Combat Learning Loss at Home

Combat Learning Loss at Home

- in Education, Magazine

As students come back to school from winter break, many students lose skills they developed from the first semester. We discuss how teachers are combating learning loss and how parents can help.

Dr. Michelle Harris, director of middle school at Hawken School says most teachers begin the school year by reviewing what was taught in the previous grade.

“They’re looking back and building on those foundational skills, whether it’s literacy or writing, or quantitative analysis in terms of mathematics,” she says.

Harris says it is important for teachers to take note of what skills students may lose over winter break or any other extended period of time away from school.

“If schools have the flexibility and agency to take stock of where their students are in terms of potential learning loss and then address those skills or potential skill deficits, that’s key,” Harris says. “Also, not all students suffer learning loss in the same way. Teachers should be mindful of that and should be mindful of the students that are more on point or have kept up, and honor where they are as well.” 

“We build that bridge by having content that reflects what they’ve already learned,” Harris adds. “We want the material to look familiar. We want kids to feel competent and good. The content then grows in complexity. So it’s about engaging students in different ways with the material, starting with material that’s very accessible because it’s familiar and ending with material that is an introduction to what’s coming the following year.”

There are many ways that parents can help combat learning loss. Find ways that will effectively engage your child — for example, if your child loves video games, try finding an educational online game that will help your child retain their reading and math skills.

“If you have a child who’s a voracious reader, then a trip to Barnes and Noble is heaven,”  Harris says. “A bookstore for them is a space where they feel comfortable, where they feel capable, and where they feel confident. Taking them to the bookstore will be a great opportunity to advance their reading skills. If your child loves testing themselves, go on to Khan Academy and do math games. Maybe a parent and a child can have a little contest about who gets through the most problems. Find something that is interesting. Go outside on a hike and come back and just talk about what they saw.”

For parents who feel like their child is falling behind, Harris says it is best to first bring up your concerns to their teacher.

“Reach out to the teacher first to find out what is happening, because sometimes it might be a reflection of low skills,” Harris says. “The teacher may have their specific suggestions for how to catch up. It might be not so much that they’re struggling in math or reading, but that they’re struggling with organizational skills, study skills, etc. They may be a strong math student, but they’re not submitting their homework in a timely manner, or they’re not studying effectively so they perform poorly on the test but they really do understand the concepts.”

Here are four ways parents can help reduce learning loss when at home:

1. Encourage reading for fun

Encourage your child to choose books that they are interested in. Students can read mystery books, science books, history books — any subject that they are interested in. Set a goal with your child. Have your child finish one book in a certain amount of time and reward them with something they like (video games, a new toy, etc) if they complete their goal. 

2. Find a reading program 

Many libraries offer reading programs. This is a great way for your child to engage with reading while also enhancing their social skills. Most libraries offer prizes or rewards for hitting a certain reading goal. 

3. Engage with reading while on vacation

If you are planning on visiting a new city or state, find books set in that city/state. If you are visiting a museum or zoo or aquarium, have children read each info marker and ask them what they learned about in each exhibit. 

4. Head Outdoors

Go outside —take a walk, do a fun winter activity like a hike or go sledding. Count how many steps you take, count how many people are sledding —incorporate fun ways to practice your math skills. Write down everything you see – and write a story about the objects you saw outside.

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