How to Help Children Catch Up When Schools Reopen

It was recently announced that primary schools in the UK may soon be opening to Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils. And although this is only a few year groups returning to classrooms, we’re likely to see a phased return for all year groups, so it’s time to start thinking about how to help children catch up when they go back to school. 

The reality is that different children will have done different amounts of learning during the lockdown. So teachers may need to adopt a flexible approach to learning and plan lessons for classes of children with different levels of understanding. 

Here are some things you can do to help you get children back on track with their education after the coronavirus school closures. 

Review Children’s Learning Needs and Provide Necessary Support

Before you can give children the support they need to catch up, you need to know where they’re at in terms of what they’ve learned at home and what they remember from pre-lockdown lessons. So you may want to review children’s learning needs with an informal assessment or one-to-one discussions. 

Once you have a better understanding of children’s learning needs, you can provide suitable support. This might involve recapping lessons for the whole class, or offering personalised support to individual children or groups of pupils.

Consider Accelerated Learning Techniques

As part of their plan for schools reopening, UNESCO has suggested trying accelerated learning strategies to help children quickly meet learning objectives.

Accelerated learning can take many forms, but the idea is to help children absorb, understand and retain information quickly by engaging all of the senses in the learning process. This type of learning can appeal to all learning styles, as children can learn through physical activity, creativity, reading and writing activities and visual and audio resources. 

Some teachers find accelerated learning helps children to quickly grasp concepts and enjoy the learning process, so it may be worth trying accelerated learning techniques when children return to school — this approach may be able to close the gap sooner rather than later. 

As well as testing a different approach to learning, some schools are considering adopting a temporarily accelerated syllabus that focuses on core subjects to ensure that children are up to date on essential knowledge. 

Organise After-School Study Clubs

Another recommendation from UNESCO is to organise after-school study classes that children can attend if they’re behind with lessons. After-school classes can be a good idea if a small group of children all need similar support — you can deliver it more efficiently by creating a small study class, rather than helping each child individually. And by going over past lessons after school, rather than during lessons that are focused on new topics, children can go over any missed topics without falling behind on current lessons.

Be Prepared to Recap Pre-Lockdown Lessons

By the time all children return to school, lots of pupils will have been out of school for many weeks or even months. So in addition to going over lessons they might have missed during the lockdown, you may need to recap pre-lockdown lessons too. 

The lessons that children learned just before lockdown may have been forgotten — children might not have touched on these in their home-learning activities, and with all of the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus, they may not have been able to concentrate or retain information during the actual lessons.

Set Home-Learning Tasks

For children who have a lot of catching up to do, home-learning tasks might be one of the best solutions. By setting homework, you can speed up the process of getting children back on track with their education. You can also set specific tasks for individual children based on their unique learning needs.

When setting home-learning tasks or projects, it’s worth communicating with parents about the importance of these tasks, and asking them to encourage and support children with homework. We all know children who are reluctant to do homework, but with parents aware of home-learning expectations, children are more likely to embrace and engage with tasks. 

Encourage Parents to Reintroduce Routine Before Schools Reopen 

Returning to school is likely to involve some teething problems. After so long off from school, children might be reluctant to return to the classroom and may find it difficult to concentrate throughout the day — six to seven hours can feel like a long time, especially for little ones. So when schools reopen, it might take children a while to get used to the routine. 

One way to make the transition back to full-time education smoother for children is to encourage parents to reintroduce routine to children’s daily lives before schools reopen. Children who follow a home-learning schedule are more likely to jump straight back into normal school days without any problems.

We’ve created a home-learning schedule that children can follow until they’re able to return to school. Parents can access a printable version by signing up for a free account on our parents’ page

Schedule for home schooling children

Use Differentiated Resources in the Classroom

Using resources like worksheets, you can give children the chance to practise their problem-solving abilities and consolidate their understanding of topics. And one advantage of individual worksheets and similar resources is that different children can complete different worksheets depending on their level of ability. With differentiated resources, you can make sure children have access to suitably challenging activities. 

There are thousands of maths resources on the Master the Curriculum website that you can access quickly and easily. You can find different resources for individual children, or groups of children with similar learning needs, in a matter of minutes. You just need to sign up for a membership to gain access. 

Support Children If They Are Feeling Worried or Anxious 

Some children will be feeling anxious and stressed as a result of the coronavirus crisis. They might be worrying about the future, scared of catching the virus and feeling lonely, having not seen their friends and classmates in a long time. 

So when thinking about how to help children successfully return to school, teachers also need to consider children’s mental health. Children who are worried or anxious may struggle to concentrate on lessons or feel nervous about returning to the classroom. 

To support children and ensure that their return to school is as stress-free as possible, schools need to make sure that children feel safe. You will likely need to enforce social-distancing measures in the classroom, but you should also talk to children about what’s going on and reassure them that it’s okay to feel worried, scared or anxious. Encouraging children to talk about their feelings and answering any questions they might have can help them feel at ease. 

Consider How Current Events Might Have Affected Children’s Confidence

As well as causing children to feel worried or anxious, current events may have caused a knock in children’s confidence levels, especially with their learning. Having been out of education for a substantial amount of time, children may not feel confident in their understanding of topics and this low self-esteem can prevent them from adopting a healthy, growth mindset.

So when pupils return to school, teachers should consider how current events might have affected children’s confidence. You may need to use teaching strategies to help children rebuild their confidence and adopt a healthy mindset in the classroom. 

Addressing children’s mental health and confidence, and giving them the emotional support they need, can help children feel able to happily get back to school and embrace education.  

Master the Curriculum is here to help you through these difficult times. We’re a team of teachers ourselves, so we know that current events have been challenging. But our goal is to help teachers continue delivering valuable lessons and make the return to school as smooth as possible. 

We offer thousands of primary maths resources that can help you streamline your lesson planning, enhance your classroom lessons and encourage home learning. Many of our resources are available completely free of charge. Just sign up for a free or premium membership to start accessing resources straight away.

The Best Home-Learning Resources for Children in Lockdown

Schools might be set to reopen soon for children in certain year groups, but we’re still a while away from seeing all primary school children return to normal school life. For lots of little ones, it might be some time before they return to the classroom.

But that’s not to say children have to fall behind in their education. Many schools and teachers are offering remote teaching, and as a parent, you can also help your children to keep learning at home. Whether you decide to homeschool your children while schools are closed, or just keep them engaged in education with the occasional learning activity, home-learning resources can be helpful during the coronavirus crisis.

With the right resources, you can help children keep up with the national curriculum and get excited about learning. This way, when schools reopen, children will be keen to get back to full-time education, making the transition back into normal school days as smooth as possible.

So here are some of the best home-learning resources for children in lockdown. With resources, children can practise skills they’ve already learned, tackle new academic challenges and have fun while learning.

Printable Worksheets for Independent Home Learning

Worksheets are ideal for quick home learning activities. They give children the chance to apply their learning to different problems, and with fun visual elements, they can capture children’s attention and make home learning enjoyable.

And you don’t have to worry about worksheets requiring a lot of time on your part — they require minimal parental involvement, and your little ones can complete them while you work or go about household activities.

Many worksheets come with answers as well as activities, so older children can mark their own worksheets, or you can do the marking for them (without worrying about spending time working out answers yourself).

Activity Booklets for Academic Progression

Activity booklets like our maths reasoning booklets can keep children engaged for a longer period than single worksheets, or children can work their way through them over several days or weeks.

With more activities to complete, children can consolidate their understanding of concepts by tackling different problems and applying their knowledge and reasoning skills to different challenges. Many booklets also help children come to grips with new concepts or more challenging lessons by gradually increasing the difficulty of activities.

And with a booklet to progress through, this can give structure to a child’s home learning schedule. They can work towards the goal of correctly completing entire booklets, and benefit from a growing sense of achievement as they complete each activity.

Activity booklets also have the added advantage of making home lesson planning easier for you as one activity booklet can be used for several home-learning sessions.

You can access lots of activity booklets on Master the Curriculum and download, print or view them online. Or you can now purchase our activity booklets on Amazon.

Interactive Videos for Exciting, Hands-Free Learning

Most children love watching television or online videos, so interactive videos are a good option for certain subjects and can get children excited about learning. Videos can bring lessons to life, and help children learn while having fun. Fun characters become teachers for little ones, and educational challenges are visualised in creative contexts.

Children don’t need to sit and write — videos provide completely hands-free learning. Little ones can stand up, shout out answers to problems and some videos will even get children moving as well as learning.

Creative and Active Educational Activities to Keep Little Ones on Their Toes

Lots of learning activities involve sitting at a table or desk and writing or watching, but children need variation. A mixture of activities can boost their concentration and help them develop both cognitive and motor skills.

So some of the best home-learning resources are the most imaginative ones. For example, you could try out some of our active maths activities to get children up and moving, while also learning.

You could also plan creative activities, combining art or drama with education, in the form of painting, modelling, role play, even dancing! Don’t be afraid to mix it up and get inventive with your home-learning activities. Home learning during lockdown doesn’t have to take the same approach as formal education. You can get silly, and embrace weird and wonderful ideas. The main thing is that your children continue to learn and enjoy doing so. This might be a stressful time for them, so the last thing they need is for learning to feel like a chore.

Flashcards for Fun Educational Games

Flashcards are a popular type of resource for home-learning activities. Even before we all went into lockdown, flashcards were ideal resources for home learning. These little cards containing bitesize pieces of information can help children remember just about anything, from vocabulary and spelling to times tables and fractions.

There are lots of educational games that can be played using flashcards, such as charades, 20 Questions and more complex games. These are the perfect resources to help you get creative with your home-learning activities.

A COVID-19 Home Learning Schedule for Daily Routine

Most children are used to a rigid daily routine. During weekdays, children stick to school schedules. There are set times for the start and end of the day, and the duration of each lesson is carefully planned.
Children who aren’t attending school might be missing that structure and routine. A lack of routine can make children feel anxious and insecure, so if possible, introducing structure to their days in lockdown can help children stay happy and healthy.

We’ve created a COVID-19 home-learning schedule to reintroduce routine to children’s daily lives. This schedule can help your little ones stay engaged in education so that when schools reopen, they’re ready to jump back into full-time education, without any rocky transition period.

Feel free to view and print this home-learning schedule, or alter it if you like (we won’t be offended). For a high-quality, print version of this schedule, sign up for a free membership on our parents’ page, and we’ll send it straight to your inbox so you can print it.

Schedule for home schooling children

We hope that this article has given you some ideas of resources to use to help your children continue learning at home. You can find thousands of primary school maths resources right here at Master the Curriculum, so whether you’re looking for worksheets, interactive maths videos, activity booklets, or flashcards, we’ve got you covered. To start using our resources, sign up for a free or premium membership to unlock the resources you need. 

Coronavirus School Closures: The Effects of Missing Education

The Coronavirus outbreak has caused schools all over the world to shut their doors indefinitely. Over one billion children around the world are now missing out on education. It’s time we start to think about how this will affect children, and how we can reduce any negative effects that come from school closures.

Education is usually at the heart of childrens’ day-to-day lives and it’s hugely important for preparing children for later life. School helps children develop the social and cognitive skills they need in life to solve everyday problems, form relationships and navigate the working world.

So how are the coronavirus school closures going to affect children? Here are some of the effects that missing education can have, and how you can reduce the impact of school closures on children.

Children Won’t Progress at the Same Rate

One of the main purposes of education is to ensure all children develop the skills and abilities they’ll need in adulthood. These skills include social skills, the ability to solve problems, make calculations, read, write and understand different types of discourse. But with many children now out of school, they’re missing out on these valuable lessons.

While some parents will be able to homeschool children during lockdown, others may not have the time or resources to do so. As a result, children will progress at different rates. Some will fall behind while others will continue to learn in line with the national curriculum. This will leave some children at a disadvantage when the time comes to return to school and take assessments.

To help children continue developing vital skills, parents can encourage children to attend virtual lessons (if this is something their school is organising). There are also downloadable educational resources such as maths worksheets and reading activities, or online resources such as interactive videos. Many of these activities just need supervision — you won’t need to actively teach, you can just keep an eye on children while they work. If you work, you can encourage your children to complete these activities alongside you.

Missing Education Can Impact Children’s Mental Health

Dad talking to daughter on sofa

For many children, current events are stressful and upsetting. Their usual routine has been disrupted, and there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding when they will be able to return to school. This uncertainty can leave children feeling worried and insecure. 

Children may also miss their social life, as the lockdown is a drastic change from seeing their friends and classmates almost every day. This can affect children in different ways they may feel lonely, unmotivated, stressed or depressed. 

It may help to talk to children about what’s going in the world, explain the reason for the lockdown, and the importance of staying safe. Listening to, and acknowledging their thoughts, feelings and worries can also help children feel better about the situation. 

Parents can also encourage their children to stay in touch with their friends, other family members, and classmates using technology. There are video calling applications, messaging platforms, and online games that children can play together. 

School Closures Can Affect Children’s Nutrition 

School meals are designed to give children the nutrition they need, and some families rely on free school meals for their children. But with the coronavirus school closures, children are missing out not just on education, but potentially on nutritious and affordable lunches too. The World Food Programme estimated that around three hundred million primary school children who depend on free school lunches will miss out on them because of school closures. 

If children aren’t attending school and receiving these free meals, the need to buy more food for weekday lunches can place financial pressure on parents. Parents may also find it difficult to come up with lunch ideas that are affordable and nutritious. 

However, the government has launched a voucher scheme to help families who usually rely on free school meals. Schools can now provide every child who is eligible for free school meals with a £15 voucher every week to spend at supermarkets while schools are closed. 

You can also find several cheap and healthy lunch ideas for children on websites such as BBC Good Food and the NHS Change4Life website.

little girl smiling, eating healthy lunch

Children May Be Reluctant to Return to School 

Eventually, schools will open to all children again, and when they do many children may be reluctant to return. After many weeks, or potentially months off from school, getting children to return to 6-7 hour days of learning is likely to be a challenge. 

By encouraging children to continue engaging with education while in lockdown, you’ll make it easier for them to transition back to normal life when schools reopen. 

School Closures Will Affect Assessments 

Many children have upcoming exams and assessments that they’ve been preparing for. But SATs, GCSEs and A-Levels have all been cancelled. So for children who have been working towards achieving their best grades, this can be particularly disappointing. 

In some cases, grades will be awarded based on past and predicted performance, but this can be problematic as it doesn’t give students the chance to outperform expectations. There are also fears that cancelling exams will hit minority students and students from low-income families the hardest. 

A Professor from Birmingham University stated that: 

“There’s a lot of evidence to show that there are stereotypes around particular types of students, so their predicted grades are lower, and when they do the exam they do better than their predicted grade.”

So if you have children who are affected by cancelled GCSE or A-Level assessments, keep an eye on updates from Ofqual. You will get the chance to appeal predicted grades, and there are talks that students will be given the chance to sit exams later in the year. 

Primary school children may also feel stressed about missing their SATs. The KS2 SATs are used to set learning targets and target grades for secondary school. Without the chance to demonstrate how they’ve progressed through primary learning, children may worry about how this will impact their transition to secondary school. 

However, given that these really are unprecedented times, SATs are unlikely to influence secondary learning targets. Children may be retested when they join secondary school or learning targets may be based on performance during the start of secondary school. 

Children Are Missing End of Year Celebrations

School isn’t all work and no play. Children look forward to celebrations at the end of the year, but because of the coronavirus lockdown, these are unlikely to take place this year. 

Primary school students will miss end of year discos or parties, and Year 6 students will miss the chance to celebrate with their classmates before moving on to secondary school. Older students will miss events like prom and graduation. 

This can dampen children’s spirits, but you may be able to cheer them up with an at-home celebration. You may not be able to see other friends and family members, but you can mark the end of the school year by having a special day at home. You could cook your children’s favourite meals, bake a cake, or have a day of game-playing. 

Master the Curriculum is here to help parents and teachers minimise the negative effects of the coronavirus school closures. We have many free primary school learning resources that parents and teachers can use to encourage at-home learning. All of our resources are designed to make learning enjoyable, so that children really engage with education and have fun doing so. Sign up for a free membership to access our resources. 

An In-Depth Guide to Remote Teaching

The coronavirus pandemic has forced schools all over the world to close. And with no end in sight for the coronavirus school closures, parents, carers, teachers and children alike are worrying about how this is going to affect children’s education and academic success. 

Whether lockdown lasts for weeks or months, children are going to miss out on valuable education. So schools and teachers all over the world are coming up with creative ways to help children learn at home.  

We’ve teamed up with Tim Cameron-Kitchen, a remote working expert, to create an in-depth guide to remote teaching. Tim is the founder of a digital marketing company, Exposure Ninja, which is entirely remote. He has also recently launched a course to help businesses take their teams remote. So we’ve combined Tim’s remote working expertise with our vast teaching experience to create this in-depth remote teaching guide. 

In this guide, you’ll find remote teaching methods and tips to help you improve the distance learning experience for your students. 

How To Effectively Teach Remotely 

Teaching remotely is a new approach for many teachers. So if you’re not sure how to go about it, don’t panic, you’re definitely not alone. 

Thanks to technology, remote teaching and distance learning have never been more achievable. There are many tried and tested ways to keep in touch with students, set tasks and teach entire lessons using online resources and applications. 

Keep Your Classes Going with Virtual Classrooms

Virtual classrooms might sound like something from the future, but teachers around the world are already using them.  Using video conferencing applications or purpose-built virtual classroom software, you can deliver lessons in an online, interactive learning environment. 

Virtual classrooms offer a learning environment that’s as close to the normal classroom as we’re likely to get during this period of social distancing. With a virtual class schedule, children will have a routine to stick to while schools are closed.  

During virtual classes, you can interact with students using webcams and microphones, so students can still benefit from a personalised learning experience. You can also present materials during live classes, so you can still use resources such as presentation slides as teaching props. Some virtual classroom software even allows virtual classes to make use of a digital interactive whiteboard.

One thing to note with virtual classrooms though is they may not be suited to larger groups of students or younger children. I’m sure you can imagine that a virtual class with lots of little ones has the potential to spiral out of control quite quickly. 

Just as with any online teaching, Tim’s recommendation is to keep sessions fast-paced and cut out as much ‘fluff’ as you can. He added that “when we run an online training session, we imagine the students surrounded by bleeping devices trying to steal their attention. Our goal is to build the training to be engaging enough to keep them focused.”

Pre-Record Lessons for Children to Watch 

Sometimes, live lessons in virtual classrooms may not be possible. Certain children may not be able to attend, or virtual classes simply might not suit certain groups. So pre-recording lessons can be a good alternative to holding live online classes. 

With this method of remote teaching, you’ll need to prepare videos of yourself going through lessons. The recording should then be uploaded to e-learning portals or the school website so students can watch the lesson at a time that suits them. One of the main benefits of recorded lessons is students can refer back to them at any time. 

While there are already many preexisting videos of lessons online, you can offer your students personalised lessons. You have a better understanding of the children in your class and their academic progress than anyone else. You’ll know what lessons they’ve covered in the school year so far, and you’ll know exactly where you were before schools closed. So when recording lessons, you can pick up where you left off. 

Students may also prefer lessons and advice from their own teacher. Knowing information has come from you, their teacher can reassure students that they’re learning the right things and progressing at the same rate as their classmates.

Assign Home Learning Tasks and Projects

Even if you’re holding live lessons and communicating with students regularly, most of their learning tasks will need to be carried out independently at home. So a big part of remote teaching is setting home learning tasks and projects. 

You’ll need to think about what sort of activities children can complete in their home to practise the skills they’ve learned in lessons. Ideally, projects should be indoor activities that require minimal resources and parent involvement. The last thing you want to do is burden parents with projects at an already stressful time. 

Once you’ve decided on projects and home learning tasks, you’ll need to create clear instructions. Children need to know how to complete tasks, how much time they should spend on each one, and when the completed project is due. 

You can share assignments, tasks and resources over email, or you can use web applications such as Google Classroom. Google Classroom is a great way to bring your class together. You can use it to keep in touch with students, share resources, assign tasks, and students can collaborate on projects. 

After tasks are finished, you should review students’ work and give them feedback on what they did well and how they can improve. If any students do exceptionally well, you could share their work with the class (with their permission), or give them a shout out in your next lesson. Feedback and recognition of hard work can help students stay motivated to learn. 

Hold Virtual Office Hours 

Naturally, students and parents might want to get in touch outside of virtual lessons. They may have questions about home learning tasks and assignments, or they may be looking for advice or feedback. Think about how many questions your students ask you on a normal school day — they’re likely to have just as many, if not more questions while distance learning. 

A good way to make sure students and parents get the help or support they need is to offer virtual office hours. Allocate one to two hours each day to communicate with your students and make students and parents aware of these “office hours”. 

You could decide to hold your office hours using a video-conferencing application, or you may simply make yourself available to respond to emails or phone calls. Just knowing you’re available if need be can help students feel better about home learning. 

Remote Teaching Tips to Improve Distance Learning

Remote teaching methods can take some getting used to — teachers and students alike are still learning the ropes. But here are some handy tips to help you perfect your remote teaching skills and improve the distance learning experience for your students. 

Consider the Risks Involved in Remote Teaching 

Before you start teaching remotely, take some time to consider the risks involved and how you can protect yourself and your students from these risks. For example, many remote teaching methods rely on online applications or software, so you’ll need to think about online safety and cybersecurity. And if you have the contact details for students or parents, you’ll also need to consider data protection. 

Lesson Preparation Has Never Been More Important 

Teaching remotely leaves no room for improvisation. You need to plan lessons carefully, so they’re interesting, engaging and helpful to students. Daily, weekly and monthly lesson plans should also follow a clear structure and have clear learning objectives so children can see a natural progression to what they are learning. 

Lesson preparation also involves making sure you have the right equipment for remote teaching. For example, you may need a computer with a working webcam and microphone, and any teaching resources you need during lessons should be easy to access and quickly pull up. 

If you’re looking for more resources to include in your lessons or assign as home learning tasks, check out our range of primary math resources. Our collection of resources includes maths worksheets, teaching slides, interactive videos and more. And many of our resources are completely free.

Make Sure Your Background Is Appropriate When on Camera 

Whenever you’re conducting a live class or recording a lesson, your students can see not only you but whatever’s in the background as well. So before appearing on camera, take some time to create a teaching zone in your home. 

Make sure there’s nothing personal or offensive in your background. Positioning yourself in front of a relatively plain background can also help students stay focused on your lessons. If there are too many distractions in the background, you may find your students’ attention starts to wander. 

If you have the time and space, you may even decide to put up educational posters on the wall in your teaching zone. You could also tactically place classroom items like books, pencils or a whiteboard to create an educational setting.

Another top tip from Tim is that “using an application like Skype or Zoom, which has a background blurring or background replacement feature can be really useful here. It makes your video look more professional and less distracting to students that just can’t help having a nosey around your home office or kitchen.” 

Consider How Children Will Access Lessons 

Many remote teaching methods rely on children having access to technology and the internet. But some children from low-income families don’t have access to the necessary devices or internet at home. And with libraries and museums closed, students can’t use public facilities. 

There are ways to help children access technology, but they aren’t always possible. Some schools may be able to provide students with laptops to use during this period of home learning, but other schools simply won’t have the funding or resources to do so. There is also a call for internet providers to offer free internet access, so children can continue learning from home. But so far, they haven’t been too keen on the idea. 

So if you have children in your class who can’t access online lessons and learning resources, you should consider offering both low-tech and high-tech learning experiences. 

Encourage Communication between Students 

Students of all ages are used to seeing their classmates every day. But with everyone in lockdown, students are likely to feel quite isolated and social distancing can affect young people’s mental health and wellbeing. 

Encouraging students to communicate with each other and maintain friendships can prevent them from feeling lonely. Setting collaborative assignments that require students to work together is a great way to make sure they stay in touch and check in on each other. 

Make Sure Lessons Are Engaging

Students may be reluctant to learn during the lockdown, especially as they’re spending all of their time at home, a place they usually associate with downtime. So remote teaching should focus on keeping children engaged in education.

Think about ways to keep lessons fun and fresh and keep students on their toes. Inject your personality into your virtual lessons and throw in unexpected challenges for children to complete at home. It can feel a little strange trying to be energetic and fun in front of a camera, but the more you practise, the more natural it will feel. And your students will appreciate the effort. 

Another way you keep children engaged in education and excited to learn is to embrace free-choice learning. Give students a say in what they study and how they learn. You could set projects that children work on individually, and give them the chance to choose a focus they’re passionate about. Or you could create a poll and get all of the children in your class to vote on which lesson or project they tackle next. 

Master the Curriculum is here to help both teachers and parents during these difficult times. We’re not going to let the coronavirus stand between children and the education they deserve. So we’re doing our best to create a variety of remote teaching and home learning resources. Many of our primary maths resources are available free of charge, but you can also unlock all of our teaching materials for just £49 per year.