Why we must make this summer break count by engaging kids in fun activities that bridge learning loss

Posted by Souradeep Ghosh on Apr 19, 2021 11:19:22 AM
Souradeep Ghosh

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engaging kids in fun activities

As a pandemic-hit academic year comes to an end and students ready for summer break, it’s important that we make the vacation count. LEAD School believes that using the summer months is important to gently ease children back into remediation efforts at the beginning of the upcoming academic year so that learning loss does not become a lasting legacy of COVID-19.

Across the world, school closures were a common tool wielded in the battle against COVID-19. In India, educational institutions across states were swiftly closed in March 2020 to stem the spread of the virus. But the suspension of face-to-face instruction in schools amid the pandemic led to growing concerns about learning losses and academic regression.

According to a KPMG report released in 2020, this extended closure could cause a “significant disruption in the ecosystem, impacting an estimated 253 million students in India.” “The situation is set to have a lasting impact on a child's socio-emotional and mental health as well as on overall learning outcomes, with the potential to widen the disparity for children from disadvantaged backgrounds,” the report stated.

2020 may have gone by, but the year 2021 sees us in the same precarious situation. The second wave of the pandemic seems to be even more virulent than the first, and there’s no clarity on the position schools will adopt on reopening for the new academic year.

Meanwhile, concerns about learning losses and the impact on children’s academic damage continue to grow.

In February 2021, a study by Azim Premji University pointed to a deepening of India’s learning crisis by revealing that 92% of children across all classes had on an average lost at least one specific language ability, while 82% had lost at least one specific mathematical ability during the school closure induced by COVID-19.

An unprecedented summer slide

This academic regressionnoticed in students in all kinds of schoolsis similar to summer slide, which is basically learning loss during the summer vacations.

A 2020 study of children in Classes 3-5 revealed that students on average lost 20 percent of school-year gains in reading and 27 percent of school-year gains in math during summer break.

And it is even worse for kids from low-income households. Studies have shown that children from low-income families are disproportionately affected by the summer slide, in ways that can continue to affect them years later. Research shows that more than half the gap in reading scores between low-income Class 9 students and their middle-income peers can be “attributed to differences in summer learning accumulated between Class 1 and 5”.

We are all aware of the fact that the many challenges that the pandemic threw up left schools grappling with a sudden, unprecedented change in operations. After a time, a routine of sorts set in, but the learning loss continued to proliferate.

Now, as the school year comes to a close, we must empower our children to meet the new challenges that a fresh academic year will bring. And the summer break is the best place to start.

LEAD is transforming education in India by helping children become ready for the exam of life. To enrol your child in a LEAD powered school: Click here

A fruitful summer break  

Untitled design (20)At LEAD School, we believe that using the summer months is imperative to gently ease children back into remediation efforts at the beginning of the new academic year. To that end, our summer remediation plan weds fun activities with educational concepts to ensure that children are engaged as they learn.

The six-week summer programme involves two activities per week—Tinkering Tuesday, comprising STEM-based activities, and Funky Friday, a range of family-based kinaesthetic activities. Together, these activities aim to ensure that learning continues unabated through the summer vacation.

The purpose of the LEAD summer programme is ‘Engagement’ and ‘Delight’ of all students in our partner schools. Activities are provided to groups that are formed across grades for easier knowledge sharing and information dissemination.

The LEAD summer programme is designed to ensure fun and engagement. We have kept activities as neutral as possible. They are also less resource-intensive, aim to use whatever's available in the household. Over the course of six weeks, these activities will help nurture planning, organising, decision-making, and problem-solving skills.

After an academic year like the one our children have just had, even small differences in summer learning can accumulate, making the achievement gap substantially larger. This makes an initiative like LEAD School’s important, relevant, and timely.

Ensuring learning everywhere

All summer vacation activities will be sent to students in our partner schools through the app, and LEAD School will remain in touch with the schools so that they have all the requisite information. Teachers will be consulted and their feedback is taken into account to ensure success in bridging the learning gap.

New ones will be sent when a child completes the older one, and no punitive action will be taken if an activity is not completed. A guided video will be included to demonstrate the activity and material required, and a reward mechanism is planned to ensure that students enjoy the entire process, and go from start to finish.

shutterstock_682150525The key is environment association to ensure learning everywhere. The projects won’t be like homework nor are task-based; instead, we aim to help children reimagine the things surrounding us. For example, senior grade students may be encouraged to learn the concept of probability using real-life examples through a game using different coloured candies. This tracking may be lined up with what they may be learning in the coming year. For the lower grades, common games could be converted into tactile experiments. Children may be asked to make boxes using cardboard and origami; these could be used to play six different gamesa simple project that mixes concepts of geometry, real numbers, and critical thinking.

To help improve articulation and presentation skills, a child could be told to become a citizen journalist who interviews the family and writes a report. This helps in social engagement, uses questions as tools to explore, engage, and investigate, and hones communication skills like storytelling.

We have come up with a framework that will ensure stakeholders can reimagine education delivery in a fun manner:

  • Explain the purpose of a task: Explaining why they are being asked to complete an assignment will help children better appreciate the experience.
  • Connect a task to existing student knowledge: Linking with previous lessons or covered material will help children feel more confident about tackling the task.
  • Ensure all activities are contextualised: All content and material will be relevant and should help move from internal to external—from myself to home, neighbourhood, city, state, and country.
  • Give students options: This gives students autonomy and helps them make their own choices. So, a spelling list might be sent with instructions for different ways of studying - look up etymologies in an online dictionary, draw pictures of vocabulary words, make a numerical code, write a story or poem with all the words, etc.
  • Provide space for creativity: Give students choices in materials and format to be used, and ensure that activities remain fun and do not seem to be mandatory chores.

As a pandemic-hit academic year comes to an end and students ready for summer break, it’s important that we make the vacation count as COVID-19 and its accompanying shifting situations will have a bearing on student education in the next academic year. As our partner schools prepare to move into the second academic year of pandemic disruption, LEAD School is working towards ensuring that learning loss is not a lasting legacy of COVID-19.

LEAD is transforming education in India by helping children become ready for the exam of life. To enrol your child in a LEAD powered school: Click here

About the Author
Souradeep Ghosh
Souradeep Ghosh

At LEAD, Souradeep builds high-impact ed-tech products to deliver learning outcomes. Prior to LEAD, he led the adoption of Google Read Along globally and managed social-impact grants for India at Google.org. His entrepreneurial journey involves building design and technology solutions for social good and co-founding an education non-profit to improve early grade reading skills. Souradeep is a Gandhi Fellow, GAP Changemaker, MIT Tech Review Global Panel member and is an alumnus of Jadavpur University and Stanford Graduate School of Business Executive Education.

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