800 North Road | Hopewell, NJ 08534 | 609-566-6000 | info@laurelschoolprinceton.org
800 North Road | Hopewell, NJ 08534 | 609-566-6000 | info@laurelschoolprinceton.org

Executive Function

Teaching Students to Think About HOW They Think.

Laurel School Executive Function Curriculum

With learning now taking place across multiple settings (in person, hybrid, and remote), never has it been more important to help students apply EF strategies to their work. This is especially true for students who struggle with learning differences, including dyslexia and ADHD.

Through explicit, systematic instruction, students learn strategies for key executive functioning skills of self-management, such as  time management, organization (materials hand-on and online and environment), developing goals and goal directed persistence, types of attention, planning and prioritizing. During once-a-week sessions, students complete self-assessments and reflection sheets. Students learn a toolbox of skills and strategies to help them with each skill pulling from sources from Peg Dawson, Sarah Ward, and research from Dr. Russell Barkley and Dr. Tom Brown.  To learn more about the program which ReachILD, Dr. Lynn Meltzer and the team who created the SMARTS curriculum, please visit their site to learn more: https://smarts-ef.org/

Enhancing and practicing those skills are done through service-learning projects designed to span 3 months. In addition, “soft skills” (teamwork and communication) and the Laurel School Leadership Competency for Professionalism and Ethics are emphasized throughout our service cycles.

Helping students develop Executive Function (EF) strategies – goal setting, cognitive flexibility, organizing and prioritizing, memorizing, self-checking and monitoring – can be the difference between success and failure, particularly in the current environment.


Evaluate issues to address and develop a SMART Goal for the service project.

Plan backwards to create a timeline for the service project, including weekly action plans.

Problem-solve and think flexibility to address issue as they arise in project

Initiating key components to complete the project and staying on track.

The class is grounded in knowledge the executive functions appear in basic forms in young children and gradually become more complex as the brain matures throughout childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. Therefore, the environment offers scaffolding and a positive attitude that our students will gradually grow these skills. 

Service-learning is a form of project-based learning in which academic goals are accomplished through community service. We harness the power of this approach to provides kids with authentic learning experiences in which they learn executive functioning skills. Through real-life, real-world context, our students develop proficiency in adaptable thinking, planning, self-monitoring, self-control, working memory, time management, and organization. At same time, our executive functioning leadership class develops citizenship, responsibility, and critical “soft skills”, such as teamwork, communications, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills.

Laurel Lower School Skills

Three periods a week the Laurel lower school engages in skills class to directly instruct students of executive functioning and social-emotional skills. Lessons focus on developing a strategic mindset, emotional resiliency, and the successful use of strategies across academic areas. Our curriculum is research-based and designed to meet the needs of diverse learners. box content area

Parental Support

At Laurel School of Princeton, we value parents and their role as first teachers. It is our goal to help parents learn ways to support their child’s learning. We provide information, articles, suggestions, and referrals as needed. Also, Laurel School of Princeton offers parent sessions to support our families. Parents are able to participate monthly in Parent Peer Group Meetings, so they learn not only from our staff but from each other.


As students advance through the grades, their academic performance is increasingly dependent on their ability to organize and prioritize complex information, shift flexibly, access working memory, and self-monitor, all critically important executive function processes. Many students, especially those with learning and attention difficulties such as ADHD or dyslexia, become increasingly less productive as their school career progresses. This is because they have not lear




Executive function strategies, sometimes called executive function skills, empower students to manage demanding academic school work, allowing them to focus their effort and show what they know. When students use strategies effectively, they think and problem solve more flexibly.



When students learn strategies that allow them to complete their homework and school work, which previously seemed impossible, they are more motivated to work hard.



SMARTS teaches students to develop metacognitive awareness, so they understand how they think and learn. With this knowledge, students can select the strategies that work best for them and can apply these strategies to assignments in all their classes.



Once students have learned executive function strategies and understand their learning profiles, they develop resilient approaches to learning. When faced with challenges, they apply strategies rather than giving in to frustration.



Strategies and metacognitive awareness allow students to leverage their talents, applying their strengths in creative ways so that they can overcome challenges and succeed.



With SMARTS, all students gain the tools they need to succeed. When students understand their learning profiles and use the SMARTS strategies to complete their homework and schoolwork, they are more motivated to persist in the face of challenges.


Students who participate in the SMARTS program show increased motivation to learn, stronger effort, and a desire to use executive function strategies in their schoolwork, homework, and studying. Students also develop the self-understanding to know which strategies work best for them as well as why, where, when and how to use these strategies in their academic work.

Zones Of Regulations

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is an integral part of the Laurel lower school. SEL is the process through which all young people acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions. The Laurel lower school students are exposed to the Zones of Regulation framework and curriculum, which teaches students skills toward developing a metacognitive pathway to build awareness of their feelings/internal state and utilize a variety of tools and strategies for regulation, prosocial skills, self-care, and overall wellness.

Mind Up For Life

Social and emotional learning (SEL) provides a foundation for safe and positive schooling, and enhances a child’s ability for success in learning and in life. MindUp is a program that helps students learn about the concept of neuroplasticity and how their brain operates. Students learn and practice mindful awareness to develop focused attention, emotional balance and well-being. SEL instruction gives students opportunities to practice developing SEL skills through active learning.