Losing classroom momentum

March 08, 1994

During the past two months of blizzards, ice storms and generally foul winter weather, Carroll's school children have had only one week of uninterrupted classes. This adverse weather has played havoc with the school calendar, as most Carroll parents well know. The closings have forced the system's school administrators -- barring any future ice storm or blizzard -- to extend the school year into the last week of June. Less noticed, however, is the devasting impact of the weather on the rhythm of learning in the classrooms.

Since Christmas, there has been no such thing as a regular week. Most students have been unable to settle into a learning "groove." Instead, each week school children feel as though they are returning from vacation.

Classes and instructional hours are designed to help teachers disseminate a great deal of information and instruction to their pupils. The schedules also presume that one day's lesson will be followed up the next day. When days are lost to weather or when the school day starts two hours late, the daily schedules and lesson plans are turned upside down. Normal learning patterns take a beating.

Repetition and reinforcement of skills and concepts are important ingredients in learning, but teachers are finding that they are slogging through the same limited material over and over again this winter. With truncated school weeks, teachers have to return to topics discussed days earlier to refresh the students' memories. In some cases, projects that were supposed to take two weeks have stretched into three or four.

Moreover, the snow- and ice-covered playgrounds mean that elementary students don't get all-important recess, the chance to play dodge ball, jump rope, play tag and release pent-up energy out of doors. Even if the school is able to schedule some play activity during the recess period, most of the students don't get to exercise their large muscles. As a result, they are often bursting with energy and more jumpy in class. Teachers have found that getting students to settle down has been more difficult than usual.

With the weather improving, the prospect for weeks of uninterrupted instruction looks good. Teachers and students should be able to regain that needed momentum in the classroom that has been as absent as a warm day this winter.

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