Beyond Academics: Supporting Learning Loss in The Classroom

With so much time spent in virtual learning over the past two years, it’s easy to understand why some kids may have fallen behind academically. Not everyone has the same resources at home, and not all learning styles are a good match for online education. Even with the best teachers and wonderful parents, there have been challenges for students of all ages.

Now that kids are back in the classroom (hopefully for good), many educators are trying to approach learning loss and help kids “catch up” to their current grade level. Here’s a brief overview of the effects of pandemic learning, plus tips to help children get back on track.

Looking at Learning Loss

The impact of learning loss is real: Experts have shared concerns about widespread disruption to education and how equity issues will impact student recovery. It’s also been noted that children from lower income households, racialized students and families with lower levels of education are more likely to struggle with learning loss. Kids in younger grades may have lost an opportunity to build critical literacy skills, and numeracy skills may have regressed across several age groups.

While this is important information and it’s understood that students may need more support after returning to in-class learning, the issue is far more complex. In addition to academic struggles, kids faced emotional and mental health challenges. Measuring school achievement and charting a path to academic recovery isn’t a bad idea, but it might not be the most important thing. “If there’s a pressing need for measurement, it’s in the reckoning of the social, emotional, and psychological toll of the last 12 months,” educator and author Stephen Merrill asserts.

Dr. Beyhan Farhadi has expressed similar sentiments, noting that the purpose of public education isn’t just to create high achievers—it’s to encourage the development of the whole child. This includes their social, emotional and spiritual needs. You’ve heard that it takes a village to raise a child, and Dr. Farhadi asserts that community building is critical to creating a setting where children can thrive in all areas of their life.

How to Help Kids Thrive in The Classroom

Addressing learning loss doesn’t necessarily mean intense tutoring or fast-tracked curriculums. In fact, it can be as simple as providing a safe, calm, nurturing environment for students to learn and grow. Here are a few simple tips for teachers:

  • Start the day by greeting kids warmly at the door—this simple act can improve engagement by 20 percentage points.

  • Create a calm learning environment—children typically learn best when they’re in a safe, pleasant space with consistent daily routines.

  • Focus on relationships first—in addition to contributing to a healthy and successful learning environment, a strong teacher-student relationship can actually help protect kids against the risk of poverty, abuse and neglect by creating a safe buffer that’s recognized by other adults.

  • Bring fun into the classroom—laughter is contagious, and school can be a place of great joy. Plus, laughter has been proven to boost retention skills in the classroom.

Most teachers chose their career based on a love of working with kids and helping them succeed, and very few educators imagined teaching through a screen during a global pandemic. The past two years have been extremely hard on children, parents and educators alike, and as we begin to come out on the other side, we can find ways to support each other’s needs and success. Here’s to blue skies and better days ahead.

By Staples Canada

December 01, 2021