4 ways to consolidate student wellbeing with ‘lost learning’
1. Help students learn at the same time as helping them reconnect with their peers, friends, and teachers.
2. Make literacy learning appealing, fun, and relevant to students who have had such a difficult year.
3. Make the most of the different ways students have developed their literacy skills at home.
4. Find the best ways to engage pupils with reading and writing.
1. Find someone who…
A good way to help students reconnect with their peers is through open dialogue. Get students up and out of their seats asking each other questions you’ve provided.
Your instructions could be as simple as:
✓ Find someone who played a video game over lockdown.
✓ Find someone who read at least one book over lockdown.
✓ Find someone who watched a TV series over lockdown.
For each of these, why not ask that person:
✓ to recount the narrative
✓ to describe the characterisation
✓ to name the main themes
✓ to give you two facts about the protagonist
✓ whether or not they would recommend it and why.
2. Interactive book nooks
Access to high-quality fiction and non-fiction books is essential to create a reading community. This is true in all senses of the word. Make sure books are at eye level for students – easy to reach, browse, and borrow. Is the atmosphere inviting? Do you have comfortable places for students to sit and get lost in a book? Do you have inviting displays that compel your students to read?
Here are some great examples from Twitter:
Left: Thank you Mr. G! This vending machine is inspired.
Right: The John Smeaton Academy English department’s clever take on a well-known streaming service would appeal to even the most reluctant reader.
3. Exit passes for quick assessment
Exit passes are an unobtrusive way to build on students’ prior knowledge. They enable you to get a snapshot of where students are. It’s as simple as giving each student a post-it note and asking them to describe a key concept you’ve taught in their own words. With a quick flick through their responses, you’ll get an idea of what you need to cover next.
4. Synonym tennis
This is as fun as it sounds! My students loved it. List ‘boring’ words that could be replaced to improve the sound, texture, and detail of your students’ writing. For example;
In pairs, students must take it in turns to offer up synonyms, while hitting an imaginary ball to their partner. For example, for ‘went’: crawled, leapt, swaggered, lunged, meandered, ambled…
The physical motion seems to get all learners rifling through the backlog of words available to them (and newly available to them from their peers) and ready to use in extended writing.
Academic vocabulary is, as Geoff Barton suggests in The 2020 Oxford Language Report, the “language of power”. It builds young people’s confidence as well as their ability to communicate effectively and ensure their voices are heard. If we are serious about social mobility, this is a word gap that must be addressed (OUP, 2020).
As the Education Policy Institute states in Education in England: An Annual Report 2020:
“Progress in closing the gap has been stalling over the last five years and it is now widening. It is important that we act on the data in front of us and significantly change the education system and in turn, make a fairer society”
There’s no better way to consolidate student wellbeing with lost learning in 2021 than by teaching the ‘language of power’.