How to tackle the COVID-19 learning loss of our young children is child’s play


“Targeted play” might make children feel like they have the opportunity to develop fine motor skills and cognitive skills by talking about their research and activities.

This article, written by Hetty Roessingh, University of Calgary, originally appeared on The Conversation and has been republished here with permission:

The disruptions from COVID-19 have had a distinct, devastating and potentially lasting impact on our youngest school-aged learners, especially those who were already behind in early comprehension of language, literacy and numeracy. The pandemic has also taken its toll on children’s social and emotional health.

Data from Alberta suggests that many children lost a year or more in the expected progress. There is no doubt about the urgent need for educational attention that will alleviate the learning loss associated with COVID-19.

Suggestions put forward to help the children included lengthening the school day, an emphasis on teaching phonics for early reading, intensive tutoring, and grade repetition to ensure a better start and better preparation for school. literacy and numeracy development.

But setting narrow academic expectations may not correspond to children’s readiness to learn and may only produce short-term learning outcomes.

Guided play – play that is guided by teachers in school – can be an important part of children’s learning, especially for children entering kindergarten through to about grade 3. Parents or guardians might consider ways to adapt this guided game at home.

Guided and targeted play

Guided or determined play is play that reflects a sense of intention to learn.

Guided classroom play might make it seem like teachers are available to explicitly direct children’s eyes to a key idea and explain patterns or sequences as they manipulate shapes or objects like blocks or a bucket of buttons . Buttons become learning tools by sorting or categorizing by shape, color and size. Buttons are great for creating sequences and patterns – and learning to recognize quickly: “How many? The shape and pattern represent the foundations of letter recognition, spelling and numeracy.

This could mean encouraging a child to hold their pencil or brush to develop a pincer grip. Children need to develop good pincer grip and master fine motor skills to print, cut, fold and glue.

Five areas of child development

A growing body of research shows that free imaginative play and guided, purposeful play are associated with better early language, literacy and numeracy outcomes, as well as social and emotional health benefits. Children benefit from these benefits by learning to play and give with the others.

These five key areas (or areas) related to child development should be targeted by play: numeracy and spatial recognition; dexterity; knowledge of language and words; cognitive abilities and memory; social and emotional learning. Of these, the link between fine motor skills and language is perhaps the most critical.

Areas of early development can be targeted through forms of guided play. Hetty Roessingh, Author provided

Learning through such games develops embodied cognition and the foundations for understanding literacy and numeracy.

Train with spare parts

In classrooms, once the underlying concepts and skills are taught, children can extend them and practice them through center or station games where choice, imagination and creativity children direct and conduct activities such as crafts, dismantling structures and playing with spare parts. Blocks, puzzles and everyday items like clothespins, tweezers, measuring devices, scissors, pencils and pencils are all part of the teacher’s play toolkit in the classroom. early childhood.

With some flexibility, these strategies can be adapted for children in Kindergarten through Grade 2. socio-dramatic game.

Children will always be ready to learn. Especially in COVID-19 recovery, teachers will need to adapt and adapt, and be smart to plan games and play activities through an assessment lens, and plan the teaching cycle accordingly.

Importance of dialogic speech

Talking with children is also essential when participating in guided games to help them develop their language and knowledge of the world.

Adults can strategically introduce more words relevant to school learning (“academic words”) when children are involved in guided play: for example, words like “build” or “structure” versus “build” When they play with blocks. Words can be accompanied by a definition, a synonym, and paraphrase by saying: “In other words …”

Other times, adults’ speech needs to be more explicit and direct when children participate in guided games. Some examples might explain a learning or memory strategy while playing a card game or dealing with numeracy concepts in a linear board game. What researchers call “mathematical discourse” and understanding the rules of the game are important for the transition to more independent play and practice with their peers.

Incorporating questions that involve making an inference or prediction, inviting the back and forth of collaborative and elaborative ‘ping-pong’ conversations further supports children’s language development, cognition, understanding of their world and of their world. their place in it.

Hear British educational broadcaster and writer Sir David Attenborough explain the plight of endangered species to his young listeners. Attenborough presents his speech at the “right” level of each child and introduces words that will be useful in school learning – such as danger, protect, extinct (and extinction) and precious.

The gradual acquisition of an enriched knowledge of oral vocabulary is important for the transition to the level of school literacy expected by grade 4.

Flexible and fun packages

A well-rounded and balanced approach to early childhood education through play involves both child-led and adult-led play and allows for both unstructured and structured activities. It targets the five areas of child development that teachers need to assess and monitor progress, again through simple, fun tasks and games.

Teachers know they face a variety of preparations for learning in their classrooms. Welcome our little ones to school with a flexible and fun plan to learn and interact with the school community they have been missing for too long.

As for how to spend the tens of millions of taxpayer dollars that governments are keen to allocate to address the learning gap related to COVID-19? Reducing class sizes or having a well-trained teacher’s assistant available can be our best value.The conversation

Hetty Roessingh, professor, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary

This article is republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read it original article.


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