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.

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