Rebuilding the Missing Links

Written on the 14 April 2016

All learning follows pathways.  Whether catching a ball, reading a book, spelling a word, writing an essay, designing a costume or completing a balance sheet, skills have been learned beforehand which  assist with the current task.

Students learn at different rates, beginning school with a range of abilities.  When steps in the pathway have been missed, or not fully understood, pupils begin to experience difficulties when moving to the next stage of learning.  Illness, holidays and classroom distractions can all contribute to these gaps appearing in their understanding.  When planning lessons, classroom teachers will aim to differentiate the needs of all their students.  Understandably, this can be an enormous task for each lesson and students will sometimes miss a step in their skill development.

Identifying the gaps at appropriate times is vital for student learning.  Designing tasks which introduce and then reinforce competencies is essential to enable the student to move forward with a solid learning base in place.  Parents, teachers and tutors are all invaluable when pinpointing needs. Working together to support the student, all parties can have input into tailoring the learning program.  Each party has different information about the student's development and when this information is shared it positively supports the child's progress.

Teachers have a range of tools to assist them recognise if there is a need for intervention. Parents have most of these same tools also available to them.  Observing the student at work, working through tasks together and discussing concerns will all help identify where the links are missing. Teachers will add diagnostic testing to their repertoire and this will show the need for intervention in particular learning areas.  Specifically designed tests can highlight where students may be challenged in spelling, reading, writing, or across the strands of Mathematics.  The tests will target teaching areas which will benefit student progress and help them achieve.

A parent playing a positive and active role in their child's learning, no matter what their age, will;

  • Use the statement "I hate Maths!" or "Spelling sucks!" as a cue that there is an underlying reason for the statement and it needs investigation
  • Co-operatively work with teachers to plan and deliver activities which will support their child in identified areas
  • Follow the motto, 'Less is Best', where the learning steps are kept very small and achievable in the short term. This fast success will promote confidence as the links are joined to give understanding within the bigger picture.

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