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After-school Tip #4: The Fun Factor

In our last after-school tip, we talked about the importance of bringing enthusiasm to everything we do with kids. I still remember when I was in sixth grade, and our teacher welcomed us back from summer with an exhausted look on her face and a deadpan: “Now we are going to learn about ‘New Math.’ I spent the whole summer on it.” I still remember thinking that math was not going to be great—and that was long time ago. Check out Tip #3 if you haven’t.

Our tip for today deals with the F-U-N factor, which is just as crucial as our enthusiasm.

Make It Playful

This is after-school time, not more school. When I am home after work, I enjoy things that are very different than what I do at work. And kids feel the same way. This is not to say that we shouldn't be supporting what is done during the school day; this is what out-of-school time does so well. But during out-of-school time, you can really get out of the box and have some fun.

students following a leader in an after-school activity

When thinking about what you are going to do with the kids, choose activities that are fun, engaging, interesting, and hands-on. There aren’t many sounds better than kids talking, laughing, and sharing when you walk into a program. You can tell from those sounds alone that kids are genuinely having fun while learning. Give them lots of time to interact, move, and be a part of everything. Some ideas to get you started:

  • Get kids involved by holding an activity election: poll the group for ideas, select a few that are appropriate, hold a vote, and start with the one with the most votes.
  • Build kids’ math confidence by playing games that get them up and moving while interacting; don’t just hand out more worksheets.
  • Have fun with reading by acting out the story: let the kids pick their roles, assign one or more “narrators,” and let everyone improvise a little.
  • Roll up your sleeves and have fun doing simple science experiments.
  • Take walking field trips.

Remember, after-school time should not feel like more school. If it did, we would call it “more school.” And we would say things like, “What did you do in your more-school program today?” and “How was more school?”

You should have fun, and kids should be excited to come! Then you will know you have done your job.

Now it’s your turn. What do you do to make after-school time playful and fun? How is your program different from the school day? What are kids most excited about? We would love to hear from you! Share your story in the comments, and stay tuned for the next After-school Tip.

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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Comments (2)

Megan, such powerful tips in

Megan, such powerful tips in this series! I so appreciate that emphasis on interactions and movement!

Thanks, Gina. Engagement is

Thanks, Gina. Engagement is key!