The last few years has brought a lot of turmoil to our children’s lives. Summer slide is typical, but we are in unique times and it has lead many to worry about learning loss, learning gaps, skill loss and more in their kids. Today we want to share how students can overcome these challenges with help from teachers, support from parents, and engaging learning.
Tackling Learning Gaps –
Tips for Parents and Teachers
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Although the summer slide is quite normal, the last few years have been anything but normal. Many worried about learning gaps. Keep in mind that learning did occur for most students during school closure, and our students and children are strong. With our support and a growth mindset, kids will make great strides in their learning and overcome any challenges they have faced this year, if we help them focus on the social-emotional challenges they’re facing first, school second.
Tips for Parents
As the summer ends and your children return to school, whether it is regular classes, part-time, virtual, homeschool or some other format, there are a few things you can do to help them get back into school mode and fill some of those gaps.
Read a book
There is a high probability that your kids have read some books this summer, but end the summer by challenging them to read 20-30 minutes (at least a day). Daily reading gets their minds engaged and helps them practice active reading strategies like visualization, making predictions, connecting, and summarizing. Make sure to let your kids read something that challenges them but that they enjoy reading. When free reading is truly your child’s choice, then they will be more likely to finish the book, learn, and resist the summer slide. And yes, this could involve graphic novels!
This summer my kids are asking lots of insightful questions, often inspired by something they saw on TV. Watching a documentary with them or other educational shows, can help us explore these topics and learn together.
It’s typical for kids to go back to school with a bundle of nerves. Let them know that, yes, there may be struggles, but they can do hard thing! Ask your children to talk about all the things they are good at. In addition, talk about goals and things they can work on in the upcoming school year. Focus on growth mindset and talking about all the things they can and will be able to do this school year.
Reach out for support
Whether your children are homeschooling or attending school full-time, reach out to teachers or other homeschool parents for support in the transition back to school. Even if you have chosen to homeschool, your home school and district may provide some resources to help you, especially with social-emotional resources. There are also many support groups and programs both online and in real life for homeschoolers. No matter what, we’re all in this together! Parents, teachers, and students can work together to make this a great school year and overcome any learning gaps.
What if I homeschool?
This is one question I get a lot. Parents worry if they homeschool their child, then decide to send them back to school at some point in the future, that they could end up behind.
In my experience this is not a concern. If you choose to homeschool, focus on making learning fun and interesting. Child led learning involves discovering your child’s passions, then building activities and lessons around those passions. It also involves teaching where your child is at. Although homeschooling has different rules based on where you live, in general, you tend to have a lot of flexibility. This means you can take more time on math or English, or push ahead if your child is ready for more advanced study.
At the end of the day, if you have helped your child become a passionate learner, with an insatiable curiosity, and a powerful growth mindset, what curriculum you covered really won’t matter. Why? Because once they are in school they will quickly and easily pick up whatever they need to learn because they will have these important skills and mindset.
Most of all? They will WANT to learn. And there is nothing more powerful than a child who wants to learn. They will soak up knowledge like a sponge.
Teachers can also help students transition back to school and overcome the summer slide and any learning gaps students face. School is place to focus on not only academics but also social-emotional learning. Especially during this uncertain school year. We can all can expect that emotions will be supercharged for many. Here are some ways teachers can help students overcome the summer slide.
Start with relationships
First, don’t jump back into assessed content immediately. Your students are coming back to school ready to learn, but it’s been awhile since they’ve been in the classroom. Start by getting to know them and letting them build a classroom community. Fostering connections and relationships with each of your students will help to create a safe environment conducive to rapid and effective learning.
Allow students to talk about their anxieties
You don’t always know what your students are bringing into the classroom. Back to school anxiety is real. By letting your students talk about their concerns rather than acting like everything is going to be perfect, you can make them feel more comfortable and start building those pivotal beginning of the year relationships. Most students will not remember the specific math lesson they learned during the first two weeks of school, but they will remember how you made them feel safe and loved.
Daily check-ins are so important with your students. If you’re in an elementary classroom, you may have a few seconds to chat with each kid in the morning when you greet them at the door. In secondary classrooms, so many students come in and out of the classrooms. Check-in with them by providing a digital Google Form where they can let you know if they have any concerns they need to talk about or how they are feeling that day. Some students may report that they are hungry (sometimes daily) or that they don’t get a good night’s sleep. Other students may share what’s going on at home that may impact their mood or their work ethic. It’s nice to know when students are having a rough day. That way you can check in, but you can also give them some time to themselves or understand if they may be behind on work or struggling to focus.
Learn more about Classroom Check In Systems in Mental Health First, School Second.
Don’t just assume that everyone in the class has a huge gap in learning from the summer slide. Give your students a pre-assessment before teaching a concept. You may start by giving a review of last year’s major standards and objectives. Then, you can transition to that pre-assessment to make sure the students are ready to learn new concepts. This also leads to differentiation. You can scaffold for students who need additional support and provide extension opportunities for students who’ve met the standards.
Don’t worry about the summer slide or learning gaps. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, or both, these tips will help children overcome the summer slide as they transition back to school.
Plus, as I have learned over and over again over the years, when kids are ready, they will learn!