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May 13, 2022

Young African American girl at home sitting on the table, using laptop, studying and looking at cameraRemember when playing on the computer was a fun thing to do? Afraid your students have lost out on that opportunity in the past couple of years? With tips from Y4Y’s course, The Virtual Edge, and Click & Go, Digital Literacy, you can make technology fun again when you use screen time wisely.

Make Safety Fun!

Sometimes students have a better grasp of what’s legitimate online than their adult counterparts. But often they don’t! Emphasizing how many bad people are out there wanting to do young people harm is no way to make students feel safe. So, make internet safety a game in your program! For example, you might stage a quiz show to help younger students understand the concepts of digital stranger danger. Ask questions like these:

  1. Is it OK to share your birthday online?
  2. Is it OK to share your favorite color online?
  3. Is it OK to share your street address online?
  4. Is it OK to share your pet’s name online?
  5. Is it OK to share your Grandma’s name online?
  6. Is it OK to share your shoe size online?
  7. Is it OK to share your email address online?
  8. Is it OK to share your favorite flavor of ice cream online?
  9. Is it OK to share where Mom hides the key to the front door online?
  10. Is it OK to share your name online? First, last?

Each of these questions can be conversation starters. Students have such vivid imaginations that a round of “What happens if…” for each of these will get those critical thinking wheels turning.

The same can be done for helping younger students judge how valid sources online are. Again, let each quiz show question be a conversation starter.

  1. Is it OK to trust information on a site that ends in “.gov”?
  2. Is it OK to trust information on a site that asks you for a donation?
  3. Is it OK to trust information on a site that requires you to sign in?
  4. Is it OK to trust information on a site that ends in “.com”?
  5. Is it OK to trust information on a site that asks you to enter your birthday?
  6. Is it OK to trust information on a site that ends in “.org”?
  7. Is it OK to trust information on a site that makes you feel upset or angry?
  8. Is it OK to trust information on a site that ends in “.edu”?
  9. Is it OK to trust information on a site that your friend or family member sent you?
  10. What can you do to verify if information on a site is true?

For your older students, download and customize the Y4Y Digital Privacy Self-Assessment tool (although they can benefit from a fun quiz show too!). And if you think your staff doesn’t know the best answers to the quiz show questions, direct them to a quick Y4Y training on internet safety with the Digital Literacy Click & Go, especially podcasts on Searching Safely and Evaluating Information and Digital Content.

Make Searching Fun!

Now that you’re confident that your students have gained some important safety rules, how can you make sure that during program time, digital learning — whatever form it takes — is fun? Y4Y’s new course on virtual learning addresses many of the needs of virtual programming, but there are some great takeaways that can help you reestablish a positive relationship between your students and their computers in your in-person environment. The Y4Y Virtual Powers Explainer is a great staff training tool for breaking down these concepts:

  • Technology power is the ability to select and use virtual tools strategically to achieve a specific goal
  • Relationship power is the ability to connect people and strengthen relationships
  • Equity power is the ability to increase access and opportunity for all
  • Personalization power is the ability to create learning that matches individuals’ strengths, needs, skills, and interests

Using these principles to guide your in-program digital learning is a great place to start to ensure student engagement. Next, check out Y4Y’s Technology Decision Checklist for Learning and Engagement, Intentional Activity Design Planner, and Virtual Edge Activity Planning Examples. Each will remind you that at the heart of any successful activity is student voice. Students feel empowered when they have a say in their learning, and digital learning is no exception!

What if Students Don’t Feel Empowered by Digital Learning?

There are a number of reasons students may still reject digital learning and even push back against it. Consider some of these possible explanations with tips on navigating this challenge.

  • Natural extroverts prefer interactions. Every program has its social butterflies, and they’re more likely to want to interact with one another than with a screen. Make digital learning a group activity! Be sure that there are steps that demand conversation and compromise. This way, everyone in your program is building those 21st century skills!
  • Computers are associated with isolation. You may have students in your program recovering from varying levels of trauma over feeling “stranded” with a screen during the pandemic. As staffing allows, do more adult pairing or check-ins with those students who might be unexpectedly pushing back on digital activities. If there’s still cause for concern, consult Y4Y’s Click & Go on Trauma-Informed Care for more advice on how to make a student who has experienced trauma feel safe.
  • Written English is even more challenging than spoken. If you have English learners in your program, be sure to seek out multi-modal and bilingual websites so these students can fully participate in digital activities. Don’t forget, Y4Y’s tools for supporting English learners (like Instructional Strategies for English Learners) are useful in all types of programming!
  • A disability makes the computer a frustrating tool. The Secretary of Education recently called out the added challenges faced through the pandemic by students with disabilities, and the importance of providing them with the supports they’re entitled to by law. In your 21st CCLC, you have some flexibility in program delivery that the classroom doesn’t have. Check out Y4Y’s Including Students With Disabilities course, and specifically the Expanding Activities tool, for general principles to follow so you can minimize student frustration with digital activities. Just like your natural extroverts or your students of trauma, it may come down to simple human connections to smooth the way.

Screen Alternatives

Two years in an online or hybrid environment definitely got those creative juices flowing on ways of giving students a break from screens. Some students are ready for those breaks, while others have had their screen dependence deeply reinforced through virtual learning. To further ensure that digital learning in your program is fun for students, share Y4Y’s Screen Time Alternatives tool with families to maintain that momentum of keeping kids occupied offline when they’re at home.

Computers Are Here to Stay

This far into the technological revolution, most of your staff members probably don’t remember a time when personal computers had no role in daily life. Despite this, access and ease with technology creates equity gaps. Giving your students skills and comfort with technology will be absolutely essential to their successful futures. That all starts by just having fun on the internet!



March 10, 2022

As humans, our psychological need for closure is so well documented that a scale was developed to measure this need. Culminating events are an important element in 21st CCLC programs — whether you’re wrapping up a big STEAM or problem-based learning project or inviting families to celebrate a successful in-person year. Bear in mind, though, that some students could be heartbroken at losing the constancy of their time in your program. Consider these tips and tools for addressing the end of the program year in a way that enables everyone to enjoy healthy closure.

As you’re planning, keep these goals and benefits of a culminating event in mind:

  • Involve students. This needs to be their event. So much has been outside their control, especially this year. Be sure their voice is loud and proud in decisions around your culminating event.
  • Everyone loves a surprise. Just because you’ve handed over the reins on most aspects of planning doesn’t mean you can’t surprise students and families with a special guest, a small giveaway, or a performance. A surprise amplifies the festive atmosphere and tells everyone involved you think they’re special.
  • You’re tying accomplishment to celebration. Young people need every possible opportunity to reinforce that their hard work will pay off. Sometimes that hard work is just sticking with something or showing up. But even that effort deserves recognition.
  • Whenever a door closes, another opens. If your students are sad about the end of the program year, remind them that every ending is also a new beginning. You can ask them to remember some of their favorite beginnings in the past — even the first day of this program year — to demonstrate that new beginnings can lead in exciting directions.

Y4Y offers tools to help you plan for your culminating event because this is such an important step in programming. See this month’s Topical Tool Kit for other aspects of your planning.

You can visit the last strategy in each course for more ideas that relate to the focus of your programming. For example:

  • Have you been exploring career pathways with your elementary students? Have them dress as their favorite professional. (See more tips by selecting the drop-down Menu in the course and jumping to slide 107, “Celebrate Peaks and Summits.”)
  • Is supporting English learners your emphasis? Explore your students’ cultural traditions around celebrations and ask them how they’d like to bring those traditions to your event. (See more tips by going to the course and jumping to slide 119, “How Will You Celebrate?”)
  • Are you celebrating something smaller, like completing a project in civic learning and engagement? Arrange for students to attend a school board meeting and give an official report on the work they accomplished in their community. (See more tips by jumping to slide 73, “Example Celebration,” in that course.)
  • Visit other Y4Y courses like Literacy, STEAM, Financial Literacy, Social and Emotional Learning, and Family Engagement for other targeted celebration ideas.

In celebrating the 20th anniversary of Human Resources Development Quarterly, Tim Hatcher makes a poignant observation: “Celebration is an ancient ritual. It gives us a way to feel good about ourselves and our accomplishments. When we celebrate we are reinforcing something important to us. Without it we simply maintain the status quo and candidly have a lot less fun.” There are so many things you want for your students in your 21st CCLC program: academic growth, a safe space with caring adults, meaningful connections with their peers, and exposure to new and exciting opportunities. Happily, each of these can go hand in hand with celebrating and having fun!



September 12, 2021

The country’s collective consciousness and conscience are waking up to inequity. Institutions are eager to address this societal albatross, and there are many very different ideas on how to do it. Resources such as Street Data: A Next-Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation by Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan ask educators to shift thinking from deficit-mindedness to asset-mindedness. “Street data is the qualitative and experiential data that emerges at eye level and on lower frequencies when we train our brains to discern it. Street data is asset based, building on the tenets of culturally responsive education by helping educators look for what’s right in our students, schools, and communities instead of seeking out what’s wrong.” While your 21st CCLC program will continue to require evidence-based intervention methods, how can you begin to shape the culture and implementation in your program around student strengths rather than perceived deficits?

Authors Safir and Dugan, who were featured at the 2021 Summer Symposium, offer guiding principles and core stances for each chapter of their groundbreaking book. These are crosswalked below to Y4Y resources that can help your program shift its framework to an asset-minded approach that promotes equity.

Why Street Data, Why Now?

Guiding Principle 1: Reimagine our ways of knowing and learning. Core Stance: Holism.

How can your program give value to learning that’s emotional, spiritual, and physical as well as that which is cognitive?

  • Know the five skill domains of social and emotional learning.
  • Principles of inclusion reach beyond disabilities. Gather a full team and build an inclusive team by roles so your program can see every student for their strengths, like leadership, teamwork and clear communication.
  • Tools available in Y4Y’s Career Pathways for Students course already put you in the mindset of focusing on each individual’s strengths. Asset-based thinking takes this principle a step further and recognizes that different subcultures in your community might practice different and exciting ways of knowing and learning. 

Guiding Principle 2: See the barriers; imagine what’s possible. Core Stance: Awareness.

Is equity just one more new initiative, or is your program committed to a culture shift?

  • Your culture and climate language must reflect your commitment. Consult the implementation strategies section of Y4Y’s course on creating a positive learning environment.
  • Only with strong community champions that share your values can you make progress toward equity.
  • Team building is one more way to stress that your program is a community that values all its members.

Choose the Margins

Guiding Principle 3: Center voices from the margins. Core Stance: Antiracism.

Are the loudest voices that are front and center the only ones that are heard in your program?

Guiding Principle 4: Seek root causes over quick fixes. Core Stance: Deep Listening.

How is your program working to fully understand its students?

Deepen the Learning

Guiding Principle 5: Equity work is first and foremost pedagogical. Core Stance: Agency.

Does your program place resilience at the center of perceived success?

Guiding Principle 6: Less is more; focus is everything. Core Stance: Coherence.

Progress cannot be made in the silo of your program. How can you reach to partners to bring them along on this journey?

  • Review the introduction section of Y4Y’s course on continuous education to develop strategies for approaching your school-day partners. Aligning your efforts to foster asset-based thinking with hopes of affecting pedagogy is key.
  • Adapt the Y4Y tool to establish professional learning communities and bring all your stakeholders together from around the community to reflect on your different views of data collection.
  • Families are your strongest partner in advocating for equity. Understanding and overcoming challenges to family engagement are important first steps.

Guiding Principle 7: Mobilize a pedagogy of voice for educators. Core Stance: Symmetry.

Have you empowered your staff, many of whom were perhaps chosen for their familiarity with the community, to act on their best impulses for supporting equity?

Transform the Culture

Guiding Principle 8: Break the cycle of shame. Cores Stance: Vulnerability.

Do you strive so relentlessly for perfection in the delivery of your programming that you don’t take the risks that can lead to imperfect progress?

  • A theme we can borrow from STEAM/design thinking is undoing right-answer thinking; it’s better to try and falter, learn from that experience and try again.
  • Another Y4Y Voices From the Field guest, Marcy Richards, focuses on the “can-do’s” and not the “can’t-do’s” in her approach to equity, diversity and English learners.
  • Virtual learning in 2020 and 2021 was a stark lesson in just how quickly and effectively 21st CCLC programming can pivot. Nobody said “effortlessly.” Nobody said “easily.” And certainly, nobody said “perfectly.” But take those lessons, just as California practitioners featured in Y4Y’s March webinar series, Literacy Done Virtually, did, and consider what kind of shifts toward equity can be put into place immediately and program-wide. There may be bumps in the road, and it’s OK to be OK with that.

Guiding Principle 9: Every moment is an equity moment. Cores Stance: Warm Demander.

As the authors note, “Rather than call people out, warm demanders call folks in and up to the work of equity.” Is your program committed to a universal approach to challenging your full staff, partners and community to embrace equity?

  • By definition, 21st CCLC programs are a place where diversity is understood. You already fight for the students in the margins. Consult the Diagram of Philosophy and Practices Within 21st CCLC to guide everything you do.
  • Use the Knowing Families and Cultures tool to develop strategies for familiarizing staff and partners with the unique qualities and strengths of the families you serve.
  • Become a warm demander by creating a program elevator speech. Craft your language not around calling people out, but around calling partners in and up to the work of equity. Most important, get comfortable talking about equity with a tone of gentle insistence.

As you balance your formal and informal data collection activities with an eye toward equity and improvement, consider the book’s closing message:

“Listen deeply. Trust the people. Act on what you learn. With that invocation, I invite you to walk forward on your street data journey with clear eyes and a full heart, knowing that the biggest mistake we can make is to cling to the status quo. Be brave, be bold, be visionary. We’ve got this.”



August 23, 2021

The Virginia Department of Education says it best: “Multilingual is a strengths-based label that recognizes those students who have the ability to become bilingual or multilingual through school-based instruction and highlights that the ability to speak more than one language is a highly valuable life skill.” While labels are being sorted out, your program can certainly adopt a strengths-based approach in your support of these students, having a strong and positive impact as they transition to a new home and their new skill.

Very few students who immigrate to this country with their families are credited with their potential mindset of, “I have so much to offer my new home.” Instead, they are often made to feel they are a drain on resources. Yet global polling tells us that immigrants are more likely to contribute time and money to their adopted country than native-born citizens. You can help your English-learning students begin a shift in mindset by drawing their attention to all of the positive aspects of being multilingual, ranging from brain development to job prospects. This infographic produced by the U.S. Department of Education Office of English Acquisition is a great place to start. It highlights benefits that are

  • Cognitive, including executive functioning, intellectual flexibility and possibly delaying age-related cognitive decline.
  • Educational, including numerous improved outcomes in creativity, abstract thinking and higher graduation rates.
  • Economic, including raising occupational status and earning potential, and expanding business opportunities.
  • Sociocultural, including a better understanding of world cultures, and overall increased empathy.

Continuing that positive, asset-based thinking around learning English, you can make the most of Y4Y’s course on Supporting English Learners and its accompanying tools.

The internet is rich with stories of successful Americans who came to this country at a young age. A great way to empower your multilingual learners is to search for someone who came to this country at the same age they did, and what that person says about how it has benefitted them to know two or more languages. Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, came to the U.S. at age 6. Madeline Albright immigrated at age 11 as a refugee from Czechoslovakia and went on to become Secretary of State! Your 21st CCLC program can be your students’ window on the promised land of opportunity that brought them here. Help them to understand that their fluency in multiple languages can be their golden ticket.



May 20, 2021

Did you know that intentional support doesn’t have to be active? Your English learners’ brains may be taxed throughout the school day by the mental effort of learning new content in a foreign language. Consult Y4Y’s new course, Supporting English Learners, for ideas on how you can let language learning “simmer” in your students’ minds by using fun and engaging activities.

Social vs. Academic Language

Let’s say you’re planning a trip to France. Are you more likely to be learning phrases like “May I please have butter with my bread?” or “Wouldn’t Kant be amused by the juxtaposition of this graffiti on a city beautification billboard?” The bread-and-butter sentence is an example of “conversational” language — words and phrases people might use in everyday life. It uses a simple sentence structure and concrete nouns. It places a low cognitive demand on listeners. Another name for it is “social language.” What about the second sentence, the one about Kant? While the musings of a legendary philosopher might come up in conversation, even some native speakers might pull out the dictionary to look up “juxtaposition.” That sentence is an example of “academic language,” which uses a more complex sentence structure and abstract nouns (things you can’t see, hear, touch, feel or smell). Unless you’re helping an English learner prepare for a vocabulary test, stick with “bread and butter” words when you’re giving instructions or having a casual conversation.  

Context-Embedded vs. Context-Reduced

Another consideration when supporting English learners is how much context you’re offering for English vocabulary building. Context-embedded language offers visual clues, gestures, facial expressions or specific locations to help learners use their prior knowledge and intuition. Providing context isn’t exclusive to social language exchanges. For example, a lesson in geography can be presented with a whole host of visual clues, yet a social conversation about an experience of being bullied could be challenging. So, be sure you’re offering plenty of context. Visuals, visuals, visuals!

Cultural Competence Is On You

You can offer English learners greater ease in communicating when you recognize that it’s the responsibility of your staff to understand the cultural norms your students bring to the program every bit as much as it is for students to learn the norms of your program. Here are some elements of cultural competence, with examples that show the importance of that cultural competence:

  • How they use symbols. The @ symbol can be used in Spanish to include male and female. Amig@s means friends of both gender.
  • How they problem-solve. Perfectionism in the Japanese culture could make it emotionally challenging for a student with this heritage to embrace the “freedom to failure” that we advocate in problem-based learning projects.
  • How they communicate nonverbally. Indian head-nodding can be agreement, but a student from this culture might nod along to give the impression of understanding or agreement out of an internal pressure to appear polite even when confused.
  • How they learn. Some African cultures have demonstrated their concern for children through strictly adhered-to rules, so these students may be uncomfortable questioning new authorities, even on noncontroversial topics.
  • How they resolve conflict. Girls from many parts of the world may not be as experienced as boys in advocating directly for themselves in uncomfortable situations.
  • Their ways of knowing. Verbally passing wisdom between generations is part of most cultures, especially tribal cultures, and your staff should honor this mode of knowledge building.

What “Passive Support” Looks Like

Your program probably isn’t teaching English to students who aren’t native speakers. Rather, you’re supporting their learning and engagement. So what does “passive support” look like in the context of your program? As we’ve covered here, you’ll focus on social exchanges with lots of context and visual cues, and be sure your knowledge of their cultures allows them the greatest space for growth. Within these parameters, consider activities like these:

  • Bilingual Mad Libs. A universal favorite that often leads to belly laughs, these side-by-side fill-ins can help students build vocabulary and exercise their understanding of parts of speech. Talk with your school-day partners and design them yourself based on current curriculum. Don’t forget to allow for a generous side of silliness!
  • Bilingual Board Games. Bingo is a favorite, but the sky’s the limit! No budget for game purchases? No problem! When students design the games themselves, they’ll have even more fun. This could mean adapting donated English-only games (partner with your local Goodwill store or ask your elementary school to hold a game drive), or a quick internet search for DIY board games could give you dozens of ideas for helping students build their own from scratch.
  • Icebreakers. What are icebreakers, after all, but communication devices! Try a guessing game like “I Spy”, or maybe a group drawing. Each student adds a new element to a drawing and explains in English what it is and why they added it.
  • Show and Tell. Another childhood favorite, your students have the opportunity to research and rehearse what they’ll tell their peers about a cherished object or photo.
  • Scavenger Hunt. Whether virtual and your students have to search out URLs, or in person and they’re looking for three dogs in a row in your program space, scavenger hunts are a lot of fun. If you’re worried about fierce competition, offer different kinds of winners besides “first” to finish. Most creative answers? Most collaborative? Most independent?

However passive this kind of support, you can still be intentional, being mindful of your needs and goals. Consult the Y4Y Supporting English Learners Intentional Activity Design Planner to organize that process.

Young Minds

Remind your students that we spend the first part of our lives learning so much because that’s when our brains are most ready for the learning! A new language is no exception. Help your ELs understand, too, that knowing multiple languages will give them a life-long advantage in understanding linguistic concepts. Finally, give yourself a big pat on the back every time you sneak in that passive support on their journey.