FocusEd on School Year Closure

FocusEd on School Year Closure

The end of the school year is a time for reflection. It’s a time to reflect on student growth and ensure a smooth transition with maximum maintenance of acquired skills. This can only be achieved through structured planning.

Creating a plan of action:

Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What level was the student at in September? (in each academic / social domain)
  • Which skills did the student master throughout the school year?
  • Which skills were not mastered yet?

Your objective should be to reinforce skills the student was missing in the beginning of the school year.

  • BACKTRACK AND UPKEEP! Move back to September level of performance and build up from scratch. Practice each mastered skill individually until you reach the student’s current level.
    • For example: Leah struggled with 1:1 correspondence and addition facts in September.
    • She mastered number sense, addition facts, double-digit addition, and regrouping.
    • Goal: Review basic number skills, simple addition, and then newly mastered content.
  • BEWARE OF SURPRISES:
    • The student may have forgotten a previously mastered skill. Now is the time to reteach it and review it. The forgotten skill should be a primary goal for the next few sessions and a major target in summer homework.

Maintain mastered skills through constant review. Multiply the maintenance through reviewing in:

  • multiple settings: i.e. practice the skill in the resource room, in the hallway and at home
  • multiple domains: i.e. use wordlists, a whiteboard, books and games for practice
  • multiple senses: i.e. create visual aids, use tactile manipulatives, and movement while reviewing

Skills that were not mastered yet should be a future goal for next school year. Focusing on already mastered skills will increase their readiness to learn new skills in the future and ensure that they retain the knowledge and skills they’ve achieved thus far.

DON’T CRAM NEW SKILLS NOW!

Research shows that ‘cramming is one of the most ineffective means to learn a skill and most students can’t remember substantial data following a cram session.’ Moreover, it ‘does more damage than good and doesn’t generate long-term neural connections or develop deep comprehension’. (National Research Journal, 2017)

Inform parents of progress and mastered goals. Get them on board for continued success.

You gave it your all, you problem solved, you planned, you executed, you succeeded.

How will you communicate that to the parents?

How will you help them realize what their child has accomplished?

How will you get them on board for continued success and skill maintenance?

  • Call the parents directly. The phone conversation can be made simple through the 5 P’s:
    • Pleasure: Tell the parents about the pleasure you had working with their child.
    • Prior: Provide clear data of the skills the child was missing prior to beginning services.
    • Progress: Indicate the progress by identifying goals mastered throughout the year.
    • Performance: Identify their current level of performance.
    • Plan: create a summer plan.
  • Make the progress curve visual to the parents: This can be done through 3 S’s.
    • Samples: Send home a portfolio with the student’s work samples.
      • This can include workbooks, tests, study notebook, writing samples etc. collected over the course of the year.
    • Spiral: Create a spiral booklet of the child’s progress.
      • Each page should include a skill the student mastered. This will help the parent “see” what their child accomplished throughout the year.
    • Slope: Demonstrate the progress slope by creating a visual graph indicating the student’s grade level at various intervals throughout the school year.
      • This should be based on assessments and data collected throughout the year.

This gives the parents a deeper appreciation and understanding of the constant growth achieved.

Once parents realize what their child accomplished, they will strive for more success. Get them on board for continued progress- but remember: Formal practice can be difficult for parents during the summer.

Therefore, your goal should be to make it simple for the parents.

  • Encourage parents to create informal “learning moments” with their child. Some ideas include:
    • Point out signs and prompt their child to read it.
      • e. ask the child to read a sign with directions – promote decoding practice.
    • Ask ‘why’ questions in day-to-day life.
      • e. ask the child ‘why do you think the head counselors made the breakout before lunchtime?’ – promote higher level thinking and reasoning skills.
    • Involve the child in grocery shopping mathematics
      • e. ask the child to calculate how many snacks are needed for the week if each family member will eat 2 snacks a day – promote math practice.

*By making practice simple and natural for the parents, you have increased chances of the practice being accomplished. Additionally, students are more compliant while completing informal practice.

Creating a Summer Plan to Prevent Learning loss

You’re finally reaching the finish line. Your student gained so many skills, they’ve grown above and beyond. You want to ensure that the student remains up to par.

The bad news: Studies including 200 million test scores for 18 million students in 7,500 school districts, following students in grades 1 through 6 over five summers, shows 52% of students lost an average of 39% of their total school year gains during the summer months. (American Education Research Journal, July 2020)

The good news: If a child who was slightly behind appropriate grade level prior to the summer increases their skills during the summer months, they will be ahead of their class by September.

Therefore, we want the child to study as much as possible over the summer.

Getting a child to practice during the summer months is easier said than done. Familiarize yourself with the obstacles and create a plan accordingly!

Obstacle #1:

Children are not interested in learning / studying during the summer

Solution:

  • Help the student realize how much they accomplished over the school year. This will encourage the student to work hard on maintaining the skills during their free time.
    • How will the student realize what he accomplished?
    • How will you promote a feeling of personal connection to what they accomplished?
      • Send home a portfolio of student work samples, a progress booklet and any educational items the student enjoyed working with during the school year.
      • Review the samples together with the student at the end of the school year and explain what they accomplished. This will promote a feeling of personal connection to the materials.

*Success increases motivation- by noticing their accomplishments, students will be more motivated to continue learning.

Obstacle #2:

Children view studying as a boring task during the summer

Solution:

  • Make studying more interesting by sending home hands-on educational activities, crafts, and exciting practice games.
    • Choose appropriate resources by asking yourself the following questions:
      • Which academic areas must be reinforced over the summer?
      • What are the student’s interests?
      • How will the student self-monitor?
    • Include necessary skills in games/ flashcards/ fun sheets that are based on the student’s interests. Include a simple self-correction guide/ answer sheet for self-monitoring.
      • e. Rivky enjoys playing with stickers. She struggled with vowel differentiation. Create a sticker puzzle with short vowel words. Include a sheet of correct responses for self-checking.
      • e. Chaim enjoys interactive board games. He had difficulty with addition. Create a “chutes and ladders math game” with one example in each box. The answers should be written on a separate sheet for him to self-monitor.

*Including a method of self-checking with the study materials will provide more opportunities for practice, as the student can complete the work on his own without outside assistance.

Obstacle #3:

Children don’t have time in their day to study

Solution:

  • Create a calendar together with the student with a specific time of the day that will work for him (10 minutes, 2x week). That should be their official “study time” to practice their skills.
    • Set a reward system for students that complete their weekly studying.
    • How it works: Every time the student completes their “study time” on the calendar they make a checkmark. Follow up with the student at the end of the month and send them a reward in the mail based on how many checks they had. (Let the student know that you will be calling during the summer to follow up. This will give them increased drive.)

*Creating the calendar together with the student will increase the chance of them following the plan, as children perform better with self-assigned goals and motivation is increased through choice.

Through systematic practice, proper communication, and a hands-on summer plan your students will maintain the results of their hard work and increase their learning readiness!

By: Devorah Kupperman, MSEd