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August 21, 2018

According to the National Science Foundation, humans have somewhere between 12,000 and 70,000 thoughts each day. Sad to say, up to 80 percent of those thoughts are negative — but we can do something to change that. Educators hear a lot about positive youth development, character education, positive behavior interventions, social emotional learning and positive program climate. Programs that formalize these practices can contribute to building confidence, resilience and happiness for the youth we serve. With or without a formal program, you and your out-if-school time program can immediately implement practices that will start harnessing the power of positivity.

Positive Self-Talk

In Kathryn Stockett’s book, The Help, a little girl learns this mantra: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” This is exactly the kind of positive self-talk we want to encourage in our students. How often have you heard a student say, “I’m not good at…” or “I can’t…”? Make a conscious effort to help them rephrase those thoughts more positively: “I’m getting better at…” or “I’m learning how to…” When you take the time to restate something in a positive way, you help a child train their brain to think more positively. You might ask students to develop a positive mantra for the program and individual mantras for themselves. Devote a quick minute each day to repeating those mantras and further developing their positive self-image.

Gratitude

Students can get caught up in the game of comparison: someone else has fancier belongings or is more skilled at a sport. Help students realize their natural abilities and identify their strengths. Consider having students start gratitude journals. Processing thoughts for a few minutes a day can build important cognitive skills, and capturing them in a journal develops writing skills. You could start a gratitude sharing practice during snack time. Ask students what they are thankful for that day or what they are looking forward to in the program. Helping students learn to identify and focus on positive things in their world builds a positive world view.

No Complaining

How many complaints do you hear in a typical program day? It’s time to issue a no complaining challenge! We can help students — and ourselves — learn how to respond more positively and effectively to whatever life throws at us. In his book, A Complaint Free World, Will Bowen describes his complaint-free challenge. He uses a 21-day cycle, during which participants wear an arm band and move it from one arm to the other each time they complain. This creates a physical reminder to think more positively. You might have your students create positivity friendship bracelets and try the same challenge. The goal is to keep the bracelet on the same arm for a full 21 days. Students can remind each other not to complain and help each other rephrase thoughts to be more positive.

Norman Vincent Peale said, “Change your thoughts and you change your world.” You can help students change how they view themselves and their world, and lower the percentage of negative thoughts in their day. Try one of these positivity practices and watch the impact on your students and the overall climate of your program. For a ready-to-use professional learning session on positive youth development, download this Y4Y Training to Go. For a quick one-page reference, also grab The 5C’s of Positive Youth Development.



July 16, 2018

How is your summer program going so far? Are students engaged and attending? Retention can be a real challenge this time of year, when you don’t have the automatic incentive of school attendance to support program attendance.

Two keys to retaining students in summer and out-of-school time are family engagement and student engagement. Ideally, you already have some engagement strategies in place. For example, if you’re going to have an attendance contract with incentives for compliance, that needs to be set up at the outset. If you decide to have a parent liaison — a tactic proven to improve retention — you need to recruit a volunteer or part-time staff member well in advance. Here are more ways you can add to your retention toolkit if your current strategies aren’t enough.

Family Engagement

The younger the student population, the more family engagement matters. Here are some ideas for keeping parents and caregivers involved.

  • Pick up the phone. Call families of children who’ve missed more than a day or two. Let them know their child’s participation is important to the child and to the program.
  • Send materials home. Keep families engaged by showcasing what their children are doing. Suggest “conversation starters” about an aspect of program content that families can discuss together, followed by simple activities the whole family can do at home — find examples here.
  • Set up a family meeting. Involve whole families in program content with a fun, active event.
  • Recruit family members to help with programming. It’s not too late to get family members who aren’t at work during the program day to help with field trips, games, art activities, reading aloud or any activity where you could use an extra (untrained) adult.
  • Make a “good news” call. Boost retention by calling families to report children’s academic or behavioral gains.

Student Engagement

Keeping young people involved in program content and activities is important no matter the age group. It’s especially vital for high school and older middle school youth, whose parents have less influence over their attendance and who juggle other priorities that compete with program attendance. 

These ideas for engaging students are long-term strategies, but now’s a great time to start!

  • Set up a culture of high expectations. An environment in which students hold one another accountable will go further than any number of reminders from adults.
  • Get students involved in authentic work. You’ll get built-in motivation from project-based learning that delivers products with tangible benefits for the students or the community. Use this checklist with students and staff to gauge participation levels.
  • Tap into the power of peer groups. Students are more likely to show up when they know their group needs their creativity and input — and will miss them if they’re gone.
  • Support staff to build strong relationships. The quality of youth-adult relationships is an important factor for getting young people to come back. Try using positive youth development approaches and other ways to create a positive environment.

If you haven’t already built these retention tactics into your program, what can you add today? What can you put on the planning list for next year?



June 20, 2018

You developed a high-quality summer learning program for your students and worked with your staff to design a continuous improvement process. Now, how do you ensure the plan is being implemented with fidelity (in other words, implemented as planned)? The Y4Y Summer Learning course tools and resources can help you monitor to stay on track.

Observations

Use Y4Y’s Observation Checklist to observe academic and enrichment activities. Are you doing what you said you would do? If you planned on a student-to-teacher ratio of 10 to 1 but ended up at 18 to 1, this difference is likely to impact your outcomes. Observations are one way to track important areas of implementation so you can make modifications along the way, assess outcomes and plan for future programming. Make sure to visit all the activities, spread observations across the summer, and observe transition and dismissal times.

Feedback

Students and families are your “customers” and you want to know how well your program meets their needs. Surveys are effective and easy ways to find out. The Y4Y Summer Learning course has sample surveys for families and students that you can customize to your program. Administer them in person or online through Google Forms, which collects your feedback into a spreadsheet. Be sure to schedule time with your program team to discuss the results and follow-up action steps. Feedback is only valuable if it leads to action.

Continuous Improvement

If you used the Y4Y Summer Learning course, you have already developed a continuous improvement plan. If not, download the Continuous Improvement Process Diagram and Continuous Improvement Planner to get started. The Continuous Improvement Planner helps to keep you on track with goals and outcomes. As you complete each data collection window, analyze your data and record outcomes. Take time to discuss why you met or fell short of your goals (or exceeded them!) and consider implications for the coming school-year program.

Celebration

Many programs plan a culminating event to showcase summer activities and student achievements. With students and staff, plan a fun event that will engage families while giving students a chance to show off their learning and express themselves. You might add a reflection element such as an open discussion about what worked well and what could be tweaked in the future. Review results from your observations and stakeholder surveys, and discuss your continuous improvement plan. Celebrating with your students and staff is the perfect way to wrap up an amazing summer.



March 22, 2018

The  term “well-rounded education” occurs 24 times in federal education law (the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA). What does it mean, and how is it related to 21st CCLC activities? 
 
A Well-Rounded Education Includes Many Subjects and Experiences
First, let’s see how ESSA defines the term: 
 
"WELL-ROUNDED EDUCATION — The term ‘well-rounded education’ means courses, activities, and programming in subjects such as English, reading or language arts, writing, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, geography, computer science, music, career and technical education, health, physical education, and any other subject, as determined by the State or local educational agency, with the purpose of providing all students access to an enriched curriculum and educational experience.’’ 
 
The ESSA list of subjects includes many that are already part of 21st CCLC programming, and it opens the door to potential areas of collaboration with schools. As you work with the school to identify high-priority student needs, look for ways to enhance what the school is already doing. Could your program use music and arts to explore mathematics, or use Reader’s Theater to expand students’ knowledge of history and other subjects? Could your students increase their own knowledge about exercise and nutrition by organizing a community health fair? Y4Y courses and resources offer many possibilities. Here are links to just a few:
Every Student Deserves a Well-Rounded Education
The title of the federal legislation (ESSA) refers to “every student,” and the definition of “well-rounded education” includes “all students.” That means every ethnicity, every socioeconomic group and every ability. An intentionally designed 21st CCLC program targets specific academic needs within specific grade levels. In many cases, students with disabilities will be among the students with the greatest needs and you can encourage these students to apply. They can benefit from the academic enrichment and social development experiences your program offers. Including students with disabilities can be easier and more rewarding than you might imagine. See these Y4Y resources: 

User-friendly, topic-focused guides and webinars provide strategies and best practices from experts and practitioners.

Start Planning Now
Add the above Y4Y resources to your current favorites, and use it as you plan student recruitment, projects and activities for your next program session.


November 20, 2017

The idea of aligning out-of-school time learning with school-day learning is a topic of frequent discussion among 21st CCLC program leaders. At the same time, a 21st CCLC program is expected to differ from the school day in significant ways. Where do these apparent opposites meet?

The short answer is “on the playing field of continuous education.”

Continuous education goes beyond alignment of topics covered in and out of school. It’s a coordinated effort to sustain student learning in out-of-school time. To make this happen, 21st CCLC program leaders team with school-day leaders, families, students and community partners. First, they determine students’ academic, social, emotional and behavioral needs. Then, 21st CCLC program leaders use this information to intentionally design program activities that will help students gain the knowledge and skills they need for success.

To use a sports analogy…

Both the school and the program have a big, common goal: winning. For them, “winning” means preparing all students for success. Just as a winning sports team needs skilled players at each position (have you ever seen a baseball team win the World Series with nine pitchers but no catcher?), school and program staff are on the same “continuous education” team, with each playing a different position.

For example, suppose your needs assessment indicates that students lack skills in analyzing, synthesizing and presenting information. In school, the math teacher might engage students in an interesting activity that’s relevant to their experience, such as tracking the success of the school’s football team. In the 21st CCLC program, staff might take a different approach (see example below). Because 21st CCLC programs have more flexibility than subject-matter teachers in school, the program has greater freedom to allow for student choice, and more time for students to go deeper into topics that interest them. Same goal, different approaches.

Ready to take your “continuous learning team” players to the next level in the rewarding game of ensuring student success? You’ll find more examples like the one above in Y4Y’s forthcoming online course, “Continuous Education Through 21st CCLC Activities.” There you’ll also find ideas, resources and step-by-step guidance on implementing the six key components of continuous education. This new course will replace Y4Y's “Aligning With the School Day”. Mark your calendar for Jan. 2, 2018, when the new course will be available, and block out some time to get started. (Remember: You don’t have to do it all at once.)

Go, team!