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Tips for Developing Activities

There's a lot to think about when you're putting together an afterschool activity. You need to consider the kids' age range, the allotted time, the program's setting, available resources, and, of course, what kids will learn. And it all has to be done in very little time. These tips are designed to help you build consistently strong activities - more quickly! Read through to find out how you can: get inspired, crystallize your idea, and tailor it to your afterschool environment.

What Does an Afterschool Activity HAVE to Do?
Step 1: Finding the Seed
Step 2: Pulling It Together
Step 3: Building the Activity
Sample Activities
Checklist for Successful Activities
Find more activities & tips

What Does an Afterschool Activity HAVE to Do?

Afterschool activities can be as educational as classroom lessons, but they also need to:
  • Be informal,
  • Be active
  • Be FUN.
  • Be delivered in small "chunks" -- brief sessions that include warm-up activities, follow up, and transitions for younger children.
  • Provide opportunities for social growth and development
  • Teach kids to work in groups
It's also a good idea to look for ways to bring recreational materials -- like interactive games or television shows -- into your activities. Even if your program has few computers or no Internet connection, you can adapt the content of these materials by using print-outs or VHS tapes.

The best afterschool activities are built on kids' interests and experiences.

Step 1: Finding the Seed

Search through the Web, peruse educational journals, talk to colleagues and friends to get ideas. Pay particular attention to lesson plans or educational media Web sites, like Thirteen's Ed Online and National Teacher Training Institute sites.

"Find a lesson plan that relates to what you're doing in your program. What jumps out at you? Start with something that means something to you." -- Cathy Smith

Try some of the Web sites listed below:

"Take from a lesson plan what you and your program are equipped to do Ask yourself: 'Would it be good for my program? No? Only if you have an art specialist, or a staff person who could run with it?' Pull out what could work for you" -- Cathy Smith

Step 2: Pulling It Together

Once you have found the seed -- the basic idea -- for your activity, assess how it can fit into your program:

  • How much time do you need?
  • Does your staff have prior knowledge/experience with this material?
  • What technology/media do you need? Can you make substitutions?
  • What similar activities has your program done in the past?
  • How much -- and what kind of -- space do you need?
  • Is the material age-appropriate?
  • How is this material relevant for your kids?

Step 3: Building the Activity

Now that you have all your resources lined up, it's time to put the activity together. It's always a good idea to write up what you are going to do. Sometimes, things can get chaotic and it's good to have something to refer to. In addition, if the activity worked well, you'll have it ready for next year. Here are some things to include in your write-up:
  • How much time will it take?
  • What are the materials that the kids will use?
  • Will the kids work in groups?
  • What is the activity?
  • Will there be a culmination activity, or assessment project (poster, presentation, picture, website, slide show, etc.)

Sample Activities

Go to the Afterschool Exchange Web site to find activities that used the above method.

Below you will see examples of afterschool activities that were adapted from classroom lesson plans. Compare these activities developed specifically for afterschool with the classroom resources that inspired them. What did our afterschool experts keep from the original lesson plans? What's different?

Classroom: Sew, You Want to Quilt?
Afterschool: Let's Look for Patterns

Classroom: Math for the Frontier
Afterschool: Moving to the Frontier

Jonathan Shevin: "Ask yourself: 'What can we pull out of these lessons to put into a more manageable size and time frame?'"

Checklist for Successful Activities

Click here for a printer-friendly checklist!

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