Online Professional Learning and
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21st Century Community Learning Centers



January 4, 2023

In the spirit of setting new resolutions, take this opportunity to break any old habits that have crept in over the years and wipe the slate clean with positive alternatives to problematic teaching practices.

The “Theory of Learning Styles” Is “Outta” Style

If you’re in the education world, chances are, you’ve heard about the theory of learning styles. Often, it’s (mis)interpreted like this: Auditory learners? They learn best from recorded lectures, so don’t give them a graphic organizer. Visual learners? They always remember information best through charts or diagrams. Kinesthetic or tactile learners? The only way they can learn is to touch, build, or draw something.

The problem with this approach? While it’s true that individuals may prefer to learn in certain ways, we may shortchange students if we classify them as being only one kind of learner: auditory, visual, or tactile. The “learning styles habit” can send the untrue message that students can only ever learn in one way. It may also discourage them from trying new things and “learning to learn” outside their comfort zones.

Out With the Old

In addition to the learning styles habit, have you or your staff picked up other habits that aren’t necessarily productive? For example:

  • Asking empty questions like “Does everyone understand?” or “Is anyone confused?” No doubt, you’re asking these questions in good faith. But how likely are students to voluntarily say, “I don’t get it”? Chances are, most will stay silent rather than risk embarrassment. Try replacing the empty questions habit with the guiding questions habit, where you say things like, “What do you think about…?” or “How is this different from…?” Or what might happen if you adopt the coaching habit, where you observe students during individual or group tasks — and use guiding questions or the five whys to help them clarify fuzzy thinking or solve a problem? Give it a try and let us know what happens!
  • Using behavior charts to motivate positive behaviors. The hope may be that using behavior charts will steer students away from infractions. In reality, these charts can publicly shame and discourage some students while prompting others to mock their peers. Some students end up settling into the destructive patterns the behavior chart is putting on display. Kick the behavior chart habit and replace it with the little victories habit: Make sure each student goes home with a “little victory” to share with their parent or guardian, such as completing a homework assignment or learning a new science concept (Hey Mom, did you know baby frogs are called tadpoles?!).

In With the New

Back to the question of learning styles. What can you do to ensure that every student benefits from the activities you and your staff work so hard to plan? Consider replacing the learning styles habit with the multimodal learning habit. Research shows that multimodal learning, which combines all the learning styles, is much more effective.

According to the authors of Why Are We Still Doing That? Positive Alternatives to Problematic Teaching Practices, multimodal learning combines words, images, and demonstrations into a single lesson, thus activating multiple sensory systems and creating “more tightly integrated networks of memory and meaning.” Additionally, when a concept is presented in more than one way, students exercise the mental muscles needed for real-world interactions. Everyday life, after all, rarely presents one-dimensional problems! Multimodal learning opportunities mirror students’ experiences outside the classroom and prepare them to apply their knowledge “in the moment” as they encounter various situations.

Lost on how to incorporate multimodal learning into your program? Here are three things to try:

  • Present familiar content in a new light by incorporating graphs, charts, or artwork.
  • Get buy-in from students by administering student interest surveys, like the ones from Y4Y for elementary and secondary students. Use the results to design activities they’ll love!
  • Bring in mixed media like podcasts, games, and videos to broaden students’ perceptions of everyday concepts.

Bonus points: Y4Y has a Multimodal Literacy Tool Kit that offers quick-use tools for reinforcing all modes of written language in out-of-school time.

There’s no guarantee that every student will absorb every lesson you embed into program activities. However, by kicking old teaching habits and providing diverse learning experiences, replacing empty questions with guiding questions, and sending students home with “little victories” to share, you’re building confident, well-rounded, creative young thinkers!


January 4, 2023

Do you ever feel like students and potential partners would line up around the block to be part of your program — if they just knew about the activities and opportunities you offer? It can feel like you’re shipwrecked on a vibrant island, waiting to be discovered.

Getting Off the Lone Island

Good news! There are simple ways to market your program to students and families, reach out to potential partners, and connect with the community. You don’t need a marketing degree — just some planning and creativity. And it won’t bust your budget, thanks to free or low-cost technology tools. Y4Y gathered the essential know-how and compiled it in an online professional learning module, along with a zip file of tools and templates for a quick start. Marketing and Outreach is our newest Quality Program Quickstarter (QPQ) module. In an hour or less, you’ll learn the basics of how to establish a social media presence, create eye-catching flyers, and more. Earn a Y4Y certificate of completion in the process! Keep reading for a taste of what you’ll learn.

Gathering Your Crew

To sail away from your lone island, connect, and grow your program, you’ll need to reach out and find the right crew to accompany you on your adventure. Here are some examples of how outreach strategies can help you achieve program goals:

Program goal 1: Recruit and retain staff

Outreach strategies:

  • Ask people you know, like a school principal or administrator, to help you recruit high-quality teachers.
  • Contact the education department at a local college or university to see if they have students who might want to work or volunteer in your program. Some colleges offer course credits for volunteer hours.

Program goal 2: Develop and strengthen relationships with community partners and organizations

Outreach strategies:

  • Ask partners to “donate” a guest speaker.
  • Perfect and practice an elevator speech, which is a short speech that explains your program in a compelling way and tells why a potential partner might want to join your crew.

Program goal 3: Intentionally design activities that provide what students and families need — and want.

Outreach strategies:

  • Have students and families complete an interest inventory. They’ll feel heard, and you’ll gain valuable information. Y4Y has surveys for elementary students, secondary students, and families.
  • Use a catchy title, logo, and color(s) to “brand” your program and make your marketing materials easy to recognize.

The Message in the Bottle

Outreach may help you engage a crew to help you get off the lone island, but marketing is the “message in a bottle” with a map that leads to brighter horizons. The message needs to convince people that your program has value. Here are some ways to “bottle” and deliver messages to market your program:

Social media

Email newsletters

  • Use newsletters to keep partners and families informed about program events and successes.
  • Keep it short and simple and include a “call to action” where appropriate, like “Sign up today!”

In-person events

  • Host an Invite-a-Friend Day. Encourage students to give someone a golden ticket and bring that person to your program.
  • Use an end-of-the-year awards banquet as an opportunity to show off the progress your students have made.


  • Use visual elements to tell your program’s mission, story, and accomplishments as you communicate data and information to families as well as school and community partners.
  • See the Y4Y Marketing and Outreach Tool Kit for templates and examples to get you started. If graphic design isn’t your strong suit, there are free programs and templates online, and some programs like Microsoft Word and PowerPoint have templates and graphics you can use.

On to Brighter Horizons

If you’re not sure which way to steer your ship off the lone island, make the Y4Y Marketing and Outreach module your compass. Download and customize the accompanying tools for a smooth journey. If you think marketing and outreach involves dozens of moving parts that you can’t quite pin down, don’t worry: The module breaks it down step-by-step. That means you can spend less time researching and more time putting your plan into action. On to brighter horizons!


November 23, 2022

The Red Apple of Yesteryear
In the days of yore, children skipped hand-in-hand to the one-room schoolhouse, sometimes towing logs if it was their turn to start the fire that morning. Younger and older students sat together while the only teacher in the building led the lesson, complete with a red apple on her desk. While the American education system has gone through quite the metamorphosis since then, the heart of it still beats strong, and that’s definitely something to celebrate! American Education Week is the week before Thanksgiving — this year, it takes place Nov. 14‑18. This is the perfect time of year to recognize the progress that’s been made in public schools throughout the country and the people who’ve made it possible. Y4Y tools for supporting English learners, including students with disabilities, and aligning with the school day can help you continue the great American tradition of expanding access to quality education for all!

Queuing “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang

Thankfully, there are many ways to get your students celebrating American Education Week, whether you do it now or later in the year. Each day is themed:

  • Kickoff Day on Monday allows students to study the history of the holiday. Take this opportunity to have a conversation with students about why they’re thankful for their education. A poem or short essay would be a great way to exercise their creative writing skills!
  • Tuesday’s Family Day theme is the perfect time to welcome families into your out-of-school time environment. What are some of their education memories? What subject(s) interested them, and did that influence their current careers? Your students can host a discussion circle with a Q&A session.
  • Education Support Professionals (ESP) Day on Wednesday is all about honoring the professionals who make the school day — and quality out-of-school time — possible. Bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers, clerical workers, health providers, librarians, and technical experts are integral to a child’s overall education, and ESP Day allows their valuable work to be recognized by the students they serve. Encourage your students to write a thank-you letter to an ESP who’s impacted their lives.
  • Thursday’s Educator for a Day is geared toward immersing students and business and community leaders in the decisions and responsibilities that educators face each day. Community members may act as “educator assistants” or join a video call to educate students by giving a presentation about their career or teaching a skill they use on the job. Another idea: Ask students to “dress the part” for their desired career and act as an educator about what the career entails.
  • The week closes on Friday with Substitute Educators Day, which shines a light on the significant role that substitute teachers play throughout the school year. In the wake of a substitute teacher shortage, it’s more crucial than ever to recognize that the school day would be impossible without their work. A handwritten note and/or drawing from your students addressed to substitutes would go a long way in appreciating their hard work!

This Is Where We Come In!

The purpose for celebrating American Education Week is to spotlight teaching and learning. Your out-of-school time program can bring students into the celebration and nurture an “attitude of gratitude.” Expressions of gratitude benefit both givers and receivers. Warm some hearts this season!


November 23, 2022

There are countless ways (no pun intended) to help students experience math as something interesting and useful instead of boring and irrelevant. And it doesn’t always require elaborate planning. You can use what you already know to create Mathbuster Moments “on the fly” to bust through students’ dislike or fear of math. How? By watching for ways to bring fun math experiences into whatever’s happening in your program right now. Here are some ideas:

  • Student Interest Survey: Students are interested in music. Let them pick a favorite song, have them search for the score (musical notation) online, and teach the relationship between the song’s rhythm and quarter notes, half notes, and so on.
  • Student Choice: If you present a “problem of the day” or a math project, provide options and let students choose.
  • Movement: Have student teams use various units of measure (e.g., feet, yards, meters, steps, pencils) to describe the length of a wall or fence line. Challenge them to invent a new measure and explain its pros and cons.

Here’s an example that involves number lines, a concept that students learn and apply to different situations in math classes (and everyday life), beginning as early as third grade.

Crash course on number lines: A “real number” is any number that can be plotted on a number line. It can be a whole number or a fraction, and either positive or negative (or zero). Every real number can be associated with its own point on the number line. Here’s what a number line looks like:


What you already know: You use number lines every day, but you might not call them that. Examples are rulers, tape measures, some bathroom scales, thermometers, barometers, and measuring cups. Many measuring tools use the “number line” concept, especially if they don’t have a digital display. Number lines don’t have to be horizontal. For example, the number line on a measuring cup is vertical — and the measurement marks show only the positive numbers, not the negative numbers. The bottom of the cup is the “zero” on this number line.

What you can do: Explain the concept of “number lines” the next time you use a measuring device during an activity, like:

  • A measuring cup when you’re cooking
  • A ruler during an art project
  • A thermometer to see if it’s warm enough to sprout seeds in your classroom window
    Note: The negative numbers are visible on a thermometer (to indicate “below zero”), but not on a measuring cup.

Make it relevant: If a student says, “Our family’s going on a road trip,” blow their minds with this travel trivia:

  • Watch for the green mile markers the next time you travel an interstate. They show the number of miles from where the interstate route enters the state you’re traveling in.
  • The counting always starts at the state line in the south (for north-south routes like I‑95) and in the west (for east-west routes like I-90). So if you cross a state line, the point where you enter a new state is like the zero on a number line. The mile marker numbers get larger as you travel east or north.
  • Each interstate exit is numbered according to the nearest mile marker.
  • The interstates that run east and west are even numbers, and most end in zero, from I‑10 in the south to I-90 in the north. The interstates that run north to south are odd numbers, and most end in 5, from I-5 in the west to I-95 in the east.

You can probably think of other math skills and concepts you know about and can share with students, like comparison shopping, estimating how far you’ll go if you take 10 big steps, measuring the dimensions of a room, and recognizing patterns in art and nature. Download the Y4Y Mathbusters Handbook for more ideas. Then challenge yourself to create a Mathbuster Moment this week. You might just surprise yourself!


November 23, 2022

Math is often considered the most universal language on the planet. Nearly as universal (or so it may seem) is the fear of math. Trust us — Y4Y gets it! That’s why we’re proud to introduce our newest course, Math Without Fear, designed to put educators and students alike at ease if they experience math anxiety. After all, math is essential to so many professions — and dreams!

Math Anxiety: The Silent Villain

Think back to the last time you did a math assignment or took a math test. Did you take one look at the first problem and notice your heart started beating faster? Perhaps your palms became sweaty, your stomach suddenly felt uneasy, or your mind went blank. If these symptoms sound familiar to you, it’s likely that you’ve experienced math anxiety. Math anxiety in children and adults is a very real and serious issue, and it can inhibit success in a multitude of areas. With this in mind, we’re overjoyed to dedicate an entire Y4Y course to overcoming math anxiety, along with tools to bust math myths and fears — for yourself, your peers, and students!

The Mathbuster MUSTs 

There are many tools you can use to take charge and put math anxiety in its place, from deep breathing to debunking myths like “mistakes mean you’re not good at math” and “boys are better at this than girls” and “being anxious about math means I don’t have math ability.” MUST is an acronym for the four main tools mathbusters use to fight math anxiety and nurture a can-do attitude:

  • M is for the messages students get about math and their ability to learn it.
  • U is for understanding math concepts and how thoughts and emotions affect learning.
  • S is for skills that help you learn and use math — and manage anxiety, if it’s an issue.
  • T is for thrills because students need positive experiences to help them discover the magic and satisfaction of math in a way that’s meaningful to them.

It Starts With Awareness

Believe it or not, awareness of math anxiety within yourself and your students is one of the most valuable strategies “mathbusters” can have in their tool kit! You can use the Y4Y Math Anxiety Self-Assessment/Autobiography tool to gauge your own level of math anxiety before inviting students to do the same. Research indicates math anxiety is contagious, so if you have it yourself, you can pass it along to your students without even knowing it. If you do have it, don’t despair! The Y4Y Math Without Fear tools will help you take a deep breath and discover that doing math is not only possible — it can even be enjoyable!

Plant the Seed — and Watch It Grow!

One of the most empowering aspects of overcoming math anxiety is fostering growth within your students. There are ways to boost students’ confidence through enrichment activities, homework help, and tutoring. Helping students realize the many ways they already use math in their everyday lives can make it seem less intimidating. Fun experiences in your relaxed program environment can develop students’ conceptual understanding (“know-why”) to complement the math procedures (“know-how”) they learn in school. It isn’t surprising that a good deal of math anxiety stems from a fear of the unknown, so learning ways to demystify math will put you and your students on a rosier “math path.”

Let Us Help You Open Those Doors

Math is integral to understanding so many real-world concepts. For too long, metaphorical doors have been deadbolted due to math anxiety. The good news? With the strategies in Y4Y’s Math Without Fear course and supplemental tools, you and your staff have the power to pick that lock, throw those doors wide open, and lead students to a world of opportunities.


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