Monday, September 30, 2013

C4K Lesson Plans

We at C4K know how challenging it is to do all of the things necessary to operate an effective after-school program that meets the academic, social and emotional needs of the youth we serve. As the expectations for after-school programming continue to grow, it has become increasingly clear to those of us at C4K that one way we could help is by providing monthly lesson plans that can provide a foundation for your program. Some of the lessons are designed specifically for designated grade levels, others for a cluster of grade levels, and finally, for your program as a whole. 

The lessons have all been designed with the same format which we believe makes sense when teaching young people. The individual lesson plans are identified by grade level, lesson focus, and title. Materials you will need are called out—you will notice that we have tried to reduce the amount of paper and/or copies that you will need. The lesson itself has an opening (state the objective of the lesson and check to see what students already know), the lesson content (instruction/ demonstration, student practice, and taking advantage of “teaching moments); and the closing (review, debrief and reflections). You will also find resource materials that will give you a more in depth look at the strategies we are utilizing or background information on the theme or other lessons.

To find out more about these lesson plans, log onto the Consult 4 Kids website at  Scroll to the bottom and click on the Online Store link.  Once you are there, on the left hand side, click on Program Made Easy Lesson Plans.  You will then be taken to a page that has an overview video about the lesson plans and if you scroll down you will find two buttons—one the opportunity to purchase and the second for access to one month free.  Take a look and let us know what you think.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Building A Team

A team is a group of people who:
  • Have a clear task
  • Are interdependent
  • Believe that working as a team will lead to more effective outcomes than working alone
  • Are held accountable and rewarded as a unit

When creating an after school team, staff must learn to cooperate with one another so that they can be a positive role model for young people who are also learning to be a contributing team member.  This parallel structure creates an interdependent after school “family” who are all working toward accomplishing program goals.

Teams go through a building process before they can become highly performing teams.  These steps are: 

·         performing
§  norming
o   storming
·         forming

Forming:  team members are getting to know one another and learning about the habits and ideas of one another.
Storming:  team members are trying to figure out who will be in charge of the team; what the guidelines for being a member of the team will be, how they will work together
Norming:  Staff comes together at this point, making agreements about their performance and interactions with one another
Performing:  once agreements have been made, the team is able to work together to accomplish the identified task.

High performing teams do not happen by accident and require a commitment from the team members in order to maintain a level of high performance.  The team must be certain that everyone has input into the decision making process, understands that each member of the team is essential as they are all interdependent, and act as gatekeepers for effective performance.  The performance agreements that the team members make with one another, form the foundation for cooperative work. 

It is important that teamwork is rewarded by acknowledging the contribution of each member and that the end result of working together has had a positive effect and affect on the after school program and its participants. 

It is also important to remember that effective after school programs are made great by their people infrastructure.  It is the capable, creative, positive, thoughtful people that are the fundamental building blocks of strong, surviving after school programs.  Belonging to self-managed teams empowers people to meet their personal potential, and as a result, they can empower others, including the students they work with, to recognize their potential. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Calendars and Schedules

Have you ever thought about the difference between a calendar and a schedule?  It’s important to understand the difference and why each is so important for your program. 
Yearly and monthly calendars should be created so you can be sure to include special events (Thanksgiving, July 4, Spring Break, President’s Day, and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s. Birthday), surveys that need to be completed by parents and students, monthly themes, guest speakers, field trips, site assessments, and other events.  Calendars do not have to be adhered to without change, but they do provide a frame from which the program can operate.  A year-long plan, supported by a monthly calendar that is fleshed out, helps keep the program remain holistically on track. 

Calendars and schedules are also helpful for families and school day partners.  Include special school events (Back to School, Open House, Parent Conferences, Staff Development Days) on your calendar as well.  These school day events will affect your program—often by the unavailability of space or program closure.  Monthly calendars can be distributed with monthly newsletters or Snack Menus. 

Schedules on the other hand serve quite a different purpose.  Legislation requires the afterschool program to have several components.  Other components are not required but recommended.  The required components are academic support (usually homework at a minimum) and academic enrichment.  

Recommended components include physical activity and additional support for English Language Learners and STEM.  The afterschool program needs to be balanced so that the “whole” child is addressed and that “whole” person includes body, heart, mind, and spirit.  Taking our cue from this, a high quality afterschool program will have physical activity and other healthy living components to address the body; clubs of interest to speak to the heart; academic components including homework, support for English Learners and other academic supports to challenge the mind; and the arts, service learning, and community service to converse with the spirit. 

To get so much done in the three or more hours of afterschool programming may mean that you have to balance the program over more than a day or a week.  Some programs are scheduled on a two week basis which allows all aspects of a quality program to find a place that is long enough for the student to have adequate time to participate in the activities. 

Begin with a calendar, move on to the schedule, and finally end with the daily and weekly detailed plans for your program.  Share the calendar and schedule with everyone so they know what to expect.  Once you have these two planning documents in place you will be set to move forward.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Discipline—Let the Plan Set You Free

Discipline and punishment should not be confused.  Discipline can be applied when a person knew full well the consequence of his/her behavior choices.  For example we have probably all been a party to the “If you…then I” conversation.  In this conversation it is clearly laid out what the result of a choice will be.  “If you throw away that shirt then I will not replace it” is a perfect example.  If the person chooses to throw away the shirt then he will know that there is no new shirt on the horizon.  Or if you instruct a youth in your program, “If you refuse to complete your homework, then I will have you complete the homework during art” and he/she doesn’t complete the homework, then it is imperative that you stick with the consequence, the discipline, and the youth completes homework during art.  Punishment is something that is imposed after the fact.  Do you remember as a youth when someone was unhappy with you and you rolled your eyes or displayed some other form of “bad attitude” and suddenly the consequence had escalated and become more severe?  This is an example of punishment.  You didn’t realize where the situation was going because you had not understood the consequence prior to the choice you made. 

One scenario that often happens in afterschool programs is that an “If you…then I” conversation is clearly had, but when it comes time to deliver the “then I” part of the conversation we back off.  We say, “After all, the person is sorry,” or “She really didn’t understand the consequence,” or “I was being too hard to make that the consequence.”  When we do not follow through on discipline, we give youth permission to challenge and test us to determine whether or not we really mean what we say this time.  This leads to more disruptive behavior choices rather than positive ones. 

Discipline needs to be systemic not based on how remorseful a youth can appear or how aggrevated the adult feels.  The goal of a discipline plan is to clearly place the onus of responsibility for the behavior choice made on the shoulders of the person who made the choice with complete understanding of the choice that was being made.

What challenges do you have around discipline?  Share those with us at

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Behavior Guidance

There is an old saying that goes like this, “you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”  I think that this expression is true when you speak of a person’s behavior as well.  While you are standing right next to someone you may be able to influence the behavior choice he/she makes; however, when you walk away, that initial choice can be immediately replaced.  The challenge with behavior guidance is that we delude ourselves into believing that we can actually control someone else’s behavior.  We might be able to influence that behavior through systems of rewards and consequences, but ultimately if a person doesn’t “care” about the consequence of a choice he/she makes when it comes to behavior, it is virtually impossible to get that person to behave in the way you would like.

For all of us, behavior is a choice.  Youth choose to get their homework done or to refuse to do it (unless of course it is beyond their skill level).  They also choose to collaborate well with others or not.  In the marshmallow experiment in the 1960s, preschoolers either chose to eat one marshmallow now or wait to eat two later.  Behavior is a choice.  It is what we at C4K like to call the “what”.  Behavior is “what” you do.  It is not “who” you are.  When you make a behavior choice you are one choice away from either making another good choice or one that is not so good.  The importance of guiding behavior is not the here and now, but the choices a young person makes when the adult is no longer there to be the Jiminy Cricket on the child’s shoulder. 

Behavior guidance means helping young people understand that behavior is a choice and that there are consequences for every choice we make—some of them good some of them bad.  We also need to help young people understand that a single decision can have a far-reaching affect.  For example, if you choose to drop out of high school, it might be okay for a year or so, but as you get older that decision will affect your earning potential for the rest of your life.  Discussing the “why” for making the choice and the possible results of the choice will, over time, help young people weigh the choices they are making and hopefully choose the positive behavior to lead to a beneficial outcome.

Let us know what you do to support behavior choices that young people in your program make.  Send us information at .

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Setting a Positive Tone

Tone is one of those words that describes an intangible, much like the word "wind". While you can experience "wind", you really can’t see it. You see the results of it, you know that it has been there, but it is really difficult to isolate wind from these effects of wind. Tone is like that too. You can’t reach out and touch "tone" but you absolutely can feel it and see the results of it when you are in an afterschool program. Tone is being embraced by an attitude that says to you, "Glad you’re here, breathing the same air and participating in the same activities"; "You’re safe here"; "You matter"; "You can trust me—I say what I mean and mean what I say"; "Your best interest is a top priority." A positive tone is affirming for everyone in the program.

Tone doesn’t happen by accident. A positive tone is set each and every day. Your program opening is the first opportunity you have to set a positive tone each day. Ask yourself, "How do we help staff and youth feel welcome here?" "How do we demonstrate to staff and youth that we value them and look forward to learning with them?" "How do we ensure that the time in our program is filled with opportunities to be successful, to be active and collaborative, and to explore personal interests?"

As the adults in an afterschool program, the tone of the program begins with you. Sometimes we can start out in a positive flow and then we notice that this is no longer the case. The tone is no longer positive and it is dragging people down. A strategy that you can use to reverse this situation is to "Stop", "Regroup", and "Reset" the youth in your program. Simply stop the activity, call youth together and discuss what’s going on and then reset the tone for the day or program component. You don’t have to wait for tomorrow, you can operate every day with the most positive and respectful tone.

Share with Consult 4 Kids the strategies that you use to affect the tone of your program and/or classroom. We would like to share what works for you with others. Send your information to

Friday, September 13, 2013

Managing the Environment

Learning how to manage the different environments in an afterschool program can be helpful when setting up behavior guidance and discipline systems.  Let’s start by thinking about the many different environments in which your program operates.  Obviously there is classroom space and usually multipurpose room space.  There is also the hallway, the restrooms, the drinking fountains, playgrounds and asphalt or cement courts.  Some programs are lucky enough to have access to gymnasiums, libraries, science labs, computer labs, and kitchens.  No matter which environments you operate in, learning how to navigate in the space is important.  Here are three tips for managing the environments you work in.

First, set agreements identifying expected behavior in each of these spaces.  If your agreements are to Be Safe, Be Respectful, and Be Responsible, how will that look, sound and feel at the drinking fountain, or in the place where youth eat the snack?  How will the behavior be the same or different inside a classroom during homework and outside playing Steal the Bacon?  Helping youth think through the expectations of behavior in each environment is step one for managing that environment successfully.

Second, understanding the importance of your place in the space matters.  Too often we think that the only place for the leader to be is at the front of the room or the line.  Somehow we confuse location with authority.  Actually one of the best things you can do is Manage By Walking Around.  If you are speaking from the back or side of a classroom, young people will still be listening.  Most likely they will follow you visually, turning in the chair to look at you.  In real estate the mantra is “location, location, location.”  This is true in afterschool only if you keep moving from one location and vantage point to another.

Third, it is important the you are vigilant in your space and constantly check to be aware of what is going on.  Using visual and auditory scans is helpful.  You are not looking or listening for the “normal” (whatever that is), but you are looking and listening for the abnormal.  For instance, if the noise level in your room is generally a 4-5, abnormal would be a noise level of 1-2 or 7-8.  Too loud or too soft isn’t the point, it is that the noise level is not within the range of normal.  Same is true visually.  It is important to remember that probably the first action drew your attention and what you will witness is the second action.  Understanding that helps you deal more fairly with youth.  You can also be on the lookout for dangerous items, remember to count heads every so often to be sure someone hasn’t wondered off, and enlist the help of youth to keep the environment safe for everyone.

Check out our video at C4K on The Environment as Your Ally.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Honoring 9/11

September 11, 2001 is a day that impacted the emotional memory of anyone who was old enough at the time to feel the disbelief and horror of the day.  On that day four separate planes were hijacked and three of them found their targets (World Trade Center 1 and 2 and the Pentagon), and the fourth crashed in Pennsylvania as a result of valiant efforts by passengers.  It was one of those days that lives with and in you.  Other dates that people remember emotionally are Pearl Harbor (1941), the Kennedy Assassination (1963), Sandy Hook (2012), and the Boston Marathon Bombing (2013).  Certainly there are personal days that stand out for us—some positive and others sad—but what is important is that we help young people remember the past but learn from it as well so that history does not repeat itself. 

This year when you honor the victims of 9/11 help your young people think about how they can “Pay It Forward” and make a positive difference in the world.  Remember, the youngest of your afterschool youth can pay it forward.  Maybe they plant fall flowers in a flower bed at school, invite someone they love to share a game or two in the program, or make cards to take to the local Senior Center.  Whatever they do it is a time to remember the blessings we have and the lives that have been taken needlessly.  Help this day be a day of renewal for the youth in your program.

Let us know how you honor 9/11 in your program.  Please send pictures and descriptions to

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Building Relationships

Afterschool is a "relationship-based business". Successful programs are built on the relationships held among staff, children and youth, parents and caregivers, school day staff and the community as a whole. Each one of these relationships is critical and is constantly being built. Building relationships require that each party in the relationship invest time, care, and belief. At C4K, we think that these are the essential three.

Time is important because first of all it takes time to build the affinity and understanding to really be in a relationship with another person (or entity in some cases). Secondly, time is important because in relationships it is not enough to just spend time "for" the other person, it is essential that you spend time "with" one another. It is in that time together that you deepen your understanding of who the person is, what the person values and believes in, and how this person navigates the world. By spending time together you can also begin to build collaborative goals and truly create a synergy between you.

Care is also an important factor in relationships. This isn’t the kind of care where someone takes care of you and tries to build your dependence upon them. It is the type of care that means as a person in a relationship, you follow-up and follow-through with the commitments you have made. It also means that as a supervisor, you will clear the obstacles that might impede the progress of another person because you have the positional power to make that happen. It is the kind of care that includes others by asking for input and feedback—the kind of care that builds another’s self-esteem and self-efficacy.

Belief, the final ingredient, is about believing that the relationship and the other person is "worth" the effort. It is holding others in unconditional positive regard and being firmly committed to the belief that the person you are investing time and care in has yet to recognize his/her full potential. You believe in the possibility o that person to "become."
When you build relationships based on time, care and belief, you will have relationships that will stand the test of time.

As a role model and mentor for children and youth, building relationships is essential. Please share with us at C4K the strategies you use to build positive relationships with the children and youth in your program. Send your information to

Monday, September 2, 2013

Lights On! Why It’s So Important

Afterschool’s National Celebration, Lights On Afterschool! is scheduled for Thursday, October 17, 2013. The Afterschool Alliance, sponsor of the event, states on its website: "Each October, 1 million Americans and thousands of communities nationwide celebrate Lights On Afterschool to shine a light on the afterschool programs that keep kids safe, inspire them to learn and help working families." If you haven’t participated in this celebration in the past, let 2013 be a banner year. If you have participated, sign-up again by going to the Alliance website at
 "Light on Afterschool" and registering your event.

This year Lights On Afterschool is fourteen years old. Millions of afterschool advocates and program participants take time to rejoice in the opportunity to provide an informal learning space for children and youth in the hours afterschool. The program, once focused simply on safety and a little homework assistance, has morphed into learning experiences for young people that are active, collaborative and relevant, and that give youth a look into many new possibilities that await them in the future.

No need to worry about planning as the Alliance even has a planning kit to make your Lights On Afterschool celebration easy to organize. Programs celebrate this day in many different ways. Some get proclamations from local government leaders, others invite parents to a showcase, while others assemble the youth from a number of sites and have a carnival of sorts.

No matter what you do it is important that you DO! Join with others across the country. Register your event with the Alliance and become part of a great tradition.

Please send pictures of your event to C4K at so we can post on our website.