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April 18, 2017

Effective out-of-school time programs partner with families, students and schools to achieve the best possible educational outcomes. As you plan your programming for this summer and beyond, make sure to get the input you need to keep those partnerships healthy. Here are some ways to get input: 

•    Informal “hallway conversations”
•    Formal meetings with individuals or groups
•    Structured small-group discussions
•    Suggestion boxes
•    Surveys

Not sure where to start? Check out our ready-to-use Y4Y stakeholder surveys!

If you’re planning a summer program, use the Family Survey and Student Survey from our new Summer Learning course. By administering these surveys at the start and end of your program, you can demonstrate your program’s impact, and find what you’re doing right and where you can improve. 

Y4Y’s new STEM surveys for grades K-1, 2-3, 4-6 and 7-12 can help you design STEM programming that engages students’ minds by focusing on subjects that already interest them. 

You can align your program with school-day learning by using the Survey of Teacher Programming Needs to find out where students are struggling and could use extra support.

Finding out what families, students and schools think about your program (and ways they can contribute) can make it more effective. Y4Y stakeholder surveys can do some of the work for you. It’s the perfect place to start!



March 16, 2017

Students need to feel safe, encouraged and welcome to keep their stress levels down and their minds open for learning. But creating a positive, inclusive environment is easier said than done. Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone! In fact, it’s often best to enlist the help of school-day staff, parents and community members. Here’s how you can start:

Take positive steps to prevent bullying. 
The first step to stopping bullying is knowing how to spot it. Know how bullying is defined and learn about warning signs that can tip you off if a student is being bullied or is bullying others. When you see bullying happening, intervene immediately. Then follow up by finding out what happened and supporting the students involved.

Work with school-day teachers. 
Coordinating bullying prevention efforts is an important part of sharing responsibility with school staff. Align policies with schools to send a consistent message to students that bullying is never okay. Improve your connections to schools with the Communication and Collaboration Checklist.

Engage parents and family.
Including family members in bullying prevention can help students feel safer and more secure, and make parents worry less. Help parents and family develop the skills needed to talk about bullying with youth in productive ways, and share ideas for how family can be part of the solution. These efforts can support your goals for family engagement.

Get the community involved. 
Bullying affects entire communities. Taking the lead on prevention can be a service learning project for students, and a great opportunity to demonstrate the value your program brings to your community. Consider which of your existing partners might help, reach out to new ones and recruit volunteers.

Share knowledge and resources with others. 
Online or in person, bullying causes misery now and can lead to unhealthy behaviors in the future. The website StopBullying.gov offers many free, research-based resources and strategies to help young people and adults stop aggressive behavior and build a positive community climate. For example, learn about the different roles: students who bully, students who are the targets of bullying, students who assist and reinforce, students who defend, and students who want to help but don’t know how. Also see The BULLY Project website for ideas about how to take action.

When students don’t feel safe, you can’t possibly expect their full attention. Don’t let bullying-related stress be an obstacle to their happiness and their ability to learn!



June 14, 2016

Help students hold on to their literacy skills by trying some or all of these easy tips:

During a summer program:

- Build literacy into your summer program. For example, if your curriculum has a STEM focus, use the Y4Y STEM Vocabulary Builder. It can help students learn math and science language and reinforce understanding of the concepts. Get other ideas from the Literacy Everywhere tool.

- During one day of the program, hold a “book swap.” Invite everyone to bring used books and take different ones home.

Outside a summer program:

- Hold a family literacy event. Use this Y4Y checklist to help you organize.

- Enlist family members to lead read-alouds several times a week. One way to structure this is with a “family book review” activity. Learn about it on the Reaching Out to Families tool. 

- Partner with your local public library to help students sign up for library cards. Families get free access to books (including digital ones that download to a tablet or computer) and a professional librarian to help readers select ones they’ll enjoy.

- Find a local partner to help you send books home to your students and their family members.

For more ideas, visit Read Where You Are and keep learning alive all summer long!



April 21, 2016

The end of the school year, with its exams and project deadlines, can be stressful for students and can definitely impact the quality of their out-of-school time experience. They may get frustrated, tired, discouraged or apathetic. When that happens, you might find it hard to engage them in program activities. Here are some surefire tips to provide support during this important time so students can try their best during the school day and in your program.

Recharge

Food: Students burn a lot of energy taking tests and finishing projects! Help teach kids healthy eating habits so they they have the energy they need to get through their day.

Fitness: After a long day of sitting, students may walk through your door with pent-up energy and emotions. Offer a mix of organized sports and recreation time at the beginning of your program so students can get blood flowing to the brain. Integrating movement such as dance or drumming into academic activities can also energize students and enhance learning; you can see these activities in a short video from the Y4Y Aligning With the School Day course.

Positive Affirmation: During stressful times, students may have negative feelings about themselves and their abilities. Encourage them by creating positive message packets, individualized for each student with study tips and small treats. You might also try having students create motivational messages for one another — for example, they could gather in small groups to create cheers or chants that get them fired up for the next day. Positive affirmation is important all the time. Learn more about it with the 5C’s of Positive Youth Development from Click & Go 2.

Remind

Fun Review Strategies: Sometimes students struggle because they are overwhelmed by what they don’t know or what they don’t remember. You can help students feel confident about what they do know, and help them remember important concepts, strategies and skills for the next day. Rather than having them sit quietly and review study materials, prepare interactive games such as Jeopardy or Bingo. Or, try a free online gaming platform like Kahoot to review concepts or skills. If science or math testing is coming up, consider using the Y4Y STEM Vocabulary Builder to refresh student understandings of concepts and processes. Make it fun by splitting into teams and using the terms to play charades or a Pictionary-style game.

Family Engagement: Because families are so important to student attitudes and well-being, help students by sending testing tips home through emails, newsletters or other methods. Tell family members they can contribute to student success by making sure students get enough sleep, exercise and healthy food before coming to school.  For more strategies on communicating with families, check out this video from the Y4Y Family Engagement course. 

Reflect

Circle Time: Sometimes students just need to vent about their mistakes or frustrations, and it can be powerful to hear from other students who have similar feelings or who provide encouragement. Creating space for students to share feelings will help them process their stressful experiences and learn from peers. To get everyone on the same page, use the Group Discussion Guidelines tool from Y4Y.

Active Reflection: This strategy is recommended in the Y4Y Project-Based Learning course, and it can be useful in a variety of situations. Adults can reflect with students to share experiences and thoughts about ways to cope with stress.

Individual Reflection: Provide a silent chalkboard or journaling station where students can express feelings nonverbally before or instead of talking in a group.

Don’t Forget . . . 

Students aren’t the only ones who might feel stress during the end of the school year. Be sure to take some time for yourself as well. Recharge by taking a walk after dinner. Remind yourself that the extra effort you make on behalf of young people can make a positive difference in their lives. Reflect on your experiences and feelings by journaling or talking with colleagues. Taking care of your own physical and mental health might be one of the best things you can do for the students you serve.



August 31, 2015

The Summer Institute (July 27-29) rounded up plenty of learning opportunities for out-of-school time professionals. Topic strands included family and community engagement, STEM, literacy, improving program quality, serving students with disabilities and more. Whether you were “back in the saddle” with us in Dallas or home at the ranch, you can review Y4Y sessions and get handouts and other materials. Find the Y4Y training team’s three presentations (in PDF) and associated handouts on the 2015 Summer Institute page.

Y4Y Session: Empowering Youth to Actively Participate in Prevention

This session — available as a video recording — describes how to use Y4Y resources to enhance implementation of afterschool drug and alcohol prevention programs. Learn how drug and alcohol use affect student achievement, explore interactive activities that are designed for grades K-12, and develop strategies for engaging families and building partnerships around prevention. 

During the session, participants learned how to find their state’s drug control update (see the “Texas Drug Control Update” handout for an example) to get a snapshot of local drug and alcohol issues that programs can use to focus their prevention efforts. To access the update for your state, go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp and click “Policy and Research” and then “State and Local Information.”

Participants also brainstormed ideas for project-based learning and explored K-12 activities they could use right away to engage students and their families around prevention. “The Amazing Brain” and “Protecting Your Brain” are two of the Brain Power modules from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. These address elementary-age students and incorporate learning in both science and prevention. The modules for middle school students combine short, informative student “magazines,” such as Weeding Out the Grass, with games that check their understanding, such as “Marijuana Bingo.” For high school youth, “Heads Up: Real News about Drugs and Your Body” provides fun activities that provide openings for deeper discussions about drug and alcohol prevention.

Y4Y Session: Investing in Family Engagement

Building family engagement in your program is easily worth the investment of time, energy and resources when you see the value in terms of student success. Use the materials from this session to explore best practices for improving and developing relationships with families.

During the session, participants watched the “Benefits of Family Engagement” video, then discussed what they already do and what they would like to do. After brainstorming about common challenges to family engagement, they used the “Overcoming Challenges” tool to identify possible underlying causes and potential solutions. Participants also used Y4Y tools to reflect on strategies to develop a more welcoming program environment for all families and begin some action planning around ways to support families and focus staff training on specific family engagement goals.  Find all the tools and resources from this session onon the Summer Institute page.

Y4Y Session: Building Literacy Through Fun and Games (Grades K-5)

Literacy after school can incorporate play that helps students gain critical academic and 21st century skills. This session helped participants see how to improve understanding of the building blocks of literacy and implement engaging literacy activities such as a vocabulary parade, finger play, poetry and song, and a picture walk.

Participants watched the “What is Literacy” video and discussed what it means to be literate in this technological age. As they reviewed the five components of reading, participants tried out phonemic awareness and phonics activities (from “Phonemic Awareness Activities”) and took part in a “Vocabulary Parade,” using Tier 2 words from the Word Up Project Lists as inspiration for their costumes. Participants viewed The True Story of the Three Little Pigs “reader’s theatre” example from Y4Y and shared how they practiced reading fluency in their programs. The session ended with a review of different Before, During and After activities to support comprehension (from “Comprehension Activities”) and effective questioning strategies. Participants were encouraged to think about how to incorporate literacy learning throughout the program day (using “Literacy Everywhere”).  Find all the tools and resources from this session on the Summer Institute page.