This post was inspired by a recent question in one of my teacher groups: “How are other 3rd grade teachers filling in the learning gaps for their students? We don’t have options for small group intervention or support programs.”
Learning gaps aren’t new. However the learning gap due to Covid is unique because of the extended school closures, the disparate access to remote instruction, and varying degrees of household supports. This gap resembles more of a chasm, for students of colour. In fact, a recent McKinsey study reports students remain behind in both math and reading, with chronically disadvantaged students being up to a grade level behind their peers.
Where we are vs Where we should be?
Ensure you've a clear understanding of what your students' abilities are at this moment and where they'll need to be, by the end of the year.
A diagnostic will highlight exactly where your learner has gaps. It can be a worksheet, a test, and even an oral assessment. If you're able to, offer a choice board for assessments. The objective is to gather as many details as possible. With Math assessments, stress the importance of showing all the work so that they're making their thinking visible. That way, you're able to see exactly where their process goes offline. Humming the chorus to "Step by Step" by NKOTB usually gets everyone's attention in my class (swiftly followed by pleas to stop). Reading comprehension? Try an oral approach for retelling and summarizing. Timelines and photo walls can test dates and key figures.
Reassure students that this is just a snapshot, of their current knowledge base. Knowing that it doesn't count to their final grade will ease the stress.
What do they absolutely need to know, by the end of the year? What would be nice to have, it you can fit it in? Think of your material in terms of a decision matrix - need to know, need to know, can catch this up later, etc.
Build in about 10-15 minutes for review and reteaching of old material, then move on to teach at grade level. If they hit a bump during grade level teaching, ask them to make a note; encourage the observation so that they have a grasp on what they need to review.
Look for opportunities to collaborate and cross teach.
Think of your fellow teachers as part of your students' learning team and look for ways to work on concepts in other classes. Learning about The Crusades in Ancient History? Maybe you can assign reading comprehension to a Crusade themed passage, for example.
Build in small wins.
It's a great way to measure progress for you and them.
Book this film for professional development or watch online at www.vimeo.com/ondemand/greymatters.