Practice in Action
Family Literacy Events are special scheduled times when parents and caregivers are invited to visit and participate in activities at their child's afterschool program. Events may include workshops on homework or parenting issues; student presentations, musical activities or plays; or exhibits of student work. Family literacy events may be led by afterschool staff, local experts, or community organizations.
In order to plan successful events, it's a good practice to invite a group of parents to participate in all stages of the planning process, from sharing ideas to implementation. The families in your own community and school are your best resource for understanding what will entice others to attend. Whenever possible, offer food and child care at your events. It's a welcoming gesture, and on a practical level, it makes it possible for more parents to participate. Look for opportunities to exhibit student work, showcase student talent through presentations, and have parents visit different rooms to meet afterschool staff. Aim for a few family literacy events each year to encourage family involvement and familiarity with the afterschool program.
At family literacy events, students can practice language and literacy skills when they talk about or demonstrate what they are learning. Parents and caregivers have the opportunity to increase their own skills as they support their children's learning. Participating in a festive, hands-on event can help families feel more comfortable with doing literacy activities at home, a practice shown to improve children's language arts and reading skills. These events can also help afterschool staff communicate with parents about their child's reading and writing progress.
There is much evidence that links parental involvement with student success. Yet many parents of ELL students are not fluent enough in English themselves to support their children's literacy development. To address this issue, a number of afterschool programs have successfully partnered with organizations that serve adult English language learners. Collaborations like these provide opportunities for adult family members to acquire English language/literacy skills while empowering them to become more involved in their children's education.
When planning family literacy events, include parents and caregivers from different cultural and language backgrounds on your committee. Ask all committee members to serve as liaisons and/or interpreters and encourage them to recruit participants in their communities. Provide promotional materials and invitations in the languages spoken in your community, and expand outreach efforts to include phone calls or in-person contact. It is important to offer transportation and child care for the event whenever possible; a lack of these services can be a major barrier to participation for many families.
Planning Your Lesson
Great afterschool lessons start with having a clear intention about who your students
are, what they are learning or need to work on, and crafting activities that engage students while supporting their academic growth. Great afterschool lessons also require planning and preparation, as there is a lot of work involved in successfully managing kids, materials, and time.
Below are suggested questions to consider while preparing your afterschool lessons.
The questions are grouped into topics that correspond to the Lesson Planning
Template. You can print out the template and use it as a worksheet to plan and
refine your afterschool lessons, to share lesson ideas with colleagues, or to help in professional development sessions with staff.
Lesson Planning Template (PDF)
Lesson Planning Template (Word document)
What grade level(s) is this lesson geared to?
How long will it take to complete the lesson? One hour? One and a half hours? Will
it be divided into two or more parts, over a week, or over several weeks?
What do you want students to learn or be able to do after completing this activity? What skills do you want students to develop or hone? What tasks do they need to accomplish?
List all of the materials needed that will be needed to complete the activity.
Include materials that each student will need, as well as materials that students
may need to share (such as books or a computer). Also include any materials that students or instructors will need for record keeping or evaluation. Will you need to store materials for future sessions? If so, how will you do this?
What do you need to do to prepare for this activity? Will you need to gather
materials? Will the materials need to be sorted for students or will you assign students to be "materials managers"? Are there any books or instructions that you need to read in order to prepare? Do you need a refresher in a content area? Are there questions you need to develop to help students explore or discuss the activity? Are there props that you need to have assembled in advance of the activity? Do you need to enlist another adult to help run the activity?
Think about how you might divide up groups―who works well together? Which students could assist other peers? What roles will you assign to different members of the group so that each student participates?
Now, think about the Practice that you are basing your lesson on. Reread the
Practice. Are there ways in which you need to amend your lesson plan to better
address the key goal(s) of the Practice? If this is your first time doing the activity, consider doing a "run through" with friends or colleagues to see what works and what you may need to change. Alternatively, you could ask a colleague to read over your lesson plan and give you feedback and suggestions for revisions.
What to Do
Think about the progression of the activity from start to finish. One model that
might be useful—and which was originally developed for science
education—is the 5E's instructional model. Each phrase of the learning
sequence can be described using five words that begin with "E": engage, explore, explain, extend, and evaluate. For more information, see
the 5E's Instructional Model.
Outcomes to Look For
How will you know that students learned what you intended them to learn through this
activity? What will be your signs or benchmarks of learning? What questions might you ask to assess their understanding? What, if any, product will they produce?
After you conduct the activity, take a few minutes to reflect on what took place.
How do you think the lesson went? Are there things that you wish you had done differently? What will you change next time? Would you do this activity again?
Even if you have only one computer, use it as a learning station at which students use their writing skills to develop a brochure to promote a family literacy event. Word processing or publishing software needed for such a publication is found on most computers and is easy for students to learn to use. Then, the night of the event, reserve the computer lab for students to show their parents how they used the computer to develop the document. Check out the complete brochure publishing lesson plan at About.com. http://desktoppub.about.com/od/lessonplans/l/aa_brochure.htm
- It's All in the Family: Planning High-Quality Family Literacy Events (http://legacy.nationalserviceresources.org/learns/tutor/sum2003/sum2003.html) A look at family literacy research, portraits of five projects engaged in family literacy, ideas for family literacy events, an event planning checklist, and print and Web resources to fuel a wide range of family literacy efforts.
- National Center for Family Literacy (http://www.famlit.org)
Promotes family literacy by improving parents' basic skills and attitudes toward education, parenting skills, children's pre-literacy and school readiness skills, and the overall quality of parent-child relationships. Offers free publications and previews of publications for sale. Information on the connections between family literacy and welfare reform are also available.
Jordan, G.E., Snow, C.E., & Porche, M.V. (2000). Project EASE: The effect of a family literacy project on kindergarten students' early literacy skills. Reading Research Quarterly 35(4), 524-546.
Neuman, S. B., Caperelli, B. J., & Kee, C. (1998). Literacy learning, a family matter. The Reading Teacher, 52(30), 244-254.
National Center for Family Literacy. (2003). Literacy facts and figures (4th ed.). Louisville, KY: Author.
Retrieved June 6, 2003, from http://www.famlit.org/page/Research/index.cfm (link no longer available 6/2009).
- Fountas, I. & Pinnell, G. (1996). Guided reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. A comprehensive resource for implementation of guided reading activities
- National Research Council. (2000). Starting out right: A guide to promoting reading success. Washington DC: National Academy Press.
- Braunger, J. & Lewis, J.P. (1997). Building a knowledge base in reading. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. This synthesis of research on how children learn how to read provides a baseline for educators and policymakers to consider in helping all children to meet higher standards.
- Novick, R. (2002). Many paths to literacy: Language learning and literacy in the primary classroom. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. This resource provides guidance on selecting children's books, and specific strategies to build comprehension from emergent literacy to independent reading.
- Curtis, M. & Longo, A. (1990). When adolescents can't read: Methods and materials that work. Cambridge, MA, Brookline Books.
- RMC Research Corp. (2001). Put reading first: Helping your child learn to read. A parent guide. Preschool through grade 3. Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy.
Describes the kinds of early literacy activities that should take place at school and at home to help children learn to read successfully. Designed for parents, based on the findings of the National Reading Panel.
- Armbruster, B.B., Lehr, F., & Osborn, J. (2001). Put reading first: The research building blocks for teaching children to read, kindergarten through grade 3. Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy. Summarizes what researchers have discovered about how to teach children to read successfully. It describes the findings of the National Reading Panel Report and provides analysis and discussion in five areas of reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension.