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November 16, 2020

The “Jolabokaflod” described in Creative Program Ideas is one culture’s clear celebration of literacy and the sheer enjoyment that reading books can bring young and old people alike. While settling in with a good book may seem an impossible time luxury for some 21st CCLC families, helping students make reading a habit for life can be achieved in small, manageable bits. Explore these ideas for sharing the gift of reading with students, and maybe even instilling a holiday association with books.

Be together in literacy — even if you’re completely virtual right now — by conducting a virtual literacy focus group. School-day staff, families and older students can and should give voice to the kinds of literacy activities that will be most engaging. Remember that you can customize this tool and offer different types of activities that are screen-friendly, such as reading aloud favorite stories, or perhaps presenting a virtual play. Don’t let those Halloween costumes collect dust! Students can rummage around at home for something unique to wear on-screen to “dress up” your activities. See Y4Y’s tools for Interactive Read Alouds and Reader’s Theater for more tips.

With or without regular access to a literacy expert, it’s good to arm staff with some basic tools to help students select reading material. Remember that age doesn’t necessarily define where a student is in his or her reading development. Check out Y4Y’s Developmental Stages of Reading tool, and be sure to share it with frontline staff. Does your program have a library of donated books? Consider partnering with a school in a privileged district or a local library to beef up your collection. Then, be sure to group books by reading level. These groupings should be a guide but not a fast rule for students when they are choosing a book. Some students will be motivated by a “reach read” and others might be discouraged, so offer selection support accordingly. Check out Y4Y’s More Literacy Activities tool for additional ideas, including the five finger model to finding a “just right” book.

Kick it old school with Literacy Book Clubs, whether virtual or in person. Right on down to your youngest students, it doesn’t get more together than reading the same book and sharing thoughts and views. Throw in some silly questions among the serious ones to really engage your club members, like, “What do you suppose that puzzle piece Curious George swallowed tasted like? Is THAT why he ate it?” If you have a full group of students who celebrate Christmas, by all means, capitalize on the season. You can surely reach every reader with titles like Construction Site on Christmas Night, The Christmasaurus, or Dear Santa, I Know it Looks Bad But It Wasn’t My Fault. Ask students from other faith backgrounds to share their traditional holiday books.

Finally, as your district offers professional development days around this time of year, be sure to make the most of the time with colleagues. Y4Y’s literacy course offers nine different training tools, starting with the Four Components of Literacy Training to Go, up to the Engaging Families in Literacy Activities Training to Go. Remember, these PowerPoint presentations are downloadable, customizable, and lend themselves well to online platforms for virtual training.

Reading is one of those rare treasures in life that can be shaped however we’d like. While it is the perfect activity for a student who likes to escape into a private world of fantasy, it’s just as well suited to those of us who would rather be together in literacy.

 



October 21, 2020

Y4Y’s new course on supporting English learners provides 21st CCLC programs with a roadmap for helping students succeed when their first language isn’t English. That includes helping newcomers to this country adapt to their new environment while honoring the languages and cultures they’ve brought with them. Instructional strategies and family engagement challenges set this population apart, but with Y4Y’s design and implementation ideas, you’re sure to foster togetherness among all your students. Host Katarina will guide you through a rich, colorful experience at the CultureFest, where the celebration of togetherness is vivid.

Tip: You need to be logged in to the You for Youth (Y4Y) portal in order to save course progress and receive certificates of completion. You might see a pop-up reminding you to log in or sign up. If you want to explore the course without tracking your progress, select “cancel” to dismiss the reminder.

If you complete the course introduction, you’ll take away knowledge on the four types of English learners (ELs) you’re likely to encounter in your program, the history of supporting these students, the overall benefits to your program and ways to incorporate supportive instruction. The introduction also walks you through planning for an impactful experience. You’ll examine ways to assess ELs’ needs and strengths, identify steps for designing and implementing activities that meet diverse EL language levels among EL students and families, and describe the basics for creating safe and language-rich environments that value the diverse cultures and languages of your ELs. You’ll get a Basic Level certificate when you complete this section of the course.

Want to take a deeper dive and earn an Advanced Level certificate? Move ahead to the Implementation Strategies portion of the course, where you’ll develop strategies to

  • Build your EL foundation
  • Build your EL program design team
  • Conduct an EL needs assessment of your community
  • Develop EL SMART goals for your program
  • Map your EL program and community assets
  • Consider logistics around your EL implementation
  • Intentionally design activities that address your EL SMART goals
  • Intentionally recruit students, based on your EL needs assessment of your community
  • Recruit and train high-quality staff, with a particular focus on multilingual and multicultural appreciation and knowledge
  • Engage families who may have barriers to participation
  • Implement all these steps with fidelity
  • Celebrate your achievements in supporting ELs

Looking to provide professional development on supporting ELs? You can get a Leadership Level certificate by completing the Coaching My Staff portion of the course. Investigate how your program’s collective efforts in gathering data, incorporating the proven strategy for ELs of total physical response, and building vocabularies will build comfort and confidence in your students. Work with staff to create your professional learning plan, assess the needs of your ELs, create a safe learning environment, build their background knowledge and academic vocabulary, and review coaching/learning tips to ensuring success with supporting ELs.

As with every Y4Y course, you can download many helpful tools and customize them to meet the unique needs of your staff and students. These tools range from Marzano’s Six Steps for Vocabulary Instruction to a Home Language Survey to help you home in on the specific needs of your community to a Supporting English Learners Intentional Activity Design Planner. You can also download four separate Trainings To Go for your staff, starting with Creating a Safe Learning Environment for English Learners.

There is so much more that unites us than divides us. With help from Y4Y, your efforts to support English learners will unite students and staff in a new togetherness that honors differences while moving everyone toward a common goal: reaching our full potential.

 



October 1, 2020

Students with disabilities may face unique learning challenges during school closures or conversion to virtual programming. A recent webinar from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) shines a bright light on Resources and Practices to Support Back to School and Continuity of Learning for Children With Disabilities. While these resources are directed at school-day educators, 21st CCLC programs might find them useful — especially those on supporting families of students with disabilities. No time to watch the archived webinar? Y4Y has you covered! Here are some highlights:

Consider sharing with families the CEEDAR Center’s Virtual Toolkit and Family Guide to At-Home Learning, available in English and Spanish. The center recommends six strategies for helping students of all ages who struggle with at-home learning: model, provide clear directions, provide support, help the student stay on task, give specific feedback and use goal setting. The family guide has helpful tools and examples for each strategy.

The High-Leverage Practices in Special Education website shares best practices for addressing student behaviors in face-to-face, online and hybrid environments. High-leverage practices are those that are foundational to effective teaching and can be used regularly with students of all ages and abilities. These practices are intended to complement, not replace, data-driven interventions. The site includes unedited clips of teachers implementing “R.U. Asking” (a problem-solving strategy) and including checks for understanding and opportunities to respond throughout instructional time to keep students engaged.

In the OSEP webinar, University of Northern Colorado professor Todd Sundeen addresses concerns affecting educators with limited access to educational technology in rural communities, which represent one in nine U.S. students. He tells about families taking extreme measures like sitting in their cars in school parking lots to access the building’s broadband internet for their children. He advocates collaborating with parents to ensure they’re included in all conversations, following up with students who aren’t participating virtually, providing parents with learning opportunities on how to best support their children’s learning, and making sure that funding structures provide full access to technology and adequate internet access.

The National Center on Improving Literacy offers evidence-based strategies for serving students with literacy-related disabilities, who are more likely than their peers without disabilities to regress during distance learning. The center advocates explicit and systematic instruction focused on the five “big ideas” of reading: phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Recommendations include providing students with disabilities with additional intervention time, using small-group or one-to-one intervention three to five times a week, and following academic intervention charts from the National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII). You can access implementation toolkits, ask-an-expert and other resources through the center’s website. Be sure to check out Kid Zone, a source of online literacy games and activities for students who need intensive literacy intervention.

Karen Erickson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill addresses remotely serving students who are medically vulnerable and/or have complex disabilities. Some of these students may be physically unable to interact with technology or have other barriers to engaging for necessary lengths of time. As a result, family engagement and support among each other has become essential in the virtual environment. Teaching assistants grew into new supportive roles, such as preparing students for their day with short recorded videos. Ms. Erickson says strategies at Project Core have been invaluable to families helping their children navigate new formats for learning. She also points to Tarheel Reader and Shared Reader as helpful resources for reading. Above all, she says, focus on routine. Be flexible and responsive, and share resources generously with families.

A new guide is available from the Center on Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS). Returning to School During and After Crisis describes how a multi-tiered systems of support framework can support students, families and educators during transitions back to school. The center urges educators to focus on the basics — the smallest number of things you can do well to support student learning. Your connecting, screening, supporting, teaching and monitoring should work to creative a positive, predictable and safe learning environment that fosters students’ social, emotional, behavioral and academic growth. The segment of the webinar that discusses this guide features New Jersey’s PBIS implementation efforts.

The National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII) presents a process of intensive intervention that’s based on experimental teaching. It integrates data-based decision making across academics and social behaviors. NCII focuses on explicit instruction (I do, we do, you do) sequencing, progress monitoring and collaboration. Visit the center’s website for videos and webinars from educators implementing these practices remotely.

Lynn Fuchs of Vanderbilt University reinforces the importance of explicit instruction for students with disabilities, offering an eight-step method for online teaching strategies. Packaged explicit instruction interventions are available at the Vanderbilt University website. Similar resources are also available at the NCII website to address the performance gaps that students with disabilities are likely to experience in a virtual environment.

The state of Michigan, in recognition of the avalanche of information and resources directed at educators attempting to navigate during the pandemic, offers a simple guiding philosophy: Focus on routines. Teaching and using routines, both social and academic, has been shown to foster a positive climate and increase student success. These routines become even more powerful in a climate of uncertainty such as now, as they provide a safe, predictable and supportive environment where students know what it takes to be successful and can develop the skills to be so. Michigan makes sure the resources shared with special educators reflect this spirit of simplicity. The resources for teams may have the greatest relevance to 21st CCLC programs.

Lise Fox of the National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations offers insight into resources for early education professionals and families. You might want to share these resources with families who have preschool-age children. The center emphasizes social and emotional wellness for students, families and staff.

The OSEP webinar concludes with a panel discussion featuring three professionals who offer their experience and advice on implementing successful re-opening strategies for students with disabilities. The panelists reinforce the value of communicating with families. Nobody should have to stumble around in the dark, trying to find their way through such uncertain times, least of all students with disabilities. Feel free to forward this post to others who might find this information useful!

 



October 1, 2020

Like so many people around the world, your program staff may be looking for ways to make the most of social distancing. Citizen science has enjoyed a tremendous uptick as people turn to the outdoors for many more types of experiences. Citizen science is an exciting addition to STEM programming, but where should you begin? Review the basics of Y4Y’s Citizen Science course to make the right project choices and fit them into your program schedule. Armed with a list of criteria that matter to you, you can make a SMART perusal of reputable online resources.

As time permits, you and your staff can mine other Y4Y citizen science tools to make the most of your program’s offerings.

Not sure where to start your project hunt? In 2016, Y4Y compiled an annotated list of citizen science resources, and many are still active. Here are some other projects that are hot today:

  • The Cornell Lab of Ornithology notes that through its eBird webpage, “your sightings contribute to hundreds of conservation decisions and peer-reviewed papers, thousands of student projects and help inform bird research worldwide.”
  • NestWatch, also hosted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “is a nationwide nest-monitoring program designed to track status and trends in the reproductive biology of birds. Participating in NestWatch is easy and anyone can do it.”
  • SciStarter is a clearinghouse of “science we can do together.” To locate the perfect project, visit its Project Finder, enter a word or phrase in the Search box, and include your location, the kinds of environments available to you, and the age group of your scientists.
  • National Geographic’s iNaturalist webpage “helps you identify the plants and animals around you. Get connected with a community of over a million scientists and naturalists who can help you learn more about nature! What’s more, by recording and sharing your observations, you’ll create research quality data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature.”

Remember, citizen science does more than expose your students to STEM activities. Young people get to experience firsthand what it’s like to “act locally and think globally” as they contribute to national or international projects to help achieve a greater goal. Citizen science reinforces the notion that we are citizens not just of our city or town, but of the planet.

 



October 1, 2020

A creative way to get students excited about literacy is to get them excited about words. A new word can be like a smooth rock you’ve found while walking along a stream: You turn it over in your hand, get to know its surface, and put it in your pocket where you keep coming back to it through the day, reminding yourself of its existence and thinking about what you might do with it. Bring literacy to light in your 21st CCLC program with these fun ideas to get students forming their own collection of words.

  • The “Hello Kitty” phenomenon drove home just how enchanted adults and children alike can be by small packages. Gift each student with a tiny notebook and pencil like you might find at any dollar store, and urge them to carry their “word treasury” in their pocket like they might that special stone.
  • Brainstorm together where and when students might hear a new word. You can make it a friendly contest to see if students can “find” a word that nobody in the program has heard before. No cheating! It has to be in the dictionary.
  • Speaking of the dictionary, Merriam-Webster has a new online feature called “Time Traveler” that allows users to enter a year and discover all the words that were first documented that year. Your students might not even realize that until 2007, “ginormous” wasn’t a word, but a combination of “gigantic” and “enormous” introduced in the beloved holiday film Elf. This feature alone could provide hours of fun!
  • Check out the Frayer chart in Y4Y’s literacy course to take your word mining to the next level. Students will get to know their new treasure word by learning its definition and characteristics and examples.
  • Remember that half the value is in the fun. So much about 21st CCLC programs is about forming new habits and perspectives that can last a lifetime. By instituting the practice of treating new words as gems, you’re building curious minds and lifelong readers. The more you concentrate on the game of it, the more buy-in you’ll get.

Be sure to check out Y4Y’s Literacy course for more tips on implementing literacy into your program, along with tools to help with activities and family events. Literacy is the key to so much in life. Bringing it to light opens endless opportunities for your students.