines.
· Planning / Prioritization: This is the ability to create a method or plan in order to finish a task. Planning includes setting a goal and figuring out the best way to work toward the goal. This skill also includes being able to determine what should and should not be important to focus upon.
· Organization: This skill includes the ability to keep track of personal materials and to be organized with the information that they are given.
· Shifting / Flexibility: This skill includes the ability to make transitions easily, rethink a plan if bumps in the road occur, and to be adaptable to changes.
· Monitoring: Is one’s ability to determine how one is doing and evaluate their performance. This would include checking their work for errors. This also includes the ability to reflect upon their behavior and see how it is impacting upon others.

Information based on an article from Principal Leadership, March 2009

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Affirmations for the New Year

Dear Friends,
     Here are some learning affirmations for children to start the New Year off right.  Best wishes for a most wonderful and nourishing (and smart) 2012!
Kimberly Borin
Kim Turse
Learning Specialists
Some Affirmations for You!

 You are amazing!  We feel very lucky to know you and to have you in our school.
 You are a gift to the whole world!  Believe that it is true!
You are so smart and you are learning so many new things.
I hope you have a great day filled with laughter!
You are able to learn new things in your own special way.
Know that you make a difference in your family, your school and the world too!
You are becoming a better learner each day.  This will help you for the rest of your life!
Thank you for being a positive, peaceful and fun community member!
Thank you for bringing kindness to your friends and family.
Take a moment to think about what would allow you to feel peaceful today.
Thank you for bringing your smile to our school.  You make our school special!
Take a moment to think about something you are grateful for today.  Tell someone.
You will grow up to do great things!  You will help to make a positive difference
Take a moment to think about how you are feeling today.  Tell someone about it!
Thank you for doing your best in school and outside of school too!
We are so thankful that you are here at our school.  You are terrific!
Thank you for taking good care of yourself so that you can learn well!
You are a strong person and you can make it through times that sometimes seem tough.
You have many different talents and these make you a unique person in the world.
Thank you for being a good friend to others and an important part of our family.
You are special to so many people.  So many people care about you!
Thank you for being your amazing self!  You inspire us everyday!
You have great character and you are very kind.  You shine!
You look so nice everyday!  Thank you for taking the time to look great!