KIDS Afterschool activities are based on the philosophy that teaching children to talk together about learning experiences is as important as actually engaging in those experiences.
When kids talk about what they’ve done, they must make sense of their experience in a way that is very different from simply doing it. They need to truly understand their own process, the choices that they made and why they made them, and each child needs to be attuned to the experience so that they can share their process and observations with others.
All KIDS Afterschool activities follow a structured format – four steps that are grounded in years of proven teaching techniques specifically designed for afterschool, Extended Learning Time , and Out-of-School Time settings. Research shows that using these steps during enrichment activities helps new teachers learn how to teach more effectively; helps experienced teachers get the most out of the curriculum; and helps children to develop the process skills that are so critical to their education. The steps: “Make it Matter”; “Make it Happen”; “Make it Click”; and “Make it Better”; are focused on helping children learn how to work together effectively, share ideas freely, and build their own confidence as they problem solve, take risks, and grow:
In order for children to understand why an experience matters to them, it is helpful to first present it in a real-world context. This is simply a 2–5 minute introduction to the topic to be covered. For instance, if you are trying the activity Raceways & Rollercoasters – Super Coasters, ask kids if they’ve ever been on a roller coaster before. They can then brainstorm a list of words that describe what it’s like to be on a roller coaster. Or you might have a volunteer draw on the chalkboard or on chart paper a line drawing representing the path a roller coaster might take. The group can then share where on the path they think the roller coaster car is traveling quickly, and where on the path it is traveling less quickly. The important part is providing children with a reason to engage in the activity, and if you start with experiences they’ve already had, then you are giving them that reason.
After you have set the context, present the challenge and materials and send the children off to engage in the activity for 10–20 minutes, usually in teams of 2–4 children. As the teacher, you should move from team to team, monitoring progress and asking them questions about what they are trying. See the Teaching Tips page for ideas on how to have these discussions.
This is the key component to the KIDS Afterschool activities. It is at this moment, when many teams are just starting to have success but are not at the point of completion, that you should break to have children share their experiences so far.
It’s typically this part of the process that sees ideas flowing most freely, when there are many directions that could be taken, and these ideas should all be shared with the larger group. It is also at this point that some teams may be struggling and could be getting frustrated. This frustration can be eased if kids hear some new ideas from other teams, which they can try themselves.
These mid-activity sharing sessions not only help to spread ideas across the larger group, but also help children develop sense-making strategies as they must think critically about their process and the choices that they made in order to share their experiences and ideas with the rest of the group. This discussion typically lasts no more than 5-10 minutes.
After sharing their process with their peers and gathering some new ideas for their own project, send children back to complete the challenge. Once the activity is near an end, if there is time and if it seems appropriate, you can gather all of the students together again to share their creations and observations with each other. This culminating sharing session can give teams a chance to “show off” their handiwork, and to talk more about what they observed and what they experienced.