Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Nifty 9 Importance of Transitioning Staff from Direct and Tell to Question to Connection

Have you ever had the experience of telling someone exactly what to do only to find out when you check back in that the task has not been completed in the way you outlined?  Have you ever asked a child to clean his/her bedroom only to find that they have simply moved the mess around rather than taking the time to organize the items and put them away?  Have you then directed them to pick up the socks, the pillows and the papers strewn all around, only to come back and see the shoes exactly where they were the last time you were there and the child says emphatically, “You didn’t tell me to pick up the shoes!”  When we give directives and then specify each action that is to be taken we are practicing “direct and tell”.  The downside of this method is that young people ultimately do not accept responsibility or ownership for what is or is not being accomplished.

The opposite of “direct and tell” is asking questions and soliciting from the other person what they believe should be done and what they are capable of accomplishing.  For example, instead of telling someone to “Clean up your room”, we could ask the question, “What do you think needs to happen so this room will be clean?” When we ask this question we are clearly communicating to youth that we expect them to take an appropriate action to make the room clean.  When we establish agreements we are entering into a pact that states we agree these things are important and will be accomplished.  Then if we have to ask a question we can ask that question about whether or not we are honoring the agreements we have made.

School-day learning is focusing more and more on questioning to connect as youth are asked to consider not only a “right answer” but why they selected the answer they did.  They are asking questions and answering questions, and thus making connections to their everyday life and circumstances.  They can understand the relevance and the meaningfulness of the action they just took when the connection has been clear.

At Consult 4 Kids we have several written and virtual opportunities for people to learn more about the art of asking questions.  Check with us by sending an email to or calling us at (661) 322-4347.  Together we can ensure high quality programs for youth.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Nifty 9—The Trilogy

One of the building blocks of afterschool programs is having a solid handle on creating a safe learning environment for youth.  Whether you call this classroom management, maintaining control in a classroom, or discipline, it is important that a space for learning is created that encourages youth to actively, collaboratively, and meaningfully engage in hands-on, minds-on activities.  At Consult 4 Kids we call this the “trilogy” because we think there are three distinct aspects of this building block:  managing the environment, guiding behavior, and discipline. 
The question is, “How do we help new and experienced staff strengthen this critical corner stone?”  We believe everything begins with clear expectations, set forth in a few simple, straightforward statements which define the behavior you expect from youth.  We believe that  safety, respect, and responsibility captures the right behaviors.  We believe that time must be spent exploring exactly what behaviors demonstrate what these standards look like and sound like, and then agreements are made not as a one size fits all but based on the environment in which youth are participating.  Managing the environment also requires that the leader understand his/her place in the space and how to use the space to his/her advantage.
Guiding behavior begins with a deep understanding that no one can control another person.  What we do in afterschool is give our leaders strategies for working with youth so youth understand the consequences—good or not-so-good, of the choices they make.  Learning the lesson that we live in a stimulus-response world is part of becoming an adult, and knowing the decisions made today absolutely DO influence what happens tomorrow is part two of making good behavior choices..
The last piece of the trilogy for C4K is Discipline—which we distinguish from punishment.  Discipline is about making choices and then experiencing the consequences that you were aware of when you made the choices you did.  So for example, if I am alone in my car on the freeway and I want to escape the traffic jam by traveling in the carpool lane and there is a sign that clearly tells me that the minimum fine will be $251.00 if I am not a car pool, then if I get pulled over I have to accept the consequences of the choice I made.  Self-discipline is strengthened when youth understand that each of them is responsible for the consequences of the decision he/she makes. 

Providing staff with the information they need to be proficient with the Trilogy is something that you can access through the Consult 4 Kids web-based staff development system.  You and your staff have access to the site 24/7/365, and the basic building blocks of high-quality programs can be found in our written and video instruction.  Contact us at or by calling (661) 322-4347.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Foundation for High-Quality Program

The Quality Standards for Expanded Learning Programs were published recently.  You can find the full document on the California Afterschool Network website.   The standards identified are:
  • Safe and supportive environment
  • Active and engaged learning
  • Skill building
  • Youth voice and leadership
  • Healthy choices and behaviors
  • Quality staff
  • Diversity, Access and Equity
  • Clear vision, mission and purpose
  • Collaborative partnerships
  • Continuous quality improvement
  • Program management
  • Sustainability

In the publication there are also descriptors of each of the standards and a group of afterschool professionals are working on indicators. 
Consult 4 Kids has aligned its written and video training to these standards of excellence.  Whether your staff is Rookie, Seasoned, or Veteran, we have something for them that can be accessed 24/7/365.  These informational training sessions are complete with quizzes to check progress (which is tracked on a Learning Management System), discussion questions, and promising practices that have been tried and verified.  For more information on how to make this training available to your staff for pennies a day, please contact us at or by calling (661) 322-4347.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Concepts of Print

What is “concepts of print”?  For younger children Concepts of Print include awareness that:
·         print carries a message
·         there is a one to one correspondence between words read and printed text
·         there are conventions of print such as directionality (left to right, top to bottom), differences between letters and words, distinctions between upper and lower case, punctuation; and
·         books have some common characteristics (e.g. author, title, front/back).
This awareness can be supported in afterschool programs by simply focusing on this skill development while we are working with youth. 
However, for older youth understanding how print reinforces and supports learning is more complex.  It is essential that youth understand the importance of bold-faced words, how to read charts, graphs, and picture captions, and understand the importance of the various segments of text:  overview, summary, questions to consider, and so on.  Helping young people understand the different aspects of print is part of our work.  For example, in homework we focus on helping kids finish the assignments, yet when we look at the new Common Core guidelines identifying key evidence and articulating your thought process is every bit as important as getting the correct answer.  How to use print to help you locate answers and solidify your thinking can be useful for youth.  We will need to help youth become more competent with the texts that they are asked to read.

Help young people in your program develop and hone the skills needed to develop the habits of a literate individual.  Let Consult 4 Kids support you in your efforts.  We offer curricula and training to support you and youth participate in a high-quality program.  Contact us at support@consultfourkids.oeg or by calling (661) 322-4347/  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Implementation of Common Core—Reading Informational Text

One of the key requirements of the Common Core State Standards is that at least 50% of the reading youth do in school is informational text.  Historically, reading in school (and in afterschool if you have used Kidz Lit) has been stories, novels, poetry, and plays and other forms of narrative text, yet in the “real world” much of the reading we do is informational reading.  So while we want to continue to support the reading of narrative text we also need to support informational text reading as well.  So how do we support youth in reading informational text and develop the habits of a literate individual?
At Consult 4 Kids we think that this can begin by helping youth ask questions about the informational text they are reading, such as:

What does this author want me to think about?
What is the author’s point of view?
What should I infer from what I’ve read?
What do other people say about this topic?

C4K has developed after-school appropriate curricula for grades 3rd-8th grades to support the reading of informational text.  The reading is interesting and relevant and not just a rehash of the school day material.  The activities are hands-on, minds-on, with clear objectives, a plethora of collaborative activities and opportunities to practice while having fun.  We provide training around the use of this curriculum to ensure that your staff is prepared to be effective.  We have incorporated these activities in a Book of the Month-type format that provides multiple source materials on the same topic to encourage youth to develop their own opinions based on information from a variety of resources.  To find out more about our Informational Text Curricula and Training please contact us at or call us at (661) 343-3424.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

LCFF Funding

California has identified 8 priority areas in public education:  student achievement (not to be confused with) student engagement, other student outcomes, school climate, parental involvement, basic services, implementation of Common Core State Standards, and course access.  After school programs, can and do support these priority areas.  Let’s look at several of these priorities beginning with parental involvement.  How many afterschool programs have access to parents on a daily basis?  How many afterschool programs showcase youth and invite parents and caregivers to attend the event?  How many afterschool programs invite parents to participate with their child at the end of the day?  How many afterschool programs have tough conversations with parents about their student?  The answer to these questions is certainly “most of them. 
And of course as an afterschool program you are most likely grounded in youth development principles which include developing youth leadership, providing youth with opportunities to share their voice and make a choice, all of which help youth develop 21st Century work place skills and stick with school even when they struggle.  Not only is youth engagement supported by a youth development mind set, as we implement the LIAS (Learning in Afterschool and Summer) principles:  learning that is active, meaningful, collaborative, and that supports mastery and broadens horizons, we engage youth in hands-on, minds-on activities throughout the afternoon—which supports other positive outcomes for youth. 
As afterschool providers we are also supporting the implementation of the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards by implementing strategies that support student learning across all content areas.  Developing activities with clear learning goals which are assessed at the end of the session, debriefing the learning not just the activity, and using strategies to support collaboration, are all part of this effort to support Common Core implementation.

One of the best ways to make sure that we can support these eight buckets effectively is to be sure that our existing and new staff have the basic, foundational training they need so they can create a viable space for learning.  At C4K we have online training available 24/7/365 for both Program Leaders and Site Coordinators.  For Program Leaders we have the Nifty 9 which focuses on professionalism, safety, managing the environment, guiding behavior, discipline, holistic instruction, debriefing, transitions, and moving from direct and tell to questioning techniques.  To learn more about how you can access this for your staff, be they rookie, seasoned, or veteran, for pennies a day, contact us.  Check us out at or by contacting as at

Monday, April 7, 2014

Being A Valued Partner

The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) are changing the way schools think about the work they do.  This different way of funding collapses many of the categorical programs and gives the local schools the opportunity to wrestle with the best way to spend the dollars received from the State.  The LCFF and the LCAP go hand in hand, the first gives you more flexibility with the dollars and the second holds districts accountable for being a good steward of the funds, and not only serving all children fairly but giving that extra boost for youth who are living in poverty or who are English Learners or who are in the foster care system. 

As a valued partner you as the afterschool provider should be at the table to be part of the discussion.  There are many overlaps of the work done in the afterschool program and the priority areas designated by the school day as important.  Below is a chart of the eight priority areas the State has identified as essential.  A descriptor of each of the priorities can also be see in the figure. 

Review these priorities and consider how you can be a part of the conversation.  Remember that staff development is key to doing this work well.  If you need help contact Consult 4 Kids at or call us at (661) 322-4347.

Afterschool in the Eight State Priority Areas