By: Liza Flores and Kailey Rawson, City Year San José ‘17
City Year AmeriCorps members spend their days serving students as tutors, mentors and role models in 313 schools nationwide. Although they spend a significant amount of time in the classroom, City Year AmeriCorps members’ days extend beyond the last bell. A key component of the role involves supporting and leading afterschool programs. Current City Year San José teammates Kailey Rawston and Liza Flores share how they manage afterschool time and creatively keep about 100 students engaged and motivated after classes end every day.
Where do you currently serve?
Liza Flores (LF) and Kailey Rawston (KR): We proudly serve at A.J. Dorsa Elementary School located in East San José, California. During the day, we conduct small group tutoring and classroom support for third grade, and after school we co-facilitate extended learning time (ETL) for first and second grade.
What is your favorite part about being a City Year AmeriCorps member?
LF and KR: Working with our students and watching them grow is the most rewarding part of our service. We particularly enjoy supporting our first and second graders as they are developing identities.
What type of afterschool programs are held at your school and how many students attend?
LF and KR: We have periods of homework support, nutritious snack and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) activities. During homework support, we conduct blending learning in which students rotate between different stations such as computer time, reading and puzzles. After blended learning, we transition into snack, where we offer a healthy alternative to common high-calorie snacks. Lastly, we teach educational STEAM lessons ranging from science projects to art and technology integration.
How is running afterschool programs part of your daily role as a City Year AmeriCorps member?
LF and KR: It’s the most significant part of our day because it is how we build and maintain relationships with our students. During the day, we spend thirty-minute to one-hour blocks with students in small group tutoring or during classroom support for our partner teachers. After school is when we get to spend time with our students and really learn about them.
How have you seen students improve and grow as a result of their participation in the afterschool program?
LF and KR: During STEAM, we teach lessons that engage students through topics they are interested in. We provide spaces for students to incorporate their own ideas for lesson plans and activities and allow them to teach their peers about challenging topics such as the scientific process of global warming. We have seen our students grow outside of academics, which is one of the most rewarding aspects of this job. Throughout the year, students who previously had disruptive behavior issues now lead class projects and have opened up to us immensely. We have also seen growth in students who began the year knowing little to no English, who now work independently without needing our help to translate. Because of these changes, we have also seen these students grow in their personal and academic confidence and vocal participation in the classroom.
How do you measure student progress in afterschool programs?
LF and KR: One way is through monitoring the amount of help they require from us. For example, we used to translate homework assignments for two of our students in the beginning of the year, who now complete their homework on their own with limited questions. We also monitor student behavior and participation through a chart that tracks positive recognition and reinforcement. The students who receive the most "stars" or positive recognition earn leadership opportunities in the classroom and are assigned weekly jobs such as Teacher Helper, Computer Monitor and Line Leaders. These roles inspire students to do their best inside and outside of the classroom because they give them a sense of purpose and responsibility.
How do you keep students engaged and excited to continue what is already a long day of school?
LF and KR: Because we work with younger students, they tend to switch from projects very quickly; therefore, we incorporate breaks. In addition, we do not conduct these activities without student input. We give students an opportunity to share games and activities that they would like to participate in. We make sure to have a consistent schedule so that they know what to expect every day. Because of this, students know what is coming and look forward to certain parts of the day. For example, during blended learning time students look forward to computer rotations; during the middle of the program, students look forward to structured outdoor games; during snack, they look forward to STEAM activities. We always take time to refocus our students through meditation blocks where we ease them with transitions.
What resources do you use to support your afterschool role?
LF and KR: Before serving at Dorsa, we attended a summer program for elementary and middle school students and received training on working with students in small groups.
This experience allowed us the opportunity to work hands-on with students in the classroom and develop vital skills such as behavior management, attention-getters and general knowledge of what ETL entails. Throughout the year, we constantly collaborate with AmeriCorps members from other schools to share ideas and best practices.
City Year San José, '17
City Year San José, '17
This blog is part eight and the final post of our monthly series, "What Do AmeriCorps Members Do?" What else does the City Year AmeriCorps role involve? Read to learn more:
Part Seven: Provide Positive Behavior Support
Part Six: Address Student Absenteeism in Schools
Part Five: Utilize Data to Meet Student Needs
Part Four: Build Relationships to Help Students Succeed
Part Three: Track Student Progress Using Data
Part Two: Own Unique Responsibilities as Coordinators
Part One: Tutoring and Teamwork