The sudden school closures gave parents and schools hardly any time to prepare for a massive shift in their lives. Parents were forced to become teachers, with most doing so while attempting to continue their regular employment from home. The adjustment for their lifestyle was massive and needed to be done literally overnight.
With students having done their schooling from home for the past several weeks, it is only inevitable that gaps would have formed in their learning. Now they are back at school, they may feel a bit behind.
So, how can you fill your child’s educational gaps effectively and most importantly efficiently?
Before we start, here are 5 facts to know:
• You do not need to focus on all subjects; you need to focus on the two core subjects; Maths and English
• The Maths curriculum can be taught in 2 hours per week
• The English curriculum can be taught in 2 hours per week
• In each core subject there are a few main concepts that, if they are understood, everything else follows
• In each core subject there are a few strategies and skills that if they are mastered, everything else follows
Most vital concepts to learn (note that I am using learn not teach- parents need to unlearn a few things and try to re-learn them before their child does)
But before the learning concepts, they need to master the most vital skill:
There are four steps to learn to master problem-solving:
• How to understand a word problem – translate from words into maths
• How to plan it – very important step usually neglected by teachers
• How to solve it – execute the plan
• What to learn from it – almost always neglected! A sad fact ☹️
Essential concepts in Maths
1) Place value (for high school or senior primary school, place value of decimals)
2) Number bonds (numbers that add up to 10 – even for junior high school)
3) Multiplication and division: explain the meaning of the operations not just the times tables and how to do it.
Important concepts (in order of importance)
4) Measurement – the meaning of perimeter
5) Measurement – the meaning of area
6) Space 2D shapes – basic shapes
7) Space – 3D objects
8) Data – how to interpret and analyse data (there are different graphs to represent data, just choose one or two)
9) Chance – explain the concepts of events happening. Games with dice are great for this.
Most vital components to learn
1) Reading comprehension – there are a few levels from finding facts to inferential type of questions
2) Vocabulary – build up their vocabulary one word per day. Use better words (more academic words) when you speak to them even outside the allocated learning time
3) Grammar – part of speech (nouns, verbs, adjective, adverbs…etc)
4) Punctuation – what to use when (the power of editing your work)
5) Writing – this is a significant component, but it does not work solo. Writing is putting together all the above skills in a creative and structured way.
6) When it comes to writing, parents and teachers need to familiarise themselves with the most common genres (Narrative, persuasive, information report…etc) including the structure for each one and the marking criteria. In other words, what to look for in a good piece of writing.
I’ll give you a few seconds to go back and read the above two paragraphs and reflect on them.
Now we know these facts, let us see how we can do it.
As per Fact 2 and 3, allocate 30 minutes a day for Maths and 30 minutes for English. To make the best of it, these two 30-minute sessions need to be proceeded by 10 a minute mindfulness session to help with building full awareness and connection. Address one concept for 4 consecutive sessions (over 4 consecutive days). This will allow you to allocate 2 hours per week for Maths and 2 hours per week for English. On the fifth day, you reflect on the whole week of learning.
Young children love using what they just leaned. Utilize it. When they learn, let’s say measurement, use what you learned in the backyard, on your walks, or in making a meal. Number bonds can be your 2 minutes warm-up before the session or make it a song. Writing can become a project of co-authoring a book with your child.
As I am a “why person” I want to share with you why it works.
So why does it work?
This is an evidence-based approach. I have studied Cognitive Load Theory in my PhD into Education. The theory emphasises structure and efficiency. We have been using the approach for 9 years now at Global Education Academy and it has been delivering great results. According to Cognitive Load Theory, for any learning material to be effective, the design of these materials must keep the learners’ cognitive load at a minimum during the learning process. This will ensure that their working memory is not overloaded, hence building schemas is facilitated. In addition, connecting maths and English to real-world experience reduces cognitive load as it links these concepts to long-term memory bypassing the limitations of working memory. As you might know, long term memory is unlimited in capacity and duration, so make the most out of it. When you connect mathematical concepts such as fractions to fair sharing instead of geometrical shapes, that mean nothing to young children, you are enabling learning with efficiency; in other words, using less space in working memory and consequently enhancing performance. This is what I call efficiency.
Most importantly, when your child masters the four steps of problem-solving (UPSL™ – understand, plan, solve and learn) you can rest assured that your child will be an independent thinker and a problem solver. It is a much-needed life-long skill.
This blog is written by Dr Majeda Awawdeh, the author of “Who Cares about Maths Anyway?” and the Founder of Global Education Academy (GEA). Dr Majeda Completed a PhD at UNSW In Mathematics Education and Cognitive Load Theory. She put the theory into practice and established Global Education Academy in 2011. The business grew from a handful of students to near 300 this year in two locations in Sydney. Dr Majeda and GEA have received many awards, the latest being the 2020 Telstra Business Women’s Award in the Small Business category NSW. Dr Majeda is also a keynote speaker, a domestic violence advocate and believes in making a difference to children’s lives one child at a time.