Tips for boosting school performance amid learning gap challenges

How to help students improve reading, writing skills

School closures and the switch to virtual learning amid the COVID pandemic certainly impacted students of all ages, and likely created some learning gaps. Here are some tips for boosting school performance as many students return to the classroom.

As students begin heading back to school, many will be playing catch-up when it comes to learning critical skills like reading, writing an actually remembering what they learn.

The coronavirus pandemic shuttered schools at an unprecedented rate, forcing many students to learn remotely for the first time. The chaotic year certainly created some learning gaps, and we’re only beginning to see the real impact it had on students.

It is clear that many students will need to fill in some big gaps this year, especially when it comes to the fundamental skill of reading. One study estimates that kindergartners’ literacy learning may have slowed by as much as two-thirds during the school closures.

New research from the University of Pennsylvania suggests that adding science to the mix may help accelerate early reading and writing skills. Scientists assessed more than 1,500 kindergartners and found that students who participated in a program that combined reading lessons with science performed better than those who learned those subjects separately.

To incorporate this at home, read to your children at least 30 minutes each day, and include books about animals, bugs and other science topics.

Related: ‘We’re still in a pandemic’: Expert shares advice for helping children transition back to in-person learning

With many students learning remotely over the past year, most kids have been typing and swiping far more than actually writing.

A new study from Johns Hopkins University found that adults learning new information learned more quickly when they wrote it by hand compared to typing it, or watching a video on it. Researchers say writing by hand creates a stronger representation in your mind -- essentially a “scaffold” to support learning.

While this study was done among adults, previous research suggests the same is true in children. If students are struggling to learn something, some good, old-fashioned pencil and paper may help.

Experts say it’s also important not to underestimate a good night’s sleep.

New research from “National Jewish Health” finds one benefit of online learning was that students actually got more sleep than when attending school for in-person learning.

At least nine hours of sleep is recommended for middle school students, and at least eight hours of sleep is recommended for high school students.

Previous studies found that sufficient sleep improves memory retention and recall by 20%-40%.

Related: Tracking Michigan school districts, colleges requiring masks for 2021-2022 school year

About the Author:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.