This month, the podcast panel asks parents questions to the school’s director, Vanessa Hartson Walker. They discuss the issues of returning to school after months of learning disabilities caused by the pandemic, and how teachers can advise parents on how to support their children.
Vanessa is the director and founder of Children can, an English language school for children and young people in Rome, as well as a teacher trainer and one of Pearson’s Live-CGirls Sports shoes.
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This is how you support children in returning to school
For many children, parents and teachers around the world, September means going back to school. But after such a turbulent 18 months, some parents are a little nervous about the new term of office and the future.
To answer some of their questions and concerns, we asked our audience two main questions: What do you worry about most when your children go back to school? And where do you need support most?
In addition, Vanessa is investigating some of these questions with us and giving tips for teachers to advise parents and support learners as they start the new school year.
How can I help my child to make up for the learning loss?
One of the main concerns of parents was the loss of learning for many children due to class interruptions. Some parents fear that their children are lagging behind and will struggle to catch up this year.
However, Vanessa asks both parents and teachers not to worry too much about this problem. She says it is crucial that we don’t put too much pressure on learners as they prepare to return to school. This year she suggests that we meet the learners where they are.
Instead of focusing on what stage or level the world is at, we should adjust to its current stage. This means adapting the lesson plans to suit the students and their needs, not the curriculum.
She also adds that we shouldn’t focus on the learning loss, but rather think about what the students are doing have learned. For example, many have become more digitally aware, more flexible and more mindful. These are very important skills that should be celebrated in the future.
Are there opportunities to develop my child’s computer literacy?
Some parents are concerned about the increasing reliance on technology and the need for children to be more digitally literate. Many schools will continue with online, blended or hybrid learning this year, which means that children need to be familiar with a range of technologies.
Vanessa offers a number of ways we can help learners develop these vital skills.
- Parental guidance – If the students’ parents are digitally proficient, you could suggest that they sit down with their child and browse the digital platforms. They can then explain the key features of video conferencing platforms, as well as any apps or platforms that the school uses.
- YouTube tutorials – YouTube can be a great tool to learn as it has a number of tutorials. For example there are great videos on How to use zoom, how to use padlet or Internet tips for childrenthat learners can look at to get an idea of the technical basics. Show these in class or recommend them to parents.
- Teachers lead the learners – We can dedicate a lesson at the beginning of the new school year to help students understand and use the platforms. It is important to check in with them regularly to see if they are having difficulties and to help them overcome them.
What can I do to support my child’s social development?
Children had to distance themselves socially or stay at home. This has led many parents to worry about their social development and ability to interact with others when they return to school.
Vanessa suggests that the first few lessons we should aim to get the children to talk to each other. Instead of focusing on the curriculum, we need to communicate and reconnect. Invite students to talk about their summer vacation and have them interact with one another through games and project work.
It is also important that we create a positive environment in the classroom. We should encourage learners to share their feelings and concerns about social interaction. Instead of ignoring what happened in the past year, let the children talk about it openly and share their feelings.
What additional English activities can we do at home?
In order to support the students on their learning path this year, some parents wonder what else they can do at home to help their children.
In addition to English lessons and school homework, families can enjoy other activities together. Try to recommend the following to parents:
- Do you have storytime – You can suggest parents read children’s books in English to learners. This will help them learn new vocabulary, expressions, and grammar. Disney child reader is a great way to get them started as they connect with the characters they are familiar with in stories adapted to different levels.
- Watch videos, TV series, or movies – YouTube offers a variety of videos aimed at English learners such as Sam and Mel English for children or English singing. In addition, you can suggest families watch TV series or films in English with subtitles to help learners with listening comprehension.
- Play interactive games – Invite parents to play interactive games with the children at home. There are a number of games available online such as: Games to learn English or ESL Games Plus.
In addition, Vanessa suggests that these activities could be a shared learning experience for children and parents. You could take 20 to 30 minutes a day to do one of these English activities and watch your progress together. The main thing is that it’s fun!
Advice on returning to school
One final piece of advice from Vanessa to those going back to school is to live in the present and not worry about the past or future. The bottom line is to enjoy the moment and celebrate the fact that we are back to school and a new year is ahead!
Vanessa is currently working with Pearson as a Live Classes trainer. You find them on LinkedIn and Listen to the podcast to find out more.