Overcoming summer learning loss and developing pupils’ confidence

The Key
The Key
At The Key we know that summer learning loss is on the minds of many school leaders ahead of the start of September. The term is used to describe students who return to school at a lower academic level than at the end of the previous year. This ‘loss’ happens to varying degrees among pupils (and in some groups does not occur at all), but studies have shown that it is more pronounced in children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

So how can you prepare your pupils for the best fresh start in September? 

David Quinn, assistant professor of education policy at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles says that educators should not assume every pupil has experienced a summer slide in learning or the same loss.

“The best general advice at the beginning of the school year is to diagnose where students are in their reading, understanding, decoding levels and fluency,” he said. “Then tailor students into reading groups with others who have similar skills and needs, and reassess after some period of time.”

He stresses that the reassessment, even if unofficial, is important, as many pupils can catch up quickly from a slow initial start to the year. 

Developing confidence

Targeted questions activity

HandsOnScotland, a toolkit aiming to encourage children and young people’s emotional wellbeing, explains that teachers with high confidence in their own teaching ability create confident pupils.

It says that to increase pupils’ self-confidence, teachers must improve pupils’:

  • Belief in their ability to do things
  • Sense of worth
  • Sense of responsibility for their actions

More detailed information is provided for each of those three areas.

There is also a “growing confidence trees” activity to carry out with children, which will encourage them to reflect on their confidence levels. Targeted questions to discuss during the activity include:

  • What areas are you most confident in?
  • How did you get to be so confident in this area?
  • How can the ways your confidence grew in another area help you grow more confident in the area you wrote on your tree?
  • How can you help other people grow more confident?

Positive approach

An article on the Great Schools website, which is based in the United States, says teachers can only foster self-esteem in pupils if they have a positive attitude to their pupils and themselves. It advises teachers to bear in mind that:

  • Pupils want to learn and be successful in school
  • Behaviour such as giving up, not trying or misbehaving in class may be used to mask feelings of vulnerability. Rather than imposing punishments, teachers could consider how they can minimise these feelings
  • Teachers must adapt their teaching style to enable children with learning difficulties to adopt a more positive, optimistic approach to their work

Members of The Key for School Leaders have access to a range of resources on curriculum planning and boosting pupils’ self-esteem on thekeysupport.com/SL.

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