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Top Ten Tips for After-school Leaders to Support and Promote Deeper Learning

Children learn social skills like they learn academic skills, and they need time and support. The following are the top ten tips we've found that help after-school leaders be successful, and to help them engage the children and build confident learners.

  1. Let the Kids Talk! Use cooperative structures* such as “Turn to Your Partner”** or “Think, Pair, Share.”***
  2. Ask open-ended questions. For example, ask: “What did you do at school today?” instead of “Did you have a good day?” “What questions do you have?” instead of “Do you have any questions?”

  3. Use wait-time. Give children a few moments of wait-time after you ask a question before you call on someone to respond. Count slowly to five in your head.

  4. Go deeper to expand the conversation. Ask questions such as, “Tell us more.” “Why do you think that?” “Who can build on/add to that?” “Who agrees?” or “Who has a different opinion?” to elicit more conversation.

  5. Debrief. Discuss what worked and what could be done differently after an activity for the next time.

  6. Be a guide on the side. Watch what children do and ask questions to help the children follow their natural curiosity.

  7. Let them help each other. Encourage the kids to help each other and share ideas and materials to help them gain important social skills.

  8. Let them make mistakes! Set up an environment in which it is safe to make mistakes. Remember, we learn from our mistakes.

  9. Be clear in your instructions. Make sure that the kids understand the activity, what’s being asked of them, and have a chance to ask their questions.

  10. Have fun! Have fun yourself! The more fun you are having, the more fun the kids will have.

* Learn more about cooperative structures and see video clips of them in action here.

** Turn to Your Partner. Partners turn to one another to discuss a question.

*** Think, Pair, Share. Each child thinks individually about a question before discussing his or her thoughts with a partner. Pairs then report their thinking to another pair or to the group. This strategy is especially appropriate when the children are asked to respond to complex questions.

Megan Green is the Western Regional Director at Center for the Collaborative Classroom (CCC). Megan played a lead role in the development of the AfterSchool KidzMath program and a key role in the development of the AfterSchool KidzScience program, a partnership with The Lawrence Hall of Science. In addition to developing materials, she has created and delivered professional development for after-school staff on math, literacy, and science. Currently, Megan manages all program and professional development for CCC’s eight out-of-school time academic enrichment programs. Before joining CCC, Megan was an elementary school teacher.

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