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The impact of in-person learning on social, communication skills in young students

Dr. Lindsay Geier said skills like sharing and conflict resolution can be learned in the classroom
In-person learning in young students can help with the development of communication and social...
In-person learning in young students can help with the development of communication and social skills, according to Dr. Lindsay Geier.(NBC15)
Published: Mar. 3, 2021 at 6:00 AM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - On Tues., March 8, the Madison Metropolitan School District will be welcoming kindergartners into classrooms for in-person learning.  According to a local doctor, in-person learning has an impact beyond academics.

Lindsay Geier, a doctor at SSM Health, Monroe Clinic, said she is excited for these young learners to get back to the classroom.

“We know for these young children, especially our kids in 4K and kindergarten, even first and second graders, that it serves a very important opportunity to learn how to socialize within the construct of a school community,” Geier said. “We know that a lot of this primary socialization takes place this early on in life when kids are learning to be part of their family group, but at some point, preschool or kindergarten, it’s very important how to function with others in the community.”

According to the “Reopening Plan” web page on the MMSD website, kindergartners will return to in-person learning on March 9, followed by grades one and two on the 16th, and 4K on the 23rd. According to the plan, virtual learning will still be available.

“Usually 4K or kindergarten for many children kind of serves as that opportunity to help them learn really basic social communication skills,” Geier said. “For instance, how to share, how to resolve conflict with someone outside of your family. Really simple things like how to follow the instructions from someone who’s not your parent, learning how to share teachers’ attention in the classroom, raising your hand - all these really common kind of basic things that these kids have missed out on just over the past year.”

In addition to those kills, Geier also said in-person learning will allow students the opportunity to interact with others and form friendships.

Geier, who works at a clinic in Green County, sees students who have been attending school both in-person and entirely virtually, and said she can tell the difference.

“We’re seeing a little bit more anxiety in the children who have not been able to go to school,” she said. “We’re getting a lot of concerns from parents about the quality of their learning, and we’ve had more concerns about ADHD than ever, I think parents are concerned about their children’s ability to pay attention while looking at a screen all day with the distraction that the home environment provides.”

With the transition into the classroom, Geier said students and parents may be feeling some trepidation about navigating the change. She said it’s important that parents set the tone by staying positive and hopeful in order to prevent any of their personal anxieties from rubbing off on their child.

“A parent being very positive about the experience, not asking them what are you most nervous about to go back to school, but for instance, what are you most looking forward to to go back to school,” she said.

Additionally, she said setting a routine and having some structure can help with the transition. Geier also noted the importance of having conversations with your students about what to expect, and validating your student’s feelings.

“It’s going be helpful for them to help their kids understand what school is going to look like this year,” she said. “It’s not going to be like anything they’re used to. So preparing kids that ‘hey, everybody’s going to be in masks, you’re going to be socially distanced, you may not be singing in music class, lunch, recess, everything is going to look very different.’”

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