Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Debriefing and the Common Core

Research has demonstrated that learning is experienced more deeply and connections are made more broadly when someone debriefs an activity or lesson with youth.  A debrief gives you an opportunity to check on your objective and see if the youth can demonstrate an understanding of the objective.  A debrief gives young people an opportunity to share what they know and the questions they still may have.  In Common Core this is an essential aspect of learning.  Debriefing is a kind of metacognition which allows each person to consider what has just occurred and the thoughts he/she has about it.

Research tells us that when debriefing one of the most important things we can do is give the youth wait time and an opportunity to collect their thoughts so they can share with others in the group.  To be sure there are always those young people who quickly raise their hand in response to any question, but pausing before we call on them or anyone at all, gives all young people a chance to think and respond.  Youth learn language and communication skills by having lots of opportunities to practice.  So give them time to think, then have them put heads together to work out the kinks in the thinking, or have them take time to write about or draw the ideas they have.  Again, one of the essential aspects of Common Core implementation is the ability to think deeply and to explain what you were thinking when you took the action you did.

Consult 4 Kids has both written and video material around debriefing, including the importance of debriefing and strategies to implement.  Contact us at, check out the website,, and give us a call at (661)322-4347.  

Monday, April 28, 2014

Goal Setting

What’s the difference between a “goal” and an “objective”?  A goal is an aspirational statement of a “place” you would like to be in the future.  A goal is something that we want badly enough that we are willing to work toward reading it.  A goal defines the purpose of the work I am going to do and it isn’t really measurable or tangible, unless I actually accomplish it completely.  For example, I used to have a goal to visit all 50 of the United States.  In October of 2012 I accomplished that goal by visiting North Dakota, the last holdout on my list.  So I made a new goal.  After considering multiple options, I made a goal to visit all of the Presidential Libraries.  I did some research on where they are located and which Presidents have official libraries.  I don’t have a specific timeframe around the goal I just know that I want to accomplish it sometime in the future. 

An objective, on the other hand, is a specific action that I will take to accomplish my goal.  For example, my 2014 objective is to visit 4 of the Presidential Libraries, the Nixon in February (which I did), the George W. and Roosevelt in July, and the Reagan in September.  This objective is measurable (I either do or I don’t), tangible (I am getting a stamp in my Presidential Library Passport), and has a timeframe (2014).  At the end of 2014 I will be part way to the accomplishment of my goal, but it will require that I create an additional objective (maybe several) that will result in realizing my goal.
Too often we get these two terms confused.  To further illustrate, at Consult 4 Kids we have a goal to serve millions of youth and afterschool professionals by helping them to become positive role models and mentors for youth.  This is a lofty goal.  Our objective for 2014 is much narrower and much more focused on spreading the word about our high-quality staff development program to practitioners in the field.  It is our goal that propels us forward, but our objective that puts “flesh on the bones” and gives us direction and drive. 

To help us reach our 2014 objective, contact us at or call (661) 322-4347 to find out how by helping you develop your staff we are also helping ourselves to realize our objective, and in time our goal.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

Nifty 9 Managing Transitions—A Public Face

Have you ever witnessed a child throwing a temper tantrum because he/she isn’t ready to stop what he/she is doing and move on to the next activity or location?  Or have you witnessed an older youth become sullen and uncooperative because he/she has been told it’s time to stop?  Have you ever wondered what you would do if you were faced with the same situation?  In afterschool these transitions from one activity to another or one location to another happen often.  And to compound the challenge it is seldom just one youth that we are trying to transition—it is an entire group of them, often times about 20 of them.  Orchestrating an effective transition is not easy—and yet it is one of the most public faces we have in afterschool.  Generally we are outside when we transition, or in a public space like a cafeteria, multi-purpose room or gymnasium, or in a classroom or library where our ability to manage this transition is witnessed by school day staff, other students, and parents. 

Consult 4 Kids has a number of instructional videos on how to make transitions more effective and has even published an e-Book singly focused on transitions.  We provide tips on how to work with the slow adapters and the kids who just don’t like to get started and once started are not interested in stopping.  We share strategies for developing a sense of ownership around effective transitions.  We have just what you need to help staff be more effective in this area.  Communicate with us at or by calling us a (661) 322-4347.

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/