- Reflect on what it means to implement meaningful curriculum and assessment as you manage your classroom.
- Identify key elements of developmentally appropriate practice and reflect on how these elements contribute to program mangement.
- Understand the importance of being a life-long learner with regards to working with school-age children and their families, and identify ways you can pursue your own professional development.
Two of the most basic and at the same time significant questions school-age staff members need to consider are: "What skills are typical for school-age children and youth?" and "What is appropriate for an individual child, and what is valued by the families and community I serve?" Spend a few seconds thinking about how you would respond to each of these two questions.
You may have indicated that the first question refers to having a knowledge base of typical skills so that you can begin to make decisions about what types of developmentally appropriate experiences and activities to provide. The second question addresses how to meet the needs of individual children and their families who come to your program with a range of skills, abilities, and interests.
Meaningful Experiences for School-Age Children and Families
Children attending school-age programs should have a variety of experiences that are developmentally appropriate, intellectually stimulating, engaging, and fun. High-quality school-age programs involve children in daily experiences and interactions with both adults and peers, and also provide opportunities for children to engage in individual work. As a school-age staff member, the activities you plan should promote exploration and learning in multiple areas such as Language and Literacy, Art and Technology, Math, Science, and Social Studies. Talking with and listening to the children, youth, and families in your care will alert you to their individual interests and culture. You can then use this knowledge to guide you as you plan experiences and activities.
As a school-age staff member, you bring your own personality, talents, and interests in your work with children to enrich the activities and experiences you plan. These experiences should build upon the interests, culture, and backgrounds of the school-age children in your program. Families should be invited to share information, knowledge, and skills with you in their child’s program. It is important that you plan meaningful learning experiences for all school-age children and youth in your care. You will notice a range of skills and abilities. Some children may need special adaptations or modifications to the activities you plan. You may have children in your group with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) that help them meet personal goals. You should read the IEP and learn about possible accommodations or modifications you may need to make. Flexibility is essential. You should refer to your Service- specific policies for guidance when making adaptations and modifications. Your program T&Cs and managers will support you in promoting high-quality developmentally appropriate practices for all school-age children in your care.
When defining developmentally appropriate practices, the National Afterschool Association (NAA, 2011) highlights the following:
- Model a positive and respectful attitude when working with children and youth
- Align daily practices with the program's philosophy, policies, and procedures
- Incorporate cultural diversity into the daily program
What are Indicators of Effective Curriculum?
Your goal should be to implement experiences and activities that are carefully planned, engaging, developmentally appropriate, challenging, and culturally and linguistically responsive. You should aim for growth and positive outcomes for all school-age children and youth in your care. In doing that, you should learn the following indicators of effective curriculum as stated by the National Afterschool Association (NAA 2011):
- Engage children in activities that meet individual needs, interests, development, and skill levels
- Design and develop effective activities based on current research and curriculum
- Provide an engaging, physically and emotionally safe, and inclusive environment to encourage play, exploration, and learning across developmental domains
- Design and develop an environment that offers choices
- Plan and implement learning opportunities that include goals and objectives
- Incorporate activities that promote cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development into all curricular areas
What are Indicators of Effective Assessment?
Gathering information about the development of school-age children and youth in your care helps you make informed decisions about their growth and helps you identify needs or concerns that may require further attention. Your goal should be to carry out assessment practices that are ethical, developmentally appropriate, and culturally sensitive. Meaning your assessment practices are based on a thorough knowledge of child development, they help children see themselves as capable and competent learners, and they respect and acknowledge children’s and families’ varied cultural experiences. The assessment practices you implement play an essential role as you manage your classroom. You should use assessment information to support growth and positive outcomes for all school-age children in your care. In doing that, you should familiarize yourself with the following indicators of effective observation and assessment practices as stated by the National Afterschool Association (NAA 2011):
- Identify children and youth as individuals and acknowledge that individuals develop at their own pace
- Recognize that observation and assessment are ongoing processes
- Maintain confidentiality regarding observation and assessment information
- Select and use observation results in planning and implementing learning activities
- Plan relevant and culturally appropriate assessments
- Develop a plan that utilizes assessment information to improve curriculum and modify learning experiences
- Implement formal and informal assessment tools for individual and group learning
You should work with your T&Cs and managers to ensure that assessment practices are developmentally appropriate for the school-age children in your care. Your program administration will ensure that you have the necessary resources (e.g., program or playground supplies, materials, equipment) and supports (e.g., observational feedback on your practices, additional resources) to promote these experiences and offer school-age children and their families high-quality care and education.
Considering your Own Professional Development
In order to be knowledgeable about best practices in school-age programs, you must stay current with the field. Joining a professional organization (e.g., the National Association for the Education for Young Children (NAEYC), the National Afterschool Association (NAA), or the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) is an excellent way to receive timely information about what is new in the field. Web sites that contain evidence-based information can be bookmarked. Attending local or state conferences is another way to learn about evidence-based practices and keep current on new information.
Your T&C can be a great resource and mentor in your professional development. She or he can answer questions or address concerns you may have, conduct observations of your work with school-age children and give you constructive feedback, assist you with further or specific training, help you access resources like books, articles, or videos, and support your overall professional growth. You may also consider looking for a mentor, book group, or groups on social media where you can share ideas and news about school-age programs. You will be a better staff member and advocate for school-age children and families in your care when you attend to your own professional development.
In your daily work as a school-age staff member, engage in the following practices with children, families, and colleagues:
- Get to know the children and families in your care. Plan for bias-free experiences, materials, and assessment. Treat each child and family member with respect, and acknowledge and honor individual differences in gender, cultural background, family income, abilities, or family composition.
- Provide a variety of developmentally appropriate choices and experiences for school-age children in your care.
- Have developmentally appropriate expectations about children's behaviors.
- Ensure activities and experiences are designed and developed based on current research and curriculum; for example, plan activities in the following areas: character and leadership development; education and career development; health and life skills; the arts; sports, fitness & recreation; and technology.
- Plan collaboratively with colleagues and your trainer or coach, and make sure you offer opportunities for each school-age child to achieve individual goals. During this process, make sure to invite families' input.
- Act in a responsible, reliable, and dependable manner. Be at work on time, be prepared, and communicate clearly with children, families, colleagues and supervisors.
- Support practices that are ethical, responsible, and developmentally appropriate and speak out when they are not. Familiarize yourself with your program's or service's regulations, standards, and expectations for high-quality practices. Remember to always look to your coach or trainer for guidance on difficult situations.
- Develop and cultivate a collaborative spirit and work with colleagues. Ask a more experienced school-age staff member questions about his or her practice or offer ideas to a colleague who may be newer than you and may need assistance.
Download and print the handout Curriculum: Decision-Making. Take some time to reflect on the ideas found in the identified resource. Then, share and discuss your responses with a trainer, coach, or supervisor.
Learn more about pursuing your own professional development. First read the article:
- 10 Ways to Coach Toward Youth Program Quality from the National After-School Association
Then use the Mentoring for Program Improvement attachment below to reflect on both supports you receive in your professional development and also whether you can take a more active role in this coaching process. Second, after you review some of the links below, use the Take Charge of Your Own Professional Development attachment below to reflect on how you can stay motivated in your practice, and how to stay current in your field.
- National After School Association
- New Mexico Out-of-School Time Network
- American Federation of Teachers, Professional Development for After-School Staff
- SEDL National Center for Quality Afterschool
Mentoring For Program Improvement
Bruno, H. E., & Copeland, T. (2012). Managing Legal Risks in Early Childhood Programs. New York: Teachers College Press.
Copple, C.,& Bredekamp, S. (Eds.) (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice for programs serving children ages birth through 8 (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
National Afterschool Association (2011). Core Knowledge and Competencies for Afterschool and Youth Development Professionals Retrieved from http://www.naaweb.org/images/pdf/NAA_Final_Print.pdf
National Association for the Education of Young Children (2011). Code of Ethical Conduct and Statement of Commitment. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/image/public_policy/Ethics%20Position%20Statement2011_09202013update.pdf
National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2009).Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/PSDAP.pdf