Keeping children awake in class is one thing. Keeping them in school is another. Citizen Schools has developed a nationwide after-school program aimed at keeping students in school so they can achieve more in their future jobs and in life.
To complete this feat, the program prescribes four essentials to learning: community support, leadership and positive values, access to resources, and new basic skills. These academic and real-life principles set the tone for the rest of the curriculum.
Providing students with a community gives them resources and a sense of relevance. Citizen Schools embeds students in the community by making citizens active participants, or mentors, in the education process.
Mentors are the hallmark of the program. Mentors create a vital link between community, students, and parents. They encourage parents to become more involved in their kids' education; connect parents, teachers, and after-school staff; and entice young people to contribute directly to community improvement.
Leadership and Positive Values
Leadership and positive values help kids obtain self-respect. You can build leadership skills by helping students plan ahead, lead groups, be effective team members, resolve conflicts, be self-aware, and take positive risks.
Access to diverse role models and professional pathways enlightens and enriches student knowledge. Students need access to the best resources their community has to offer -- educationally, culturally, and financially. You can help children become familiar with resources in their community by having them visit colleges and museums, introducing them to professionals and tradespeople, and allowing them to share opinions with political leaders.
New Basic Skills
Technology and other forces of the twenty-first century have spawned a new set of basic skills. Recent research indicates that young adults who develop these new basic skills earn higher incomes. In Teaching the New Basic Skills, authors Richard Murnane and Frank Levy define these skills:
Oral communication -- the ability to speak to an audience with confidence, making eye contact and using proper body language
Written communication -- the ability to use new vocabulary, communicate effectively in writing, and read critically
Data analysis -- the ability to solve problems by looking at the data
Technological adaptability -- the ability to use technology as a tool
Teamwork -- the ability to work effectively and solve problems as part of a diverse team
New Skills Chart
Drawing from this list, Citizen Schools emphasizes the following skills in its workshops.
This is the ability to speak coherently and confidently to groups, using appropriate eye contact and body language.
Content: Students are able to develop a well-organized written presentation in preparation for their oral presentation.
Delivery: Students are able to speak loudly, slowly, and clearly enough for the audience to understand.
Posture: Students are able to present information using eye contact and good body posture.
Visuals: Students are able to effectively use visual aids in a presentation.
This is the ability to work in groups, to encourage others, and to give and receive feedback.
Students are able to build on other apprentices' ideas during discussions.
Students are able to contribute to group work or discussions while sharing the spotlight.
Students are able to ask questions that deepen their understanding of other people's perspectives.
Students are able to give and receive constructive feedback.
This is the ability to make decisions and establish goals, and the willingness to volunteer to help other students. The student is a role model because he or she focuses and completes work, follows directions, and guides others.
Students are able to speak confidently in front of an audience.
Students are able to take the initiative to get information and resources in order to accomplish tasks or to solve a problem.
Students are able to set achievable goals and track their progress in achieving them.
Students are able to articulate verbally or in writing how the lesson is connected to the larger community.
This is the ability to test hypotheses, use data (qualitative and quantitative), draw conclusions from the data, and interpret and communicate data.
Students are able to analyze data and create a bar graph or pie chart accurately.
Students are able to ask a clear question and form a hypothesis that connects to it.
Students are able to draw concrete conclusions from data sets.
Students are able to identify and use data in their everyday life.
Students are able to develop and use survey questions to collect valid data.
This is the ability to identify and use technological tools.
Students are able to correctly identify the uses of specific technological instruments and tools.
Students are able to identify the specific roles of technology in society.
Students are able to use technology as part of problem solving.
Technology Advanced literacy (reading and writing)
This is the ability to use new vocabulary, communicate effectively in a written manner, and make inferences when reading.
Students are able to independently develop and think through the main idea of a written piece.
Students are repeatedly able to write paragraphs with topic sentences and supporting ideas.
Students are able to identify the main idea of something they've read.
Students are able to apply terms and vocabulary associated with their apprenticeship correctly.
Try to incorporate at least two of these skills in your lesson plans, assessing students' progress in mastering each skill along the way.