Beat Brain Drain and Defend Your Child from Learning Loss

With the schools now closed to most children as part of social distancing measures and teachers reporting that internal school communications are that they should not expect to return until September, a very real concern for parents is not only how to protect physical wellness, but also how to ensure that isolation and lack of stimulation does not impact the mental wellbeing of their children and how to protect against Learning Loss during the months until schools can reopen.

What Is Learning Loss?

Learning Loss is, simply, the regression of skill acquisition that occurs through lack of use. Anyone who learned a language in school for years and 12 months after they left could remember no more than a few random phrases will tell you that a skill that is not in use is a skill that is atrophying daily.

This has been an acknowledged phenomenon in the education system since the early 1900s where school holidays cause learning loss across the board, but in particular in the lower socio-economic brackets where it is less likely that parents will support their children’s education during vacation time by ensuring weekly time is still spent on reading, writing and maths.

Why Does it Particularly Matter Now?

In the normal summer break, Summer Learning Loss statistically sets students back and average of 3 months of skill acquisition in Maths, Writing and Spelling. Studies show that the amount of teaching time it takes to recover lost learning is roughly equal to the amount of time it took to regress.

A US study demonstrated that learning loss increases with age, with the learning loss experienced in the gap between grades 7 and 8 (year 8 to year 9) reaching  a loss of 50% of the achievement of the academic year compared with 30% in younger students.

With schools potentially being closed for the next six months, it could take over a year for children to return to their current level of ability in Maths and English. The ability gap between children whose learning was supported at home over these months and those without that support is set to increase exponentially.

Children who engage in learning at home over these months could easily be a year and a half ahead of their peers that did not by this time next year.

What Can Parents Do to Prevent Learning Loss?

Creating an environment of support and structure is absolutely essential for the children facing months at home. Many stimulating activities can be done inside the home and keeping children’s brains active is enormously important. There are a multitude of fantastic articles currently circu­lating on social media with ideas from at-home science experiments to creative kitchen crafts – some of which you can find on the TeacherBoards Community Blog.

Children Watching TV

Important as this kind of fun and engaging learning is, it is vital that more traditional forms of Maths and English are not neglected. Reading, writing and Maths are the skills most vital to future academic (and professional) success and these are the skills most likely to suffer from learning loss. It is essential that parents look at creating a structured routine and providing the support needed to ensure that these core skills are protected­.

Creating a dedicated learning space that is quiet, free from distractions such as the TV, phones and devices and as ‘school-like’ is important. It is likely that children will be resistant to the idea that they have to ‘do school at home’ and trying to achieve this in areas they associate with relaxing and playing will be even more difficult.

Creating a Dedicated Teaching Space

If you have the space to turn a spare room into a teaching space then that is the perfect arrangement. It is easy to emulate a classroom with the aid of a simple table and a couple of chairs along with a whiteboard and some school-relevant posters. If you are not so lucky for space, partitioning part of the room with a screen would be ideal and a whiteboard can be leaned against the wall rather than becoming a permanent fixture.

If you struggle to get your children excited about maths and writing, smaller individual whiteboards and pens can be the perfect solution. As any teacher will tell you, writing on a whiteboard is immediately more exciting than writing on a piece of paper and children can be excited and stimulated to brainstorm ideas for creative writing or practise maths on a whiteboard where they would be resistant to doing the same on a sheet of paper.

Maintaining Motivation

We strongly recommend that concentration tasks like writing and maths are done in short bursts of no more than 30 minutes at a time. Try not to use screen time as a reward for ‘getting work done’ but instead draw up a schedule to keep some structure and follow ‘quiet learning time’ with a more fun activity such as baking, planting some seeds and talking about how plants grow or, if you are feeling really adventurous, trying a science experiment in the kitchen.

Creating a visual schedule on your whiteboard is very useful and now has never been a better time for a reward chart to keep behaviour and progress on track!

Help and Ideas

TeacherBoards are putting together a dedicated site section focused on helping parents and workers finding themselves in uncharted waters with home schooling and working from home for the first time. We will be collecting resources and publishing them in our community and on our Facebook page. Check back for dedicated advice from the Dyslexia Research Trust on how to encourage children with dyslexia and poor reading acquisition to read and write at home and the best techniques for helping these children maintain their core skills.

In the meantime, check out our Teaching from Home section for equipment to create a dedicated learning space for your at-home-learners!

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