Since students have been out of their regular school routines since March of 2020 and struggled through distance learning, you may find that many of them will be behind as they begin the 2020-2021 school year this fall.
In one of our recent Front Office webinars, we spoke with Monica Percival, a product manager for Abeka’s high school science and math curriculum, mom, and veteran teacher; and Melissa Lewis, an educational consultant with Abeka, a ProTeach teacher, and former Pensacola Christian Academy teacher, about how to remediate students after COVID-19.
Monica and Melissa walked us through some ideas of how to navigate the responsibility of catching students up in the coming school year. Plus, they provided us with tips they’ve learned from firsthand experience and directed us to resources that are already in the Abeka curriculum, available for teachers to use to help students review.
This year more than any other, be flexible when you’re planning. Not every student will have mastered concepts as well in distance learning as they may have in a classroom. Start with a review of material taught prior to and during the quarantine. Find out where your students left off, and review and reteach as if those concepts are brand new. Then adjust your pacing to allow students to catch up with concepts they may not have mastered during distance learning. The curriculum is a guide that is meant to be tailored to fit the needs of your students in your daily lesson plans throughout the entire year. You don’t have to feel rushed.
When you start the school year, focus on academics rather than a soft entry week like you might any other typical year. Focus on the review of last year’s important concepts. You will have to quickly learn where your students are struggling, and take time to review those areas thoroughly and often.
When communicating with parents, put yourself in their shoes. Address the concerns they have in the mindset they are in now. Clarify and be as detailed as possible about what you can guarantee them, rather than broadly explaining that you will have a plan. Even a few sentences in an email can help to answer questions parents may have.
Reiterate to parents that you are taking extra measures to remedy areas where their children may have fallen behind, and communicate those extra measures. Some examples of those might be:
1) Built-in reviews within the curriculum lesson plans, which we refer to as the spiral review. Within the Abeka curriculum, important concepts are introduced as early as kindergarten, and each year, students are exposed to those concepts in new ways. Some schools are also starting the school year early in order to build in extra days for review.
2) Offer weekly help classes within your school. Institute the option for students to join a 15- to 30-minute help session for each subject, and communicate that to your parents.
3) Commit to an ongoing effort toward consistent communication. Any new or extra offerings available to your students should be communicated to parents. They will appreciate the extra measures and effort to keep a dialogue going with them.
Extra assessments are also a way to make sure your students are on track. The results will show individual areas of weakness in order to allow you to help each student. These aren’t graded assessments, and that should be clear to students so they aren’t worried about not being prepared. This will also provide you with another source of information to share with parents in order for them to help their children at home as well.
Be willing to address each family’s specific concerns related to catching their kids up. Families that are new to your school may already know their child is behind, and they may have questions about those concerns. It may take some extra time or extra work for teachers to address areas where students may already be behind. But it’s important to formulate a plan and offer options and solutions to those parents who are seeking answers – whether they’re new to your school or not.
Academic Strategies for Remediation in 7th-12th Grades
First things first: Prioritize review. Review is the great equalizer in your classroom. Because the 2019-2020 school year ended with distance learning, there will be a bigger gap than normal between students who mastered concepts and those who did not. By continuing to review, review, review, every student will have an opportunity to either catch up or master those concepts further. A great resource available online to look through this summer is Retrievalpractice.org/library. This site offers pamphlets and suggestions of ways you can make your review practices even stronger this year.
Emphasize Skill Subjects
In 7th through 12th grades, the skill subjects are considered to be grammar, math, and foreign language. Of course, that doesn’t mean history and science should be left behind. Focus on emphasizing study skills for these two subjects as well. Flashcards or tips about how to take notes during a history or science review will be helpful to students.
For the skill subjects – grammar, math, and foreign language – offering additional resources such as extra class time, an extra help class, or even independent work and direction toward online practice resources will help students catch up and parents feel more at ease.
An example of extra practice you might assign is targeted worksheets. These are supplementary exercises that parallel the sections in the Abeka textbook. So when students are struggling in a specific skill area of the textbook, you can assign extra review of those exact concepts in the targeted worksheets.
Here are some additional online resources you can use to supplement further practice for your 7th through 12th grade students who may be struggling with concepts:
Take Advantage of Study Halls
If your students have a study hall period, it may be possible for a student to schedule a meeting during that time with their teacher in the subject areas they’re struggling with. Or, if there is an upperclassman who has mastered that subject, they may be able to help in tutoring a younger student in return for extra credit.
If there is a clear lag in the classroom in certain subjects, for instance, in English and math, you might consider devoting more time to those subjects in the daily schedule.
Another option to create more time for catching up is summer camps. In the summer, many schools have day camps planned already. One day a week could be geared toward academics. Or, you could offer summer school once a week for 3 to 4 hours to help students to catch up in areas they’ve fallen behind in.
And lastly, if you have a teacher who is willing, have them gather materials such as exercises or resources to help their kids prepare for the year to come.
This hasn’t been a typical summer, and students and parents alike have been out of the regular school routine for a while. As the new school year begins, it will be helpful and important to emphasize and clarify your classroom and school procedures. It will take your students time to readjust to a “normal” school setting. You may need to be more clear and, possibly, more lenient in the first week in order to allow them to readjust. Try to get the routine back on track as quickly as you can. And make this statement your goal: “As normal as possible, as soon as possible.”
Academic Strategies for Remediation in 1st through 6th
1st and 2nd Grades
There are some simple ways to help your students already included in the Abeka curriculum for the 1st and 2nd grades. Help classes are built into the daily schedule in these grades’ curriculums. You can find them in the schedule toward the end of the day, close to the time of reading circles.
In the back of the curriculum, there is an outlined list of the suggested areas you could be reviewing, but of course, focus on the areas in which your students need the most help. You may not have been using this time in previous years, or maybe you were only using it for a few students in the past, but this year, it may be smart to implement it into your daily schedule for the entire class.
3rd Through 6th Grades
Help classes are typically built into the beginning of the day for these grades. Many schools use a 30-minute study hall for students to catch up on their homework during that time. In previous years, that may have looked like a quiet time for students to work individually on homework, but this year, you might consider turning it into a full-class help session in which you are available for questions or tutoring. Upperclassmen can also chip in during this time, as we mentioned previously.
The back of the arithmetic books offer practice problems. Rather than students only being able to use those pages once, help your students tear out those pages and put them into page protectors so that they can use whiteboard markers on those pages and reuse them multiple times.
There are also charts in the back of each grade’s teacher curriculum that may be reproduced. You’re welcome to copy and pass these charts out to your students for studying and practicing. Offer suggestions to parents for how they can practice those charts with their children.
Parent Communication Is Key in Elementary School
In elementary school, parent communication is critical to the success of the students. Work together with parents and have a plan of action for how you will communicate with them regularly. If you need them to assist with review at home, communicate that to them, and set clear expectations. Try not to overwhelm them with lists of work that needs to be done at home with little to no direction. Help them help you: Provide them with clear instructions, and limit the amount of work you’re sending home.
Lastly, motivation is a big component for your young students wanting to do extra work. If you’re sending extra work home and the students complete that extra work, it’s a good idea to have a system that acknowledges the extra work being accomplished and will help keep them wanting to get it done. Create a sticker chart or a learning jar they can fill to show their efforts are being seen.
One teacher sent home a phonics worksheet that contained the special sound and a correlating word, so parents could help their young students with phonics. The parent expressed that it was a huge relief to have even that simple worksheet to help them know how to teach those important phonics concepts.
If you have a student who is new to your classroom and struggling with reading in 3rd through 6th grade, the Handbook for Reading is a great resource to work through with that student in a one-on-one setting.
Watch the webinar this blog is based on below and learn more about Abeka’s Front Office here.