ARK instructors Marni Graveline and April Reid decided to turn the topic of study skills on its head. Instead of thinking of study skills as just a collection of strategies and specific tools to be taught one by one, they approached this year’s study skill classes as ”a study in how to master executive functioning skills.” This brought a fresh new vision to their classes for Summer 2019! As teachers, they first delved more deeply into the expanding field of executive functioning theory and practice. Then they applied this knowledge of best practices to the two different contexts, a class with high school students (above) and a class with middle school students (below).


Each class began with students defining the learning community that they wanted to create for the week. They established their own ground rules and shared what they hoped to learn while at ARK. Each day began with a theme, for example “Who Are You?” where learners explored their unique personalities using the True Colors Inventory, completed an executive function (EF) questionnaire for EF strengths and weaknesses, and a learning styles inventory to understand their individual learning preferences. Another day’s theme was “Zooming In & Zooming Out: Shift” where learners explored the world with loupes (small jeweler’s eye pieces) zooming in to strengthen their awareness of the executive functions of attention, perseverance, and flexibility.


The teachers wove quotes, video clips and story-telling throughout the week as a strategy for noticing executive functions in the action of famous people and characters. They used games to illustrate the “EF’s” at play, showing what happens when you change the rule and testing how long learners can hold on to pieces of information in their mind. The classes wrapped up with an opportunity for learners to present a poster on how they found the executive functions strategies evident or absent in Jack London’s story “To Build a Fire.”