A speech and language pathologist by training, Heather Ironside has been Gateway’s Director of Language and Literacy since 2016. She is responsible for the professional development program, the Reading and Writing curriculum, language therapy, and student assessments. We spoke to Heather about executive function, which is one of the main targets of remediation at Gateway.
Q: In a nutshell, what is executive function?
A: Executive function is an umbrella term for the processes of decision-making and planning. It is divided into thinking skills for planning, organizing, sustaining attention, and finishing a task; and regulation of our behavior and emotions. It is the “boss of your brain.”
Q: How does Gateway remediate impairments in executive function?
A: We address it in many ways. For example, the Aim and Agenda, stated at the beginning of every lesson, teaches students how to organize and structure themselves. It helps them stay on task and think about what they’re learning. In Lower School, if students are doing a task, the steps are laid out for them explicitly, and they’re taught to go through each step. We scaffold the strategies they use. In addition, the Zones of Regulation program teaches them to manage their reactions and emotions. In Middle School, we have additional systems in place. Their trapper keepers are organized in a precise way. Their homework has checklists for monitoring quality. And they’re taught to use study skills and study guides.
Q: When does executive function NOT come into play?
A: When something is practiced, routine, and automatic—for example, if you have the same commute every day and nothing changes, you might reach home and find yourself asking, “How did I get here?”
Q: How is executive function related to language?
A: They are extremely related. Your planning and decision-making are mediated through language—think of it as talking to yourself. Conversely, talking, reading, and writing are never automatic; they require executive function skills.
On Feb. 9, families of the four oldest classes in the Lower School (classes 605, 609, 611, and 615) enjoyed an Arts Festival featuring student performances. Two classes presented video art pieces that combined aspects of music, dance, and movement into a cinematographic performance. The morning also included a rendition of the “Three Piggy Opera,” a lights-out choreography piece highlighting colorful glow-in-the-dark wands, a “Zen Garden” movement presentation, and numerous displays of visual art including giraffe sculptures and savanna murals, map collages, compass paintings, dioramas, puppets, and more. Click here to see a Facebook gallery.
The five younger classes in the Lower School will have their turn on May 4, and the Middle School Arts Festival is slated for June 7.
On Feb. 1, students enjoyed an evening of dancing, games, food, and fun at the first Middle School Winter Formal, spearheaded by the Student Advisory Council and sponsored by the Parents Association. Thanks to the parent volunteers, faculty, and staff for helping to run a terrific event.
Three students from each Middle School grade are nominated to serve on the Student Advisory Council, which works with the entire school to represent the student body on topics that matter to them. Responsibilities include participating in monthly student-led meetings, acting as a resource for peers, organizing school-wide events, and advising program leadership.
An annual Gateway tradition, the PA All School Bowling Party took place on Sunday, Jan. 28 and was once again a big success. Approximately 140 people (parents, students, siblings, and caregivers) gathered at Frames Bowling Lounge in mid-town Manhattan for a fun morning of bowling and bonding. Thanks very much to the Parents Association for organizing the event.
From all of us at Gateway, happy holidays! The last week of school in 2017 has been full of festive fun, including Lower School class parties, a winter sing-along, and a Middle School party hosted by the Parents Association. We look forward to a new year full of joy and learning.