It is important in afterschool that learning is both hands-on and minds-on. Either aspect alone will not really meet the needs of youth. So how can you ensure that your lessons and learning opportunities are active, collaborative, and meaningful while at the same time help youth to develop or hone skills and broaden horizons? Here are some tips.
Begin by IDENTIFYING what it is that you want youth to learn from the experience. For example, if you are doing an art lesson, you may want youth to understand complementary colors on the color wheel, how to shade to add depth, or understand the broad brush strokes of a Van Gogh. Whichever one of these objectives you decide on, the rest of the work you will do begins here.
The next step is to determine HOW you will know that the youth have learned what you want them to learn. Certainly you can debrief the activity, but you can also look at a finished product, have the youth verbally explain his/her thinking by sharing a project, or demonstrate an understanding by teaching someone else. Checking for understanding doesn’t require an official “test” or assessment, but is important to be done in a way that makes sense and gives you immediate feedback.
Once you know what you want youth to learn and how you will determine if they have learned it, you are ready to begin PLANNING the activity, asking yourself at each step of the plan the question, “How will this step in the activity help youth achieve the goal I’ve identified?” During this section you should also consider what questions you will ask and what specific content you might need to share, either by telling or demonstration.
If there is any part of the lesson you’ve never done before, you will probably want to DO THE ACTIVITY yourself first so you can better guide the process when youth are doing the activity. Nothing can replace firsthand experience so don’t hesitate to practice.
After all the thinking and planning you are now ready to EXECUTE your plan and then of course REFLECT on what you’ve done when the lesson is complete so you will know how to strengthen the lesson the next time..
These are practical steps help to ensure minds and hands-on activities. This type of preparation focuses on what the youth are learning.
Check out our C4K video, "Creating A Space for Learning"