Strategies to Reinforce Learning

Strategies to Reinforce Learning
books for education

How can you reteach or preteach topics during school breaks?

Summer is a great time for parents or tutors to reinforce learning when there’s less academic stress or pressures of homework. I have 4 strategies that work across all grade levels and all abilities of learning. 

Teaching vocabulary – Reinforce the vocabulary and languages of the standards. Review vocabulary from the past year or get a jump start on the upcoming year. If the student cannot understand the big words in the test or assignment question being asked then they probably cannot answer the question very well. If they KNOW what the question is asking, it will be a better test of their knowledge. Struggling students will learn so much of the lesson through just the key vocabulary. If the unit does not come with a list of vocabulary words and definitions, try googling a vocab list for that topic. Chances are they are pretty available. Print a copy of the words and definitions. Print a second copy and cut it apart. Have the students match words and definitions even if you need to limit it to sets of 2 or 3. Build confidence by starting at their independent level before moving to their instructional level – that level that stretches them. Gradually you may be able to add more word choices to the mix. Or sometimes I call out the definition and the student has a word box to look at to choose the answer from if needed. Or write them all on a whiteboard and toss a tennis ball at the correct answer. Or tape them to piano keys. Or write them on the driveway in chalk. Summer is a great time to review the past year’s unit vocabulary or to preteach vocabulary for the upcoming year. Want more tips for teaching vocabulary? Enroll in my “Teach Vocabulary Workshop” perfect for parent and tutors and read this blog post about the importance of learning vocabulary.

Meet them where they are at. If you have a penguin obsessed student, change every math story problem to be about penguins. I did that for two whole years with a tutoring client. I literally crossed off things on worksheets or wrote problems on whiteboards about penguins. We got lots of math done and joy in learning was evident. Summer is a great time to practice math word problems no matter what grade level your child is at. Rewrite story problems from past worksheets to review the content, but add personal names or penguins to the problems. What would motivate your child to engage in a math story problem?

Reading something that’s helpful or relevant to them (driver’s manual, preread a book for school, book on a favorite topic, short stories). The majority of what we read as adults in our daily lives is nonfiction. Cater to that. If they have to read for 20 minutes a day, let them read through the manual for their new electric scooter and highlight things that might be helpful. Have them read menu for a take out restaurant and help place the family order. Reading aloud a chapter book at dinner or bedtime can be a huge way to reinforce learning. So much academic skills can be casually taught through a book and discussion. Tutors can have students read aloud a chapter of a book and easily come up with comprehension questions while the student is reading. That leads us to my last tip.

Ask questions. Ask open ended questions that encourage critical thinking and help make connections. Instead of asking who the main character in a book is, ask them how they are like the main character. Now they have to think what the main character is like AND how they are like that character. Even when they answer “I’m not like them at all!” means they have started thinking about it. The answers matter less than the critical thinking and confidence that they produce. I’ve got some more resources on my tutoring website that listeners can access if they want resources for asking intentional questions or boosting critical thinking. 

Roll these tips all into one and ask good questions at the dinner table to engage your kids in relevant topics on their interest levels while using topic specific vocabulary. Read books to research the topics of interest some more. Summer is a great time for parents or tutors to meet kids where they are at (academically and topically) and reinforce learning. 


Check out my free workshop for tutors on how to design session plans.


Want more ways to engage students, particularily those with brain based differences? Check out this podcast where I am interviewed on this topic.

Table Talk: How do you engage kids in meaningful learning during the summer? What is one question you can ask no matter what book your child is reading?

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