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March 18, 2020

Literacy is an area where your 21st CCLC program can dramatically enrich and improve the lives of your students. But where in the world is the professional learning to help you achieve your goals? Look no further! Y4Y has updated its Literacy course, with four objectives in mind: assess students’ literacy needs, design and facilitate literacy activities that align with those needs, use strategies to increase the time students spend reading and writing after the school day, and implement literacy activities with fidelity. Join the course tour guide, Will, as each of 11 key strategies will take you to a different country throughout this travel-themed course. Buckle up for an engaging trip around the world!

How might key strategies look when literacy is your focus?

  • To start, your literacy program team may include some new members, such as a librarian from your public library and reading specialist.
  • Qualitative data will be as important to your needs assessments as quantitative data, since qualitative data gives people room to communicate freely and add details.
  • Partnership assets may not be dramatically different through the literacy lens. On the contrary, you might discover some of your best partners already have literacy initiatives in place that you can tap into, such as book giveaways or English as a Second Language (ESL) volunteer tutoring programs.
  • Bear in mind that SMART goals will have to be set for the program level and for activities.
  • Just like partnerships, logistics may not change dramatically when literacy is at the heart of your planning, but here again, there may be space or budgeting opportunities and challenges that are unique to your literacy activities.
  • Intentional design of literacy activities will take into account the amount of enrichment versus intervention that may be called, for based on your student-level data.
  • Recruitment of students should involve general outreach to the community. Also, asking for referrals and good advertising from school-day educators will be crucial.
  • Whether your current staff has strong literacy skills, or you’re poised to hire new staff or you’re looking for other stakeholders to fill gaps, strong literacy skills (and the ability to teach those skills) are desirable as you’re choosing adults to interact with your students.
  • Consider the possible challenges around adult literacy when it comes to your family engagement efforts.
  • Helping your students understand the rubric used to measure their literacy progress is an important step in implementing with fidelity. Unlike math, where an answer is either right or wrong, literacy skills can seem mysterious to students. There can be multiple ways to write a good (or bad) paragraph, for example. Providing a rubric with clear measures can remove some of the mystery (and anxiety) for students.
  • When your organization is mindful of these steps in literacy programming, success is the final stop in your literacy tour. That means it’s time to celebrate!

Enjoy your worldwide tour of all four components of literacy — reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Your specific literacy activities might be developed around any or all of these components. Whatever you decide, the Y4Y Literacy course offers course tools to help you address student needs. Explore them all! Program directors and site coordinators are also encouraged to check out the Coaching My Staff section of the course.

The Y4Y Literacy course, like a good book, can be like a worldwide adventure. Be sure your passport is up-to-date, and let Y4Y help you explore the world of literacy so you can bring the very best ideas home to your students.



February 13, 2020

Bad weather is sometimes unpredictable and always out of our control. Cultures that have developed around some of the harshest weather conditions just lean into the storm with good preparation like dry clothes, an emergency kit and a strategic plan. Similarly, people can navigate life’s storms successfully by preparing socially and emotionally. That way, they’re ready to act and respond wisely when difficulties arise — and they always do! Your 21st CCLC program can use social and emotional learning strategies to help students develop this kind of “storm readiness.”

The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has done a great deal of research and development in social and emotional learning. Here’s the definition CASEL uses:

“Social and emotional learning is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

Y4Y’s new Social and Emotional Learning course spotlights five areas for personal growth identified by CASEL:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship management
  • Responsible decision making

People sometimes say these are “soft skills,” which can make them sound unimportant or unnecessary. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Our ability to navigate emotions and relationships greatly affects how and what we learn, in school and beyond. Social and emotional skills are life skills. So, when you model and teach these skills to students, you’re helping them prepare for success throughout their lives.

Not convinced? Think back on your own experiences in school:

  • Remember your favorite teacher, coach or counselor? Why is that person your favorite? It’s probably not just because you loved math or were really good at soccer. Your personal relationship with this adult made you more interested in learning what he or she had to teach you.
  • Consider a time when you were anxious about a test, felt intimidated by a teacher or had trouble with a classmate. This likely kept you from doing your best. You may even have developed long-term anxiety about test taking, a particular subject or certain kinds of classroom interactions (like giving a speech or working in small groups).

Your experiences are similar to those of every learner, including the children and youth in your 21st CCLC program. Social relationships and emotional states have a profound effect on learning. Positive emotional experiences motivate people of all ages to work hard and try their best.

Developing smarter, kinder, happier, more productive human beings is a goal we can all get behind. Y4Y’s new Social and Emotional Learning course helps you envision how social and emotional learning fits with that goal and with your other program goals. It also shows you how to weave social and emotional learning strategies into your program activities, and how to support staff members throughout the process.

You might also want to check out Y4Y’s new Creating a Positive Learning Environment course. It has strategies for infusing a “can do” attitude into program activities and routines. That course shows ways your staff can improve the overall program culture and climate, whereas the Social and Emotional Learning course shows ways to help students manage their internal “weather system.”

Why not put on your snow boots or galoshes and jump in with both feet?



November 18, 2019

The gift of identifying and engaging strategic partners only comes to those 21st CCLC professionals who can break free from scotch tape and pretty bows, roll up their sleeves, and apply some creative thinking. Join Detective Dave and go undercover in the newly updated Y4Y professional learning course, Strategic Partnerships. Together, you’ll unwrap five key strategies for making partnerships successful and effective:

Strategy 1: Identify Needs. This basic element in all facets of 21st CCLC practice ensures that your efforts correspond with desired outcomes. The course walks you through using school-level, student-level and student voice data to determine partnership needs. Y4Y offers a Strategic Partnerships Planning Checklist to help you develop your needs statements and set goals.

Strategy 2: Use Community Asset Mapping. Is your program in a rural or an urban setting? In what areas does your program need additional resources to accomplish its goals? Are there potential partners that can support an area of identified need? What does your program have to offer a prospective partner? These are just a few of the questions the course helps you consider in your quest to effectively recruit new community partners.

Strategy 3: Implement an Outreach Plan. Your new partners will fall somewhere on the continuum of engagement: networking, coordinating, cooperating, collaborating or integrating. Wherever you start, you’ll aim to move along the continuum as you collaborate.

Strategy 4: Execute Your Partnerships. Detective Dave steps you through the skills and tools you’ll need, such as negotiating and developing memorandums of understanding, or MOUs, to formalize new strategic partnerships.

Strategy 5: Preserve Your Partnerships. A marriage only begins when you say “I do,” just as a strategic partnership only begins with an MOU. The course offers important tips on routine communications to maintain and grow the partnership.

As with other Y4Y courses, the Strategic Partnerships course includes a Coaching My Staff section to help you prepare staff and stakeholders to identify, develop and sustain strategic partnerships that contribute to program success and sustainability. In this section, you’ll also get help to create a professional learning plan for your staff and stakeholder team, and integrate effective coaching techniques as you implement the plan. Trainings to Go support this important phase of implementation as you and your new partners prepare to walk off into the sunset.



November 18, 2019

Some students find school-day learning about government and civics to be dry as dust, and it’s no wonder. Studying the three branches of the U.S. government, the Electoral College and tariffs on trade with other countries can seem pretty remote from young people’s everyday lives. They might not know how federal, state, and local policies are made, or how those policies can affect things that matter to them, like social justice, clean air, and the price of groceries and video games. Also, they might not know how to make their voices heard. Here are some ideas to help you brush the dust off to make civics interesting.

Use Y4Y resources. See the Introduction section of the Project-Based Learning course and the Introduction to Civic Learning and Engagement Training to Go for ideas on connecting with local civics activities. Service learning and citizen science also offer entries into local, real-world policies in action. See the Citizen Science course and the Service-Learning Toolbox.

Engage students in virtual-hands-on activities. Take advantage of game-based activities to introduce cross-disciplinary learning and thinking as students encounter and grapple with problems related to science, ecology, history, agriculture and government. Choose from a group of virtual environments funded by grants from the Institute of Education Sciences. You can also explore civics, social activism and world governments through virtual tours, primary documents, and connections with students from around the world. Common Sense Education has collected links to 30 Best Government and Civics Websites and Games, all created by government, education and civic sponsors.

Recruit local partners and experts to bring civics to your site. Start by gathering student voice data on social issues that interest them. The Student Voice podcast in Y4Y’s Developing a Needs Assessment Click & Go offers tips on this step. Then find experts to help students explore one or more of these issues. The local chapter of the American Bar Association, a nearby law school or professors at a local college might help conduct a mock trial. Local advocacy organizations or individuals might help students explore an issue or event and conduct a reenactment. Local writers and theater groups might help facilitate student development of a play, video or other event related to a social issue or historical event. When it comes to civics, your neighborhood is a real-world textbook that offers plenty of teachable moments.



October 10, 2019

“Before you become a leader, success is all about growing yourself. After you become a leader, success is about growing others.” As a 21st CCLC program leader, you no doubt see the wisdom in this insight from business leader Jack Welch. After all, supporting and acknowledging your team’s professional growth benefits your program as well as individual staff members. It also helps you retain staff because it shows you’re invested in their success and treasure their contributions.

Y4Y’s new online Human Resources course walks you through nine key strategies you can use to manage and develop your staff. It covers everything from hiring to training to building a positive work environment to managing staff performance. Here are three tips you can start using right away:

Help staff members find their sweet spot. If Natalie loves to plan, enlist her to help plan the next Family Literacy Event or Citizen Science Experience. Once she’s had success, provide opportunities for her to grow her skills and use them in new ways. For example, ask her to lead a planning team, create an event planning checklist for staff, train others in event planning, or join a strategic planning session. If these tasks seem to take her out of her comfort zone, provide encouragement and support. Helping her find the “sweet spot” between current and potential abilities will help her grow.

Provide feedback to focus and inspire your staff. Let’s say Natalie loves planning so much that she offers to help students plan their culminating project presentations. As you observe her interact with students, you hear her say things like “Let’s do it this way” and “Here’s a better idea.” Should you call her aside and say, “Natalie, you’re making too many decisions for students instead of letting them make their own. I’d like to see you improve in this area.” Or should you say, “Natalie, I’d love for our students to develop their project planning and decision-making skills. Would you be willing to team with Linda to plan some coaching strategies to help students learn and practice these skills?” Which feedback is more likely to inspire and support Natalie in changing her approach? For most people, the second approach works best. See the Coaching My Staff section of Y4Y’s Human Resources course for ways to coach your staff (especially site coordinators) to program gold!

Recognize good work. Use formal and informal strategies to tell staff members their contributions are noticed and valued. For example, during employee reviews, be specific and give examples of what employees do well. Implement an employee recognition system to spotlight effort, innovation, problem solving and results. Recognize individual and team efforts. See Y4Y’s Employee Retention Training to Go for ideas you and other program leaders can use to keep staff engaged.

For more ideas on ways to treasure your staff and help them grow, see Y4Y’s new Human Resources course. To share your own ideas and success stories, leave a comment below.