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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.

 



June 17, 2015

Just like the youth your programs serve, no two families are alike. Often we think of diversity just as race or ethnicity, but it has many other aspects (e.g., social class, geography, age, abilities). Acknowledging and better understanding differences can help build cultural competence and break down barriers to family engagement in your programs. 

Cultural Competence

What comes to mind when you think of culture? Many people compare culture to an iceberg because the surface aspects of people’s cultures, or parts that the world sees such as style of dress and types of food, make up only a small part of the whole culture. Most people’s ideas of who they are and their culture come from much deeper aspects of self, such as religious beliefs, family ties and ideas about friendship.

During a recent Family Engagement and cultural competence training activity, participants reflected on what they believed were their surface aspects of culture and what they believed were deeper aspects. After, participants shared with partners, and a few commented that this activity helped them realize how often we make assumptions about families and don’t ever get to know them on a deeper level. When we understand families on a deeper level, we will better understand the students we serve and increase our ability to engage them and their families in our programs.

Family Engagement

There are many strategies you can use to make culturally diverse families feel more welcome and involved in your programs, and to overcome the challenges to family engagement. Consider using an Understanding Families Program questionnaire at the beginning of the year to start building communication. This will help families share information and see themselves as resources for the program. Be proactive in building relationships with families through parent newsletters, good news postcards or other ideas from the Reaching Out to Families tool. Plan intentional and personalized next steps with the Knowing Families and Cultures tool to consider a variety of methods for involving families.

Additional Resources

Our approach to understanding and connecting to each family and understanding their culture must be personalized and based on research. Help your staff actively recognize their individual cultural lenses and/or biases and learn how to be respectful of families and children by engaging in cultural competence scenarios.  Also check out the Family Engagement Resource Providers webinars for effective tips, strategies and activities to support family engagement efforts.

For more web-based resources to improve family engagement into your program, visit Y4Y’s Family Engagement Learn More Library

Also, please be sure to check out the Family Engagement plenary panel discussion and many breakout sessions that will occur at the Summer Institute in Dallas, Texas. More details will come soon, so stay tuned for announcements from our partner federal contractors.



April 24, 2015

Earlier this month, Y4Y hosted a panel discussion and webinar on building an advisory board and collaborating with your parents and community members to support students and activities. Follow the link to hear the panelists’ authentic and practical approaches for establishing and maintaining strong advisory boards. 

Benefits

What happens when you truly collaborate with families and communities? According to our Y4Y panelists, you will gain access to the voices and talents of your community. You will find ways to enhance your program — directly, through alternate and additional funding sources, and indirectly through empowering parents and building their capacity. For more about how to develop such win-win relationships, see The Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships.

Tools

Whether you have established an advisory board or intend to do so, Y4Y offers some great tools to help you get going and keep track of what you’re doing. Here are short descriptions and quick links to those tools.

Communication and Collaboration Checklist
Although this tool focuses on fostering good relationships between your program and the schools your students attend, it can easily be customized to include connecting with families and community members. It also helps you think about your short-term and long-term goals and action steps. 

Identifying Partners
Here’s a tool to help you identify your community resources and think about potential members for your parent-community advisory board. After you establish a board, continue to conduct a community inventory every two or three years so you don’t miss any important connections. 

Volunteer Job Description
Before you invite people to join your parent-community advisory board, we recommend preparing a volunteer job description. Get this template in the Y4Y portal, and customize it to fit the specifics of your advisory board. 

Volunteer Skills Grid
As you connect with people who express interest in becoming board members, ask them to complete this simple form to share their skills, interests and available time. Just delete the examples from the grid before distributing to members to fill out.