How the Best Teachers Address Learning Gaps

Educators everywhere are feeling the stress of trying to “catch kids up” after the last two years of learning loss. Here’s how some of the best teachers are tackling these learning gaps most effectively.

1. Building Trust and Connection

It’s more true than ever that students need to feel a connection with teachers in order to learn from them. When a student doesn’t trust and feel connected to a teacher, his or her learning suffers. Investing the time and energy into connecting with each and every student, whether they are part of a larger classroom or receive instruction one-on-one, ensures that their learning will be that much more meaningful.

2. Maximizing Downtime

While students definitely need breaks from rigorous academics and time to process new information, that doesn’t mean that their brains have to turn off. The best teachers are using these “break” times to embed academic practice into games, conversations, activities, and low-stakes tasks so that their students’ brains are always on and working productively. In the classroom, this might look like a math game during snack time, or a “morning work challenge” at arrival. These tasks should allow some release from the routine, while reducing transition time back into work mode by keeping kids engaged.

3. Showing the Relevance

Kids are always more likely to learn (and WANT to learn) when they understand why they are learning and how it applies to their lives. While this applies to all subject areas, it is often especially difficult for students to see the relevance of certain math concepts. When a student thinks, ‘I’ll never use this,’ she isn’t going to put much energy into learning it. The best teachers show students how each concept applies to their lives and the real world.

4. Creating Systems of Intervention and Meeting Students Where They Are

In a typical school year, some teachers can get away with teaching a “one-size-fits-all” model.  They have a curriculum to get through, and they have planned out the way in which they will deliver that curriculum to students. This approach to teaching rarely works for all kids, and that’s especially true now. The best instructional design for these times (and all times, for that matter) involves constantly assessing where students are in their skill development and creating structured and systematic routines of intervention for those students who need more targeted resources than the “one-size-fits-all” approach can provide.

The best teachers are also resisting the urge to keep to a specific pace in their instruction. When teachers move forward regardless of how students are doing, many inevitably fall through the cracks. Instead, teachers must meet students where they are and help them advance from there.