Thursday, April 21, 2011

How Are The Children?

The question, “How are the children?” is a part of the Maasai greeting. This simple greeting puts everything in perspective and clearly indicates what this culture values as important—the kids. We have started asking this question at the beginning and end of the after-school program. The intent of the after-school program should be that each and every student will end the day in a stronger position than when they came in. It is an interesting question and takes some thinking in the beginning—probably the first week or so, to provide a meaningful answer to that question.

To magnify the impact of this question, try probing for deeper understanding by asking, “What’s important about that?” For example, when asking the question, “How are the children?’ a couple of weeks ago, the dialog went something like this:

Question: “How are the children?”

Response: “The children are well and learning important things.”

Question: “What is important about the children learning important things?’

Response: “It is important that children are learning important things because it helps them understand the world around them.”

Question: “What is important about children understanding the world around them?”

Response: “It helps them to know how to maneuver in the world when they understand it better?”

Question: “What is important about knowing how to maneuver in the world?”

Response: “When you know how to maneuver in the world you are more likely to recognize your own potential because you can find your way more clearly.”

Question: “What is important about recognizing your potential?”

Response: “Recognizing your potential allows you to be you, who you were born to be, and when you are in your ‘wheelhouse’ then you are happy and fulfilled and can act as a positive role model for others.

So the answer to the question, “How are the children?” is really more than simply they are well. The children are unleashing the amazing potential that is inside them and they will likely be happy and fulfilled.

When you stop to think about it, what could be better than that?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Extended Learning Time

The human mind seeks to make meaning of the inputs that it receives from a person’s interactions with the stimuli that abound in the world. We continuously use our senses—sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste, to gather inputs and then interpret what those inputs mean based on our experiences (or sometimes our lack of experiences). Sometimes we interpret things incorrectly. Sometimes we don’t have enough information to make meaning, so we fill up the “vacuum” with our perceptions and our best “guesses” of what is happening.

While school is certainly not the only place a person can learn, it is one of those places that intentionally focuses on learning. Key skills and strategies have been identified in the four cores—English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies, and parsed out in age-appropriate ways to each of the grade levels. After-school programs are an opportunity to extend this intentional learning time for 3-4 hours each and every day. Of course, this space of extended learning time will not be nearly as beneficial to young people if an after-school program simply tries to replicate the school day. Successful after-school programs extend learning time by presenting opportunities for youth to engage in learning through a variety of modalities and intelligences, through hands-on, interactive, relevant and rigorous learning opportunities.

We are always learning. We are always working to make sense of the world around us. We are always trying to make the world “predictable” so we can keep going and not feel overwhelmed by the gaps or voids in our understanding. We all learn differently. The beauty of a complementary after-school program can be found in the opportunity to extend the school day and the good work that is happening during the school day in countless classrooms across the country.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Economies of After-School Programs

One only needs to pick up any newspaper, tune into any television station, or pick the headlines off of the internet to know that all over the county school districts, cities, counties and states are struggling to balance their respective budgets. And of course, the House and Senate aren’t without numerous struggles as well. So in this environment of “stretching dollars” to ensure that you are getting a great return on your investment, after-school programs should be at the top of the list for a positive ROI at a low cost.

Most after-school programs operate on approximately $1.75-$2.25 per student, per hour. Needless to say, this would not even pay for a babysitter. And after-school is so much more than just having someone “watch” your student. After-school programs see to it that kids have a healthy snack and a chance to complete homework in a well-lit environment with access to textbooks, maps, thesauruses, dictionaries, and a PERSON to help youth out. And with these two activities scheduled, the “real” program is simply getting off on the right foot. Programs also offer healthy living activities that include physical activity and nutrition education, enrichment clubs and project-based learning that culminates in a showcase or performance. Beyond this, after-school programs also offer academic enrichment and remediation activities, explorations of the visual and performing arts, and community service, youth leadership development, and service learning opportunities. After-school programs are a bargain truly a bargain. They keep young people in a safe and supervised space and holistically work with youth to help them realize the amazing potential that each and every one of them has.

Continue to support after-school programs and the great work that they are doing.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Test Prep Support... the follow up

As a follow up to the last post regarding test scores. We want to give ya some tips and suggestions to help your students meet their potential. It's all for the kids!

As great as spring is (flowers, sunshine, more daylight hours), it is also the time to prepare students for the “dreaded” standardized test. This summative instrument has increasingly been used to determine success or lack of success. It makes sense then, to be certain that students have every opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.

One of the strategies that can support successful performance on the standardized tests is to review and refine the students’ understanding of the following 12 words which are definitely used on standardized tests to direct student response. Here are the magic 12:













To ensure that students understand each of these terms, we would suggest that you apply the Marzano strategies—paying particular attention to strategies #1-3.

Step #1: Provide students with a description of the word. This is not a definition. It is an example or an explanation. You can do this by showing a video clip, having students perform a skit that illustrates the term, lead small group discussions, and telling or reading a story. In other words—demonstrate the word.

Step #2: Invite the students to put the description, example or explanation into their own words.

Step #3: Invite the students to create a non-linguistic representation of the word—this could be an illustration, a comic strip depicting a series of events, and so on.

Once you have taught these words, then it is important that you have students use them—in conversation, during a game, or involving them in an activity that is not a traditional venue for the usage of these words. (Consider during physical activity, a club, or your program opening.)

Understanding these words will help students not just with standardized testing, but with clarifying the thinking they have around any topic. So take some time this month and ensure that students are more able to complete this year’s standardized test successfully. As an added perk—supporting the school day will be greatly appreciated.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mirror, mirror... U.S. doesn't have lowest scores of them all

While moseying around looking for some positive insights for an ever struggling education world (thank you budget cuts), I happened to come across this...

Look, look! We aren't last on the list! Though we are far from the highest average score, we are not at the bottom.

What I found even more interesting was the disclaimer that followed The U.S.:

3 PISA 2006 reading literacy results are not reported for the United States because of an error in printing the test booklets. In several areas of the reading literacy assessment, students were incorrectly instructed to refer to the passage on the “opposite page” when, in fact, the necessary passage appeared on the previous page. Because of the small number of items used in assessing reading literacy, it was not possible to recalibrate the score to exclude the affected items. Also as a result of the printing error, the mean performance in mathematics and science may be misestimated by approximately 1 score point. The impact is below one standard error.

Makes you wonder... should we have been lower on the list?