After-school programs are always rushed for time, when trying to make an impact on the children they serve. By the time all the busses arrive and basic routines are complete, it seems like your day is over. So how do you add a little education into the time you have, while letting the children have free play to unwind from a long day at school? This is a question that plagues school-age teachers everywhere.
The trick is to think small and simple. I like to think of the old saying “kill two birds with one stone.” Find ways to sneak learning into everything you do. One creative idea I recently saw combined art, peer interaction, and writing. The children helped decorate the door to look like a giant piece of notebook paper, then the teacher wrote “Journal Entry” on the top and a topic. The example topic was “the first day of school.” While the children ate snack, they talked about the topic. Then, after snack, they each wrote their answers on it. This simple activity takes very little extra time, encourages meaningful conversation during snack, and has children use their writing skills. If you don’t have doors or the space to keep art displayed, you can do the same thing with a medium sized dry erase board and a question of the day.
Another example of combining learning into routine is to add math to any routine you complete. Why should the teacher have to take attendance when you have an older school-age child who can read the names and count how many students arrived at after-school care. If you have a large program that separates into two or three primary care groups, as you separate, talk to the children about how many students came today and how many are going to be with each teacher. This allows you to introduce topics and math language, such as “divide.” For example: We have 24 students today. If we divide into 2 even groups, we will have 12 students in each group; 24 divided by 2 equals 12.
This is just one example of how to incorporate learning into the everyday tasks of a school-age classroom.