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March 18, 2021

Every day brings more promise of a return to “normal” 21st CCLC programming. Rich lessons we’ve taken from a year of full or partial physical separation from students include these:

  • An understanding that connectedness is everything. A decade of social media might have suggested that you can trick the brain into believing those human connections can be replaced with virtual (“wireless”) ones, but a year of pandemic has blown that theory out of the water. Relationships matter.
  • Despite those charming articles and blog posts about how the pandemic has allowed people to reevaluate and reset their eating habits, 21st CCLC families are more likely to be food insecure and dependent on processed foods for basic sustenance.
  • “Self-care” has grown way beyond buzz words; professionals in many industries, but ESPECIALLY education, are keenly aware of an escalation in stress levels from the day-to-day demands of flexibility. The stakes of student outcomes make most education professionals eager to begin bridging the learning gap that has only widened for 21st CCLC students over the course of the last year.

As the school year winds down with anything but normal momentum, the hope of more in-person programming can at least offer your program the opportunity to be one with your students, set a footing for a summer of remediation and healing, and set new priorities and practices on well-being going forward.

There’s a certain irony in suggesting the need for more “heavy lifting” to arrive at your happy place, so consider all of the resources you can take advantage of passively. Grab a cup of tea, jump on your rowing machine, or even step out with your laptop onto your patio this weekend and check out these archived webinars and Click & Go mini-lessons and podcasts. Let the messages swirl around in the back of your mind to plan for summer and fall programming with the above goals in mind.

  • A new Y4Y Click & Go, Health and Wellness: Partnering With the School Day, offers a mini-lesson with the basics, as well as four short podcasts: Planning Health and Wellness Activities, Connecting With School-Day Staff on Health and Wellness, Health and Wellness On the Go, and Caring for Your Staff.
  • An archived LIVE With Y4Y webinar, Bringing Mindfulness to Out-of-School Time, offers strategies for promoting thoughtful positivity and awareness among staff and students.
  • A four-part webinar series, Social and Emotional Learning, steps through the process for delivering high-quality social and emotional learning activities: planning, designing, implementing and assessing your efforts.
  • Another four-part webinar series, An Artfully Formed Positive Environment, provides the tools you need to paint smiles on the faces and warmth in the hearts of staff, family, partners and, most of all, your students.
  • An archived Y4Y Showcase webinar, Expanding Quality Health and Recreational Opportunities, lives up to the promise in its name. It demonstrates successful implementation health and wellness initiatives in out-of-school time.
  • An archived four-part webinar series, Strategic Partnerships, helps you consider how partnerships can be an asset in helping to address food insecurity among your students.

We hear it everywhere today: “Give yourself grace.” These are simple words, representing a simple concept. Goodness knows that 21st CCLC professionals across the country have extended that grace to their students! Now it’s time to be one with your students in this exercise as you ease out of an unprecedented year and into one of unity, calm and productive energy.



February 17, 2021

Y4Y’s new Click & Go, Recruiting and Retaining High School Students (RRHHS) holds the premise that in every community, there are high school students who grapple with belonging. This can be especially true for students who are new to this country. Your program can lift up and inspire them to a whole new level of engagement and maturity. Be intentional in how you support these students, and help them chart their own course to adulthood. Looking for ways to help them break through language barriers, find their own place in your 21st CCLC community, and stay physically and mentally strong? Consider combining resources from Y4Y’s new courses on supporting English learners and student voice and choice, along with the new Click & Go on recruiting and retaining high school students.

Here are some challenges that immigrant teens may face, and where you can find Y4Y tips to support them.

Making Friends

Being the “new kid” as a teenager comes with some daunting statistics about student behaviors like falling in with a rough crowd and experiencing higher rates of substance abuse and even suicide. You can lay the groundwork for countering these statistics by training staff on creating a safe learning environment for English learners. A “safe environment” may be a new and welcome experience for English learners who are immigrants, depending on the circumstances in their countries of origin. Building trust among staff and students is an important first step in helping them build friendships and connections. You’ll appreciate the Y4Y RRHHS Click & Go tools for adopting a Youth Ambassador program because they put friendship-building at the center of your program design.

Cultural Assimilation vs. Family Wishes

In one generation, the U.S. went from being referred to as a “melting pot” to a “tossed salad” as people realized the benefits of keeping unique aspects of one’s home language and cultural rather than requiring people to give up those things to create a single, blended “flavor.” You can build trust by demonstrating to students and families that your program will respect and revere the practices they’ve brought with them. From the Home Language Survey and Knowing Families and Cultures tools to the Cultural Competence Training to Go and Family Goal-Setting Survey, you’ll establish, from the inside out, that your program is a shared effort between families and staff, and that participation in your community means never putting students in the position of having to choose between their heritage and their future.

Language Barriers, Low Literacy Levels and Interruptions in Formal Education

Tips for supporting a wide array of English learners in your program range from hiring a multilingual staff, which may be feasible if your students share the same native language, to using the universal language of math, as Marcy Richards describes in this month’s Voices From the Field: Diversity, Equity and English Learners. You can engage in Y4Y’s full course on the subject for in-depth professional development, or you can brush up on some basic concepts with Y4Y tools like Instructional Strategies for English Learners, Marzano’s Six Steps for Vocabulary Instruction, and a basic Sentence Frames and Stems worksheet, all of which can be downloaded and customized to meet students where they are.

No Sense of Control

There’s extensive research on the correlation between a sense of control in one’s life, and engagement and therefore success. Teens often grapple with feelings of restriction as they desire greater freedom to make their own choices and “do their own thing.” Immigrating to a new country (and learning a new language and culture) during adolescence can add to their frustrations and their sense of “not being heard.” Y4Y’s new Student Voice and Choice course can help! Adapt the Activity Choice Form to reflect your students’ ages and English literacy level. Tools like the Concentric Circles Discussion Format and Focus Group Format give you the added benefit of group work that builds friendship and community while reinforcing student voice and choice. Use the Student Goal Setting and Reflection tool as proof to your students that they have the power to say, to choose, and to control their futures as part of their new community.



February 17, 2021

Sometimes we know exactly what we want. Sometimes we know exactly what we don’t want. In your program, you can avoid the ho-hums between these extremes with Y4Y’s new course on student voice and choice. But remember: your students need more than just a voice to be inspired. They need your help finding that voice. After all, those frontal lobes are working overtime to develop right now!

Your adventures in student voice and choice begin with a tour of the Y4Y Musicfest with young Stevie. You’ll learn to

  • Prepare staff at the Rock and Roll Stage.
  • Create a safe environment for student voice at the Country Stage.
  • Capture student voice and choice at the Pop Stage.
  • Embed student voice and choice throughout each activity at the R&B/Soul Stage.
  • Assess and reflect on implementation at the Jazz Stage.

After completing the Implementation Strategies portion of the course, you’ll receive an Advanced Level certificate and be able to

  • Define student voice and choice.
  • Describe how to create a program environment that honors student voice and choice.
  • Develop a program schedule of activities that honor student voice and incorporate academic needs.
  • Utilize strategies for honoring student choice.
  • Access tools and resources for increasing student voice and choice in your program.

Leaders who opt to complete the “Coaching My Staff” portion of the course will earn a Leadership Level certificate and be able to

  • Train staff to integrate student voice and choice across program activities.
  • Create a professional learning plan for staff.
  • Use effective coaching techniques while implementing the professional learning plan.

You’ll find the downloadable, customizable tools with this course to be inspired and inspiring!

Confucius famously noted that if you choose a job you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life. What he meant was, you might work hard, but you’ll enjoy it more if it’s work of your own choosing. Offering the at-risk students in your program a voice and choice is the educational equivalent of this sage advice. Your 21st CCLC program should be painlessly fun and enriching even as your students put forth their best effort. This new course will set you well on your way while having your own fun at the Y4Y Musicfest!



November 16, 2020

Last month, a newly published study came as a pleasant surprise to most Americans. It revealed that overall, the mental health of teens is better now than it was two years ago. Of note, the study is based on a national survey whose sampling “aimed to fill quotas for gender, race/ethnicity, urban/ rural location, and region of the country....” A couple of key takeaways included the value of more sleep and more family time for teens. It also noted an increase in video chatting with friends, despite all the time they’re spending on screens in school and afterschool programs like yours. However dim this glimmer of a silver lining may be, how can you arm your program with this good news and stay together in positivity heading into the winter months?

Y4Y’s course on Creating a Positive Learning Environment gives you direction on laying the groundwork, but more important, points out essential elements to use as your guiding philosophies to be sure the tone of your program is always a positive one. As noted in Y4Y’s July webinar: in a positive learning environment, everyone plays an equally important role in creating a place where everyone feels safe and respected. This environment increases engagement and productivity and enables students to thrive and grow. Remember these words: Equally Important. Safe and Respected. Engagement. Productivity. Thrive and Grow. This may be a bit more challenging when your environment extends to the kitchen tables of your students, but some great ideas were also shared in a June Y4Y Showcase, Creating a Positive Learning Environment at Home. Knowing there’s a chance that teens may actually be more well-adjusted now than their counterparts two years ago, you can make the most of these circumstances.

Equally Important

Why is “equity” such a hot topic today? Our youth are forward thinkers. They recognize the beauty of equity and equality where it’s found, and feel deep concern about places where it isn’t. Tools in Y4Y’s Civic Learning and Engagement course, such as the Incorporating Multiple Viewpoints Checklist and staff Training to Go on Incorporating the Democratic Process can arm you with the fundamentals of equity, and therefore positivity in your program.

Safe and Respected

When you use the word “safe” in your program, does it have multiple meanings? While the Y4Y Click & Go on Developing and Implementing a Safety Plan is a must-have to ensure you’re not overlooking physical safety, pairing “safe” with the word “respected” recognizes you also look out for your students’ emotional safety. Be on the lookout for signs of Trauma, and prepare to intervene as is appropriate to your program and host institution. Keep in mind how critical building relationships is to fostering respect and safety between students and with staff. A place to start is the Y4Y Building Student/Educator Relationships Questionnaire. Maintaining positivity in your program without these tenets would be impossible.

Engagement

You’ve all seen it. In fact, probably some of your best program memories are of activities where the students were all so invested, they were clamoring to have a turn, smiling, laughing and excited. Engagement equals positivity, plain and simple. Check out Y4Y tools for ensuring student engagement, such as a STEM course tool Student Engagement Tips for Grades K-12, and the secondary and elementary student interest surveys.

Productivity

Your 21st CCLC program doesn’t emphasize “achievement” in quite the same way the school day does. There are no grades, and activities and projects are paced and crafted around a gentler framework. But contributing to a demonstrable improvement in school performance is what sets 21st CCLC apart from many other afterschool programs. Under current circumstances, your homework help might be the most important way you’re helping your students be productive. Remember, that involves supporting families as well as students (as discussed in this month’s blog post, Together Online). But productivity is the end result of positivity, so if you sense that even this most essential role of your program is struggling, try revisiting these ideas to foster that positive learning environment.

Thrive and Grow

The five skill domains of social and emotional learning are a great gauge of how your students are developing as students and as people. Back to that silver lining around the dark cloud of the pandemic: students are building a resiliency and a resourcefulness that will universally make them conscientious leaders of tomorrow.

Finally: Families. Families. Families. When you think about the very roots and goals of 21st CCLC programs, you already knew the important role of families that the new study echoes. That doesn’t mean your family engagement efforts just got any easier. Y4Y tools like Reaching Out to Families, Supporting and Engaging Families, and Knowing Families and Their Cultures will be assets to your program as you make the most of these relationships. In light of the obstacles to family engagement efforts in non-English-speaking households, please also consider visiting the new Y4Y Supporting English Learners tools for resources such as the Family Goal-Setting Survey.

It’s easy to stay positive when data suggest that young people might be OK after all of this is over, and even in the midst of it. Let positivity be a core value, a driving priority and the glue that allows a new kind of togetherness.



November 16, 2020

The “Jolabokaflod” described in Creative Program Ideas is one culture’s clear celebration of literacy and the sheer enjoyment that reading books can bring young and old people alike. While settling in with a good book may seem an impossible time luxury for some 21st CCLC families, helping students make reading a habit for life can be achieved in small, manageable bits. Explore these ideas for sharing the gift of reading with students, and maybe even instilling a holiday association with books.

Be together in literacy — even if you’re completely virtual right now — by conducting a virtual literacy focus group. School-day staff, families and older students can and should give voice to the kinds of literacy activities that will be most engaging. Remember that you can customize this tool and offer different types of activities that are screen-friendly, such as reading aloud favorite stories, or perhaps presenting a virtual play. Don’t let those Halloween costumes collect dust! Students can rummage around at home for something unique to wear on-screen to “dress up” your activities. See Y4Y’s tools for Interactive Read Alouds and Reader’s Theater for more tips.

With or without regular access to a literacy expert, it’s good to arm staff with some basic tools to help students select reading material. Remember that age doesn’t necessarily define where a student is in his or her reading development. Check out Y4Y’s Developmental Stages of Reading tool, and be sure to share it with frontline staff. Does your program have a library of donated books? Consider partnering with a school in a privileged district or a local library to beef up your collection. Then, be sure to group books by reading level. These groupings should be a guide but not a fast rule for students when they are choosing a book. Some students will be motivated by a “reach read” and others might be discouraged, so offer selection support accordingly. Check out Y4Y’s More Literacy Activities tool for additional ideas, including the five finger model to finding a “just right” book.

Kick it old school with Literacy Book Clubs, whether virtual or in person. Right on down to your youngest students, it doesn’t get more together than reading the same book and sharing thoughts and views. Throw in some silly questions among the serious ones to really engage your club members, like, “What do you suppose that puzzle piece Curious George swallowed tasted like? Is THAT why he ate it?” If you have a full group of students who celebrate Christmas, by all means, capitalize on the season. You can surely reach every reader with titles like Construction Site on Christmas Night, The Christmasaurus, or Dear Santa, I Know it Looks Bad But It Wasn’t My Fault. Ask students from other faith backgrounds to share their traditional holiday books.

Finally, as your district offers professional development days around this time of year, be sure to make the most of the time with colleagues. Y4Y’s literacy course offers nine different training tools, starting with the Four Components of Literacy Training to Go, up to the Engaging Families in Literacy Activities Training to Go. Remember, these PowerPoint presentations are downloadable, customizable, and lend themselves well to online platforms for virtual training.

Reading is one of those rare treasures in life that can be shaped however we’d like. While it is the perfect activity for a student who likes to escape into a private world of fantasy, it’s just as well suited to those of us who would rather be together in literacy.