At the start of the 2021–2022 school year, Nell McAnelly, chair of the board of directors for the Great Minds® Public Benefit Corporation, shared insights with the National PTA’s thousands of families about how they can help address their children’s learning gaps and keep them engaged in learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her advice remains relevant today and for the foreseeable future.
In her post, McAnelly shares four actions parents or caregivers can take to support their children’s learning: Look at their schoolwork, inquire about formal and informal assessment data available, attend to their social and emotional development, and find ways to make routine activities fun. She provides examples for action.
1. Look at Your Student’s Work
McAnelly encourages parents to try to determine whether their children are struggling academically, and if so, in which content areas. In math, she suggests parents observe how their children handle everyday activities. She writes, “Watch how your child handles age-appropriate everyday activities. Does your young child recognize a group of five without counting each item?” In English language arts, McAnelly suggests parents pay attention to everyday occasions when their child may read and spell, such as when reading aloud or writing a list.
2. Ask What Data—Formal or Informal—Is Available from School
McAnelly suggests parents try to familiarize themselves with available data about their children’s performance, including end-of-year benchmarks and observational data. Report cards are often a good source for gathering observational data.
McAnelly encourages parents to get to know their children’s teachers. She writes, “Make it a priority this school year to build a relationship with your child’s teacher to understand expectations and create learning goals. These should focus on addressing any unfinished learning or areas of challenge for your child.”
3. Consider Social and Emotional Development Needs
Schools also support children’s social and emotional development. McAnelly identifies aspects of social and emotional learning that children may need to continue to develop such as collaboration, problem solving, regulating emotions, or practicing good decision making. She encourages parents to contact their children’s teachers for additional information.
4. Include Learning Fun in Routine Activities
Finally, McAnelly writes that parents should try to engage students in reading, writing, and math in their daily lives. She offers suggestions including “helping children access books tied to their interests, equipping them with journals so they can write creatively or express their emotions about daily life, or picking up stationery so they can write to relatives or engage with pen pals. In math, work with your children to develop budgets for shopping trips, and practice measuring and estimating during cooking or gardening projects.”
Whether children are learning at home, in school, or in a hybrid model, parents can find opportunities to engage in their children’s learning to support and reinforce the knowledge they’re building in school. For more tips and ideas, read McAnelly’s full blog post in the National PTA’s Our Children blog.
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Chad brings more than 23 years of experience in communications to Great Minds. He has served in three state education agencies, which included time assisting New Mexico’s secretary of education with the adoption of new education reform initiatives; serving as the communications director at the Washington, D.C., Office of the State Superintendent of Education; and working as an assistant to the Florida Commissioner of Education. Chad also worked at the U.S. Department of Education from 2004 to 2009 and served as the deputy assistant secretary for media affairs and strategic communication during his final two years there. Chad is a native of Bloomington, Ill., and graduated from Florida State University.