One of the most important things that young people can do is make a commitment to learning and developing the knowledge and skills they need to be successful as an adult. Commitment to learning is foundational in the 40 Developmental Assets and is the category of the first Internal Asset cluster. Many times, when young people are struggling in school, a commitment to learning is the last thing that they are interested in making. After-school programs have an opportunity to help young people turn that feeling of dread around. This is done by providing scaffolding and support for young people so that school is an acceptable challenge.
After-school programs help youth to develop a commitment to learning in three key ways:
1. Time and support for homework completion
2. Engaging activities to connect youth with school
3. Opportunities to read materials of interest
Having a designated time to complete homework each day provides structure for young people that many need in order to support the choice to focus on the homework and get it “knocked out” so youth can move on to another activity. It is important that you do not leave the staffing of this critical time in the program to chance. It is important, especially with older youth, that you have a staff member that can help with mathematics. Math is a huge stumbling block for some young people, and having a person who understands math and can teach others available to guide the completion of homework is essential. Also, be sure that you have space set aside for students to work alone, in small groups, or in a tutoring cluster. This will allow the student to work on homework in an environment that makes sense to them.
After-school is full of projects and other hands-on, experiential learning opportunities. Check in with young people often to be sure that you are letting them explore their interest. Change club activities often and design culminating events that allow students to share success with the entire student body as well as family and friends.
Included in most every club or activity we do in the after-school program should have a reading component in it. Reading informational text about something that you are interested in is reading practice. Encourage young people to work on-line (if you have computers available to you), read a wide variety of materials from song lyrics to recipes, to books, articles, and ultimately texts. Let youth see you reading and talk about the book you are currently reading. This gives permission for youth to do the same.
Talk with young people about the future, the plans that they have, and how you are willing to support them as they work to accomplish those goals. Let them know that success in life stems from a commitment to learning.
The experienced staff at Consult 4 Kids can help you develop a youth-focused and youth-led high-quality after-school program. Check us out at www.consultfourkids.com