Tips from the Field

Want to know what other Extended Day educators are doing? Have a problem in your program and need a solution?

Practioners from all kinds of programs submit tips to the Center and they are posted right here for you to use in your own programs.

Extended Day and English Language Learning: A Natural Pair

Afterschool is a perfect setting for boosting language learning for English language learners, and for all kids. The very things that make afterschool terrific—kids playing and working together, lots of hands-on activities, a caring, inclusive community with good peer and adult relationships—these are the same elements for building language skills. Language learning happens when children feel safe to try out those new words and sounds, without fear of being criticized. Fluency and vocabulary grow with free flowing talking around shared activities, tasks, and interests. Use extended day and afterschool time to provide lots of language-rich games and activities to promote talking and to build relationships at the same time, such as committees and community service projects. Offer choices among individual, pair, and small group activities. Encourage creative expression and presentations; support ‘active listening’ among the audiences. Talking and listening skills underlie literacy—so talk it up in your program!

Great Staff Connections = Great Programs

“When staff connect well with each other, work time is more enjoyable, and that spills over into working better with the kids. Provide opportunities for staff to bond early in the year.”

  • Open staff meetings with a team building activity
  • Ask staff to rotate leadership of team building activities and meetings
  • Have staff demonstrate with staff activities to do with kids
  • As budget allows, schedule retreats or off-site activities
  • Reinforce respect as a golden rule among staff—and kids

Building rapport among staff models practices and attitudes to build among children and young people in the program.

High School: The motivation challenge

By the time students reach high school, they have well-established interests. Allowing students to align their interests with your activities will increase a student’s motivation to work on the projects. If you are a program administrator or staff member who designs projects or activities, leave the specific subject matter as open as possible. For example, if the main objective of your assignment is to build the students’ research skills and get them thinking about their futures, encourage them to compare and contrast different careers or colleges. Have them share their findings using the media of their choice.

Homework Time that Works

Homework time is part of most afterschool programs, and too often, it’s more a problem area than opportunity for learning. Children come with different amounts of homework (or none), different skill levels, work habits, and energy for getting it done, and different expectations from parents and teachers. If you put children and their interests and needs (including their need to complete assignments) at the center of homework time, not just the homework task itself, you’ll take a big step toward making this time in your program work well. Set it up to be more like doing homework at home with friends than sitting in study hall at school. Older or more skilled students can help others. Kids can move around. They can study together, or mix in breaks with board games, or share resources on the computer. By thinking about homework differently, you can make homework time work for everyone.

Kids Build Community Partnerships

“Community partnerships are resources for programs—through funding, advocacy, providing volunteers and mentors, creating internships, and connecting children with local leaders. Kids are powerful for outreach.”

Kids build community partnerships by:

  • Creating flyers
  • Putting together program ‘press kits’
  • Taking photos Preparing presentations
  • Organizing a phone campaign
Successful Programs Designed with Older Youth in Mind

Research in afterschool indicates that older youth want their time to count. They want programming to be relevant for them either now or in the near future. Older youth also look for opportunities to connect with peers and flexible program hours.

To meet these needs,

  • Include workforce development, SAT and college preparation content, or life skills content
  • Actively structure your program to facilitate social interactions, with youth committees and peer groups
  • Offer drop-in programming with schedule and attendance flexibility (e.g. youth can come to the program as desired)
The Best Summer Classroom

eafy greens, succulent strawberries, juicy tomatoes. Nothing tastes better than fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables. Exercise, fresh air, and hands-on learning make gardens-and farms too-the best summer classroom. Gardening is a great way for children and youth to learn about nutrition, science, and the environment. Plus, if they grow the produce themselves, they are more apt to eat and enjoy it. What more could you ask for?

Visit to learn more about gardening with young people. Also, be sure to read about Foundations Seeds for Learning student farm and marketplace program for urban high school students.

Want to contribute?

Fill out the form below to upload your Tip from the Field or ask our staff for advice, ideas that is not posted here. If selected your Tip will be posted here for all other Extended Day Educators!

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