Rethinking Extended Day

In today’s world, parents want quality aftercare for their children, children need quality extended learning to succeed, and schools have to respond.

A recent study by the Afterschool Alliance included two salient facts in its findings. First, only 8.4 million K-12 children (15 percent) participate in afterschool programs. An additional 18.5 million would participate if a quality program were available in their community. Secondly, more than 15 million school-age children (26 percent) are on their own after school. Among them are more than 1 million in grades K through 5.

Now more than ever, administrators have a full plate in dealing with test scores, teachers, parents, and making sure that students are getting the quality education they deserve. Before & After care does not lie at the core of administrators’ concerns, but it is one more thing they need to manage.

With this in mind, Learn It began developing its afterschool program in 2011 to serve parents, students and school looking for a fresh approach to aftercare. The process began with a review of expert findings from the last decade and a half of academic research. The academic findings were then informed by sitting down with parents, teachers, principals, and superintendents to gain insights into their expectations and learn what they viewed as the perfect afterschool environment. In essence, the parents, teachers, principals and superintendents asked for four things:

  1. to truly extend the learning day
  2. to make certain the program was structured
  3. to assure homework completion
  4. to design a program that included activity-based learning.

Learn It’s Before & After programs incorporate all of these features.

Homework help

In the Learn It program, the first 45 minutes is structured homework time. Students are guided and helped through their homework. Instructors make sure it gets done. And there is an actual homework contract that the parent signs with the students.

With the growth in the workforce of women with school-age children and given recent economic challenges that have led to longer hours for some and the need to take on a second job for others, quality time with the family is at a premium. So, a program that offers homework help is a real plus for parents.

Activity Based Learning

Once the 45-minute homework session is over, students take part in one of two activity-based programs — the Young Scientists program or World Explorers, a world studies program. These rotate monthly. The science program conveys the basics of science in a variety of areas, including plant life, the human body, and space. The world studies program enables students to experience the culture, dance, art, food, and music of various countries around the world. Students also get involved in poster-making, visual presentations, and art activities related to the country of the month.

Learn It believes that by creating a Before & After program that not only extends the learning day but also promotes student creativity, experimentation and practice.

Recreation

The last 45 minutes of the program is free learning. They can choose from a variety of ways to spend the balance of their afternoon, including Legos, group activities, physical activity, and Learn It’s electronic, interactive Jeopardy game that can be uploaded with any kind of curriculum that’s relevant to what students are being taught during the school day.

Learn It’s afterschool programs meet the important criteria of extending the learning day, adding structure to afterschool care, facilitating homework completion, and utilizing activity-based learning. Read more about the program in the Bridges magazine article, “Rethinking Extended Day” that features Learn It’s success with a school in Michigan.

New Wave of Speech-Language Therapy

The story of Isaac, a bright-eyed and energetic four-year- old, brings to life the power of blended speech-language therapy.

All things considered, everything was going as you would expect with a boy his age. He loved superheroes, video games, and trying to learn to skateboard. But early on his mother noticed she was having trouble understanding him when he spoke. She had gone through a similar situation with Isaac’s older sister. So, she had him tested.

Isaac lives in Nye County, Nevada. This rural county is home to several environmentally sensitive areas, including a portion of Death Valley National Park and is remarkable in the fact that it is the third largest county in the contiguous U.S., larger than the combined total area of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Delaware. While those four states hold a total population of more than 17 million, Nye County’s residents are estimated to be less than 44,000. Yet, the needs of a young child, such as Isaac, don’t change with the size of a county’s population.

As his mother suspected, Isaac was having articulation problems. So, the county provided the services Isaac needed, until Joe Gent, the Special Education Coordinator in Nye County, Nevada, found himself shorthanded. The therapist working with Isaac moved away in the middle of the school year. Mr. Gent wanted to ensure there was continuity in the services Isaac received.

The situation marked the start of a relationship between Learn It, a national provider of special education services, and Nye County.

Creating New Possibilities With Blended Therapy

Telepractice redefines the delivery of Speech-Language services. It enables the creation of a new blended therapy model that is more flexible, more customized and more in tune with challenges facing both the administrators who have to address the needs of their students and the ability of the therapists to fulfill their obligations.

For Learn It, telepractice has enabled the creation of a wide range of services for both individual students and small groups of students. These services have proven ideal for school districts where there are larger caseloads, high indirect costs, difficult to staff locations, and significant travel time between schools. Learn It has also been able to work with schools just to cover their response to intervention services. In sum, telepractice has proven to be an excellent resource offering the flexibility to be utilized in many different ways to address the needs of school districts.

To facilitate a blended approach, Learn It can provide a full or part-time, on-site or telepractice solution that allows for in-person therapy combined with the on-demand benefits of telepractice. This also allows for the greatest short-term and long-term flexibility in caseload management. Learn It can also provide blended on-site/telepractice services in combination with a district’s on-site SLPs, allowing schools to extend services to more students while managing special education costs. This blended solution helps eliminate gaps in therapy and maintain compliance.

Request a full copy of the Bridges Magazine Article, “The New Wave of Speech-Language Therapy” featuring Lara Lazear, Director of Special Education with Learn It.

7 Keys to Managing Difficult Behavior

Teachers and educators are always looking for successful ways to change children’s misbehaviors.

Effective interventions to address behavior problems within the school setting are essential, not only to the misbehaving child’s ability to learn, but also to that of the children around him or her. The use of positive behavior supports is essential to creating an optimal learning environment that builds positive behavior skills for all students.

Learn It believes that any effective intervention allows the child to understand that they are responsible for their own behavior. The choice always rests with them. Although there is seldom an easy fix, there are basic principals underlying effective behavior change. While the intensity and specificity of the strategies outlined may differ, getting to know these concepts can help build and reinforce positive behavior in all students. Here are our 7 keys to managing difficult behavior;

1. Understanding The Underlying Cause Of Students’ Misbehavior

Almost all behavior is purposeful. The first and critical step to changing behavior is to understand what the child is trying to “get” or “avoid.” By developing an understanding of the underlying causes of a child’s misbehaviors, you are able to determine whether the misbehavior is related to a “skill deficit” or “performance deficit.”

Interventions will vary based on whether the behavior is determined to be related to a “can’t do” or “won’t do” attitude. Clearly, a child who is being asked to perform math skills at the 8th grade level, while curriculum-based assessments show the child to be proficient at only the 2nd grade level, may exhibit significant avoidance behaviors, such as aggressiveness, acting-out, or withdrawal. These are an indication of a “can’t do” rather than “won’t do” situation. Intervention strategies in this situation would be significantly different than in a case where the child had adequate skill development but the child’s misbehaviors were based on a “won’t do” attitude.

2. Identifying the Triggers for the Misbehavior

Identifying a pattern of when and how the child acts out helps define the factors that trigger the misbehavior and subsequently suggests strategies that will be most effective for intervention. Does the misbehavior occur during a particular activity, like the math activity described previously, or a specific setting, a type of instruction, an interaction with a particular classmate, or at a certain time of day? Effective interventions are a result of understanding the circumstance surrounding the misbehavior. Again, all behavior is serving a purpose. The more we can understand the purpose of the behavior, the more we are able to assist the child in developing alternative choices of behavior to successfully accomplish the same purpose.

3. Advocate for Success

Become an advocate for the child’s success in bringing about effective behavior change. Design an intervention strategy that teaches the child that he is in charge of his behavior and that his success is the result of the choices he makes. Involve and empower the child in the intervention process. By providing the positive behavioral supports to assist the child in behavioral change, you can become a “cheerleader” and “coach” as you provide encouragement and support to bring about effective behavior change.

4. Common Language

A common language component assures clarity of what is being communicated between child and adult. This can be converted to the use of five classroom rules to govern behavior and expectations;

  • Follow Directions
  • Respect one another and the teacher
  • Stay on task
  • Maintain self-control
  • Participate in the class

Making these rules part of the day-to-day operation in the classroom minimizes confusion or attempts to manipulate. In the classroom, the common language may be represented by identifying, posting, and teaching these rules to the entire classroom. This presents clear and consistent expectations for all involved, thus minimizing the probability of unwanted behaviors.

5. Praise

Research suggests that a praise rate of 5 to 1 maximizes the probability of effective behavior change. When a staff member redirects a child, relative to one of the five classroom rules, the staff member should then look for and reinforce the desired behavior. For example, a child who is corrected for not following directions, such as he keeps getting up from his desk, should be praised five times within a certain time frame for following directions, i.e., staying at his desk.

6. Consistency

The techniques described above will be significantly diminished in effectiveness if the components are not implemented consistently and with fidelity. What this means is “keep your eye on the target.” Set a schedule to reinforce priority behaviors and stick to it. The use of graphs, charts, and stickers are also helpful in engaging the child to participate in his own behavior change.

7. Engage and Encourage Parents

The cooperation and involvement of parents is essential to changing difficult behavior in children. Involve them in the development of the intervention strategy. They may need to change or adjust some of their own behaviors. Oftentimes the parent/child relationship is supported by habit patterns of maladaptive behaviors developed over time. For example, a parent that gives in to a demanding child who has tantrums to get what he or she wants or to avoid something, is teaching the child to use that behavior in other settings such as school or the community. In this case, it takes parents controlling and changing their behavior to facilitate a positive behavioral change in their child.

Request a full copy of the Bridges Magazine Article, “7 Keys to Managing Difficult Behavior” featuring Marshall Langan, founder of Desert Choice Schools.