Professional Development

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12 Tips for Integrating Academic Enrichment Into Your Afterschool Program

Thursday, 20 March 2014 00:00

I have been working with out-of-school time across the country for over 15 years now, and these tips are based on practices that I have seen work. Most of them are built on things that I have seen and learned from the field. Take a look! You might already be doing some of them or this may be a new way of looking at how you work with kids. I hope you enjoy.

1. Meet with your school(s) to find out what areas to focus on, where kids need more time, and how you can work together to align with the Common Core State Standards.

2. Explore existing interests. Poll your children to learn what they are interested in and consider ways to use academic enrichment to focus on these areas. For example, if children show an interest in animals consider children’s literature or reference materials about animals that will pique their interest and facilitate conversations. Ask open-ended questions that require students to discuss the text. You will find that children can learn about what they are interested in while building comprehension and vocabulary.

3. Allow leaders some choice in what areas of academic enrichment they facilitate so they bring their own interest into afterschool. For example, some leaders might not feel comfortable doing a read aloud, but might be artistic or musical.

4. Make it playful. Choose activities are that are fun, engaging, and hands-on. Afterschool should not feel like more school.

5. Timing is everything. Think about your schedule. If children have choice make sure that the offerings are equal. For example, don’t offer basketball and literacy at the same time.

6. Give lead-time to leaders. Give your staff time to think about and prep for what they are going to do with children. Staff benefit greatly from support. Taking time to prepare will help to ensure success.

7. Involve parents and the community. If there is an opportunity to take a field trip or have a visitor come in to talk about a related topic children will be more engaged and more likely to own their learning.

8. Mix it up! Encourage children to work together with multiple age levels. For example, have one age group of kids learn about a topic and give them time to teach another age group in partners or groups.

9. Facilitate more. Talk less. Give kids lots of time to talk to each other about what they are learning. Work on being a “guide on the side” and let the children do the majority of talking and thinking.

10. Put a fresh spin on your existing routine. Look at what you are already doing and think about ways to involve academic enrichment. For example, can the kids play a role in snack by dividing it and/or planning how to serve it?

11. Allow for a learning curve. Embrace that you don’t have to know everything. If you don’t know the answer to a question work together to figure out how to learn about it.

12. Share what excites you. Show your own excitement about what you are sharing with the kids and chances are they will join you!

By: Megan Green, Manager of After-school Programs, Developmental Studies Center

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