Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Paid Services of Consult 4 Kids

The center buttons on the Consult 4 Kids website link the users to paid services. As you can see in the screen shot below, these paid services include Vocational Training, Online Instruction, the Treasure Chest and finally the C4K Team of consultants and trainers.

Two of these paid services, Vocational Training and Online Instruction are geared to providing practical staff development for frontline staff. Vocational Training is a written training—complete with chapters, quizzes and tests, that lays foundational understanding for both Program Leaders (the folks who work directly with students each day) and the Site Coordinators who oversee the program site, handling the logistics, the relationships, and much of the planning for program. Online Instruction, on the other hand, has a large collection of videos for these two frontline staff positions, in the form of Minis, Modules, Lessons, and Classes, which run from just under 3 minutes to approximately 30 minutes (depending on what you select), and offer training for staff. You can check these out by signing up first for a Free Membership and taking advantage of the preview materials. After you’ve checked it out, then you can make a commitment to the service if it makes sense to you.

Check it out at .

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Free Services on the Consult 4 Kids Website

As consumers, we tend to shy away from the words, “Free Services”. We are leery that the promise of free is just an invitation to disaster, so we tend to shy away. I can assure you that the free services on the Consults 4 Kids website are exactly that. Now please don’t hear these words to indicate that there are now paid services on the website, but there are an abundance of free services that would be of interest to after-school professionals.

So log in to and you will come across a screen that looks like this:

Underneath the banner there are a series of buttons both above and below the “Sharing Expertise ~ Providing Solutions” tag line. Everything on these buttons is a free service. Probably two of the most germane to after-school staff would be the Social Community and the Student Chatter.

The Social Community provides you with a form to create a wall for yourself or your after-school program. You can add pictures, comments daily, comment on the things that others have posted, and so on. In other words, it is a mini “Facebook” for sharing after-school with one another.

The Student Chatter gives you an opportunity to have your students contribute to the website by participating in the monthly surveys and questions. For example, this screen shot shows the questions posed for the month of February as well as some of the student responses to January’s topics.

You could also communicate other things of interest on this space. Remember that you can showcase your youth, at absolutely no cost, and then your young people can go online to see the responses they offered.

Check out the C4K website, explore the free services and then provide feedback to C4K on how those services work for you.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

“Let America Be America Again”

Langston Hughes was born in 1902 and died in 1967. During his 65 years, he was a novelist, playwright, short story writer, columnist, and poet. He wrote from his experience as an African American in America. One of his poems, Let America Be America Again, captures the possibility of America, the dream that is at the core of the Nation. In between the stanzas in the excerpt below, Hughes makes comments about the reality that this dream is not his experience of America, yet he yearns for the dream of America to become a reality.

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

The poem ends with these words:
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

Each day as you work with all of the young people in your program, especially those who need a level playing field, remember the words of this poem. Remember also that you are an integral part of “We, the people.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Advocating for English Learners

Two cases stand out as milestones for legally supporting the English Learner. Both Mendez vs. Westminster some 70 years ago, and Lau vs. Nichols in 1974 were argued by Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Both cases upheld the equity of education for English Learners. Although statute says this much be so, it is not always the reality experienced by young people.

In a video from California Tomorrow entitled Student Voices, you learn about the experiences of 5 young people who are currently in the educational system. These young people represent an array of cultures and languages, but the experience each has in school, is shockingly similar.

The first part of the video captured young people talking about their experiences. They mention the struggle for respect in something as simple as walking through the lunch line in the school cafeteria. They talk about teachers who simply repeat directions to them when they are struggling instead of trying to help them understand the content and concepts. They talk about feeling invisible and in some ways, second class members of the school community.

The video ends with these students offering advice to those who work with them. These words of wisdom, when put into practice, can support the English Learner in the journey to acquire not just conversational English but academic English as well. Following is the advice that these students gave.

  1. Be patient with me. Progress is made little by little not all at once. Encourage us to keep trying and celebrate our small victories.
  2. Consider us as equal and help us to learn how to adequately express ourselves.
  3. Get an adult who can translate for us, not just other students. While a student is better than no one, the understanding of the adult is more thorough and in depth which is what we need to hear.
  4. Have the materials and books that we need and can also take home. Remember our parents may not believe that we are getting an education when they never see us bring home a book.
  5. Slow down. While you may be able to talk fast, we don’t listen at that same speed. It doesn’t need to be exaggerated, just a slight slowdown to give us time to process.
  6. Don’t make assumptions about us. What may appear to be indifference can simply be confusing or an effort to “save face”.

Implement these suggestions. Remember that you need to stand up for the English Learner, not simply because it is a civil rights issues but because you understand the power of language as it translates into an individual’s voice and the unique contribution each person makes to the world when they have found the voice they have.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Eight Identified Best Practices for Working with English Learners

Young people who are also English Learners state that they don’t want to leave their culture behind, but rather find a way to bridge between an English speaking culture and the culture of the language of their birth. They ask that English-only speakers respect them for who they are and take them time to know them as individuals with interests, talents, and dreams.
Research has identified a number of best practices and key understanding that should be considered when working with English Learners. On February 15 at the English Learner Summit, Dr. Laurie Olsen, and expert in this area, identified the following 8 practices.
  1. The development of a second language is predictable. It is important that we target strategies used at the stage of language development the child currently occupies. We need to know the language proficiency level of each student so we will not be fooled by a student’s ability to express him/herself conversationally with his/her ability to utilize academic vocabulary and language structures.
  2. There is a difference between social and academic language. While social language can be learned by exposure to the language, academic language (which is very precise) must be taught in an academic setting.
  3. First and second languages are interdependent. There is an important role played by the home language in developing concepts and key understandings.
  4. Language is more than reading, writing and literacy. Young people must be given an opportunity to both speak and listen.
  5. Oral language is the foundation for developing proficiency in a new language. Youth must be given the opportunity to produce the new language.
  6. Language develops in context not isolation. English Learners need a full spectrum of learning opportunities including science, the arts, social studies, physical education, technology and career education, and the cores of English Language Arts and mathematics.
  7. It is essential that English Learners have meaningful interactions with native English speakers.
  8. Learning environments need to affirm and support the English Learner. Promote community, participation, engagement, the development of healthy identify, and provide opportunities to share culture and other meaningful experiences.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

English Learner Support in After-School

Laurie Olsen, Ph.D. is known for her work in school district, county offices, and across the nation in the design and implementation of powerful English Learner programs. She has published dozens of books, videos and articles on English Learner education, and was the keynote presenter at the Southern California English Learner Summit held on February 15.

Olsen began her remarks by discussing the demographic shift in this country stating that many in this country are shaped by other cultures, other languages, and the immigrant experience. She emphasized the importance of supporting the whole English Learner, their entire educational experience by implementing best practices. Olsen lamented that many times there is a disconnect or mismatch between the practices implemented and the practices identified by research as those which will help us close the achievement gap.

The facts, Olsen explained, are the 1,475,988 English Learners on in K-12 education and that 85% of those speak Spanish, and the next highest concentration is 2.4% Vietnamese. She stated that these learners are across all age groups in the system and have a wide variety of experiences beyond language that influence who they are and the choices English Learners make. She stated that these young people must learn how to bridge cultural worlds and that it is essential we help young people successfully play the role of translator for themselves as well as their families. We need to help them develop healthy identities and develop a sense of competence and the life skills needed to be successful in life.

Olsen said that the job of people in education is to make grade-level academics comprehensible and accessible to all students by supporting each student’s participation in learning activities. One key way we can do this, Olsen said, is by giving students the opportunity to practice both conversational and academic language during the after-school program. Research has found that English Learners spend a mere 90 seconds a day talking and using the English language in the school setting. In after-school we have at least 180 minutes a day to increase that time at least twelve fold.

As after-school providers, we need to intentionally support our English Learners.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


On February 15, 2011, I had an opportunity to attend the Southern California English Learner Summit held in Region 11. This Summit was a joint effort of the California Afterschool Network and Region 11 (Los Angeles County). Gordon Jackson, the Director of the Learning Supports and Partnerships Division, opened the Summit by welcoming over 125 participants from across Southern California. In his opening remarks Jackson stated that the participants had made an important choice and decision by attending the Summit. He said, “English Learners matter to California and the Nation”. He went on to explain that the contribution of English Learning Americans makes a difference in the well-being of both California and the Nation economically and that it is critical we work every day to help close the Achievement Gap. Jackson explained that by 205, 38% of the workforce in America would Hispanic. He went on to say that work force was aging, and that baby boomers are aging-out. These jobs and the ones not yet discovered, will be filled by a citizenry with many English Language Learners who have been supported by public education and after-school programs.

Jacks mentioned that this is “the season of afterschool”. In Sacramento, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and Director of Education, Tom Torlakson, is a vocal and long-time supporter of after-school programs. Torlakson is supported by the Afterschool
Network, Jackson’s California Department of Education staff, Regional Leads across California, and many at the local level who find value-add in after-school programming. Jackson stated that after-school programs have the opportunity every day to engage English learners in a way that could influence the school day performance of these young people.

Jackson said that it was time for after-school to take things to the next level and demonstrate to voters that the State’s investment in after-school was providing a big “bang for the buck”, and that after-school programs were a complement to the school day.

Jackson ended his opening remarks by saying that after-school is well positioned to support literacy and fluency in English learners by providing practice time and an opportunity to practice the language through conversations, reports, and working with others on projects. He stated that it is important to protect the productivity of this nation by being fully committed to the work being done, each day in the after-school space.

Jackson’s opening remarks set the tone for the Summit and also, as many people attending the Summit commented, reminded them that the work they do is not only important, but essential for both California and America.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Complementary Experiences

Many people are confused by the words “compliment” and “complement”. A “compliment” is a statement of praise, or could also be a sign of respect. So if I gave you a “compliment”, I might say, “I really like your red dress.” or I might say, “My compliments to the chef for an excellent dinner.” “Complement” on the other hand means, “something that fills up, completes, or makes perfect.” (Merriam Webster) In my opinion we in the world of after-school programming on seeking to “complement” the instructional day.

After-school is an opportunity to add 540 extra hours of practice time to a student’s yearly education plan, and it is this additional practice time that allows after-school to complement the school day. The closer the after-school staff works with the school day staff, the more complementary these programs become. Youth have only one day. It begins when they awake in the morning, and ends when they go to sleep for the night. It is important that the school day and the after-school program work together in a complementary fashion so that youth can fully benefit from the experience.

One of the ways that the after-school program can be complementary is by frontloading subject information for the school day. In order for this to occur, the school day teachers need to determine what they will be teaching in math, science, history/social studies, visual and performing arts, language arts, and so on. It is important that the school day give the after-school program about four weeks to consider what they will do to support the material that will be covered in the school day.

After-school can help youth develop the vocabulary they will need for the upcoming classes. Students can also be supported in developing an understanding of the concepts being discussed as well. In the after-school program this will not be the adult “telling” the student anything, but will rather be based on the discovery that youth can have in well-orchestrated experiences. Frontloading can be done through games, activities, project-based learning opportunities, reading a book, sharing images either in photographs or video, and then through careful debriefing each day to ensure that students have mastered the information.

Check out the school day scope and sequence for each grade level. Connect with at least one teacher in each grade level to find out what the curriculum plans are for the next month. Step up to the plate so these folks can inform your work.

As a goal, you would like your after-school program to complement the school day agenda.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

How Was Grand Canyon Formed?

Fact is, the Grand Canyon was formed primarily as a result of the erosive activity of the Colorado River. Science has found that the Canyon displays rock formations that were formed over 1 billion years ago (the new formations are a mere 500 million years old.) The Colorado River, which is young by comparison—only about 70 million years old, began to slowly and surely carve out the Canyon. Now the River did not do it completely on its own, there are geological records of uplift, tectonic plate movement, and erosion by wind, but when it comes down to the primary cause, the Colorado River takes center stage.

Now you may be asking yourself what in the world the Grand Canyon has to do with the after-school program. This is a reasonable question. I think that the lesson of the Colorado River is to NEVER give up, to just keep on, keeping on. Over time, the results can truly be amazing. When we work with young people, we don’t always see the immediate change that we would like to witness. Instead we see a slow, drawn out process that results in minuscule changes. We need to remember that that it is the combination of these minuscule changes that make the difference in the lives of students.

Education is the name of the game. We must understand that learning is continuous and ongoing. Education includes the changing of paradigms and how folks regard the things that are around them. For many, the after-school program is simply babysitting and homework help. For those of us that work in this program we know that it is much, much more. It is an opportunity to change the landscape by changing lives. Your work is infinitely important. Celebrate it by sharing it with others and being a champion for both kids and the work that you do! Make it your goal to change the paradigm of someone who does not yet understand the value-add of after-school programs.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Importance of Advocacy

There is an old Barry Manilow song entitled, One Voice. This song begins with the words,

“Just one voice singing in the darkness,
All it takes is one voice
Singing so they hear what's on your mind
And when you look around you'll find
There's more than one voice singing in the darkness
Joining with that one voice
Each and every note another octave
Hands are joined and fears unlocked”

This song could easily be about advocacy. It is important that you speak up and promote the service that you provide, day in and day out, in the after-school program. The work that you do each day is absolutely amazing! What are some after-school stories that you can share. Do you have a story about a first grader who says that he is doing well because, “She told me I was smart, so I am”, as he points to his program leaders? Could you share about a youngster who is thrilled to have the opportunity to debrief his class—even though it does give him “tingling fingers”? Or maybe you could share about the young teenage girl who is able to go to the prom because the program leader organized a “dress-sharing” party with her friends who were happy to share last year’s prom dress with someone else?

One of my favorite true stories was the young man who thanked his program leader for “liking him” when he wasn’t very likeable and had seen to it that his parents were able to see some positive things about him when she talked with them at the end of each program day. He ended his speech by saying he had “turned his life around” and was doing well in school and owed it to the support he had been given in the after-school program.

Share your successes and struggles with those who have political clout or with others who will join with your one voice to create a cacophony of sound celebrating the successes of your after-school program.