Three tips from the Turnaround for Children Toolbox to welcome students back with rich opportunities for connection and agency.

Turnaround for Children: Learning Is Integrated

The Science Tells Us: Learning Is Integrated

As talk of academic recovery permeates the educational landscape, along with concerns over the impacts of lost in-person classroom instruction, we can turn to the science for guidance on what is needed most now, and what the science tells us is clear: Learning is integrated, structurally and functionally. No part of the brain develops in isolation, meaning that there aren’t separate “academic” or “social and emotional” parts of the brain. So, if we focus exclusively on academics and interventions to address, for one example, the concept of “learning loss,” we miss the real opportunity to engage students in their learning and at worst, may reproduce inequities by labeling and stigmatizing students due to perceived deficits. Instead, we want to invite students back into shared spaces with rich opportunities for connection and agency that ignite the brain and accelerate learning. Next, we will share some tips for getting started.

Three tips to welcome students back with rich opportunities for connection and agency — 1) Let student voice drive the discussion 2) Build a relationship-rich classroom 3) Find opportunities for holistic skill development
Three tips to welcome students back with rich opportunities for connection and agency — 1) Let student voice drive the discussion 2) Build a relationship-rich classroom 3) Find opportunities for holistic skill development

Tip 1: Let student voice drive the discussion

Acknowledging the integrated nature of learning in schools means working to intentionally counter the very real impacts of stress on the child as a learner. Stress, dysregulation and excessive cognitive load can be a result of environments that are are unpredictable, unwelcoming or overwhelming. As we transition into new in-person learning environments, creating contexts that are physically, emotionally and identity safe and that create a strong sense of belonging are essential foundations for learning. The Norms and Expectations Planner from the Turnaround for Children Toolbox can support you to bring students into the construction of a classroom environment in an inclusive way that best supports their holistic needs.

Tip 2: Build a relationship-rich classroom

One of the most powerful levers for redesign is the human relationship. Relationships are central to enabling children and young people to manage stress and ignite learning, and thus must be a focal point of the “back-to-school” transition. Just as we plan for content areas and classroom procedures, making a commitment to better get to know students as individuals; attuning to their needs; and providing the supports they need to grow are all ways for educators to honor the integrated nature of learning. Through relational practice shifts, we can learn to personalize rather than problematize. To learn more about the characteristics of developmental relationships and how they can be supported in your classroom, check out the Scenario Analysis reflection tool from our Toolbox.

Tip 3: Find opportunities for holistic skill development

The science of learning and development tells us that students need opportunities to learn and practice skills, in authentic contexts, while they are calm and relaxed. Skills such as self-regulation, executive functions and stress management show up across everything we do. Turnaround’s Integrated Skills Planner can help you find ways to incorporate holistic skills development into existing classroom structures, academic content and special events or activities (such as field trips or a presentation).

Turnaround connects the dots between science, adversity and school performance to catalyze student development and academic achievement. www.turnaroundusa.org

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