The return to School is a joyous occasion for many students, teachers and parents.

For teachers it’s all about renewing contact with colleagues, getting to know new students and re-connecting with other students. A new academic year brings renewal and challenges.

For students it’s about being with friends once again, meeting teachers and engaging in new learning experiences.

This year School is back. We hope that classroom learning is here for the entire uninterrupted year.

The last two years have seen children for varying periods, undertaking distance learning – some with more success than others. Existing learning gaps may have widened. And new ones opened up.

Face to face learning provides a human and personal interaction, which distance learning cannot. The teacher can see how students progress in the context of the classroom, and amongst their peers. The student being in a physical classroom, provides learning opportunities which distance learning does not.

As a result of the disruption created by Covid restrictions, some students have not managed to keep up with their peers. These students have gaps in their learning – this is most serious when these gaps occur in the fundamental skills. If a student does not have basic skills, they will face problems for the rest of their schooling and into later life.

If a child does not understand mathematical fractions, they will not be able to go on to master more advanced mathematical skills.

If a child cannot read competently, they will not be able to understand the ideas and concepts embodied in literature.

If a child cannot catch a ball, they will not be able to plays sports which require this skill.

So it’s important that the gaps in basic skills be identified, before being repaired.

The problem is to identify what it is exactly that the child does not understand. Sometimes the problem is that teachers are struggling to find exactly where the learning gaps exist. To find out it’s important that children be encouraged to ask questions. The individual student must be an active participant in his/her own learning.

Encourage students to talk about what it is that they do not understand – what they can’t do. It requires that no shame be involved in not being able to succeed at a task. Unfortunately, all too often students do not want to bring attention to themselves and what they cannot do. Avoidance, and feigning understanding is the option.

Of course, not facing up to their learning difficulties aggravates the problem.

It is important that teachers support these students. A non-judgemental environnent is essential. Encourage students to talk about their learning frustrations. Build their confidence when they ask questions, and when they succeed.

Our February newsletter outlines ways in which you can help students bridge Learning Gaps.

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