Month: March 2010

Homework Club/Help in After School Programs: How to make this time productive

Many after school programs offer a Homework Club or hour. Some are required to do so and some do it to add to their beneficial daily programming. Whatever the reasons it can be quite a challenge to have a successful homework program in an after school setting. Here are some tips to hosting a successful homework time

1)  Construct a Parent/Staff/Student Homework Agreement: Expectations should be clearly outlined on this agreement. Be sure to have the Parent/Child sign it and keep it in a safe place. Important questions/points to consider and include on this agreement are:

  • Are children who are signed up required to attend Homework time?
  • Discipline Policy and Procedures are clearly outlined and parents are aware of it. (see #4 sub-heading below for more on this)
  • How long will Homework time last?
  • How many Staff will be supervising Homework time?
  • Center responsibilities – are they responsible for making sure homework is completed or corrected? Will the center be providing materials such as pencils, rulers, lined paper, dictionaries, etc. If so, list what will be provided

2)  Provide a Daily Sign In/Out Log: Keep track of student attendance in HW Time and place it in the Parent area at the end of the day for their review

3)  Post Homework Time Rules: Make it clear what is expected of the children while they are in HW Club

4)  Provide a suitable Homework environment: Ideally a room with tables and dedicated only to Homework time. If you have a large number of students or mixed ages you may want to make a seating chart. Try to minimize distractions as much as possible. Set up a corner where children can sign in and out and check out pencils, paper, dictionaries, rulers, erasers, and calculators (optional.) It is best not to have an electronic sharpener in the room as it can become quite a distraction. Try to have Staff make sure pencils are sharpened beforehand and if necessary hand out handheld sharpeners, which are much more budget friendly anyway.

5)  Instill a Discipline Policy: The goal is to provide an atmosphere that is conducive for everyone to complete their Homework. Set up Homework Club Discipline Guidelines and be consistent about enforcing them. Example~ 3 Step policy if children are being disruptive 1) Verbal Warning 2) Move their Seat 3) Dismissal from Homework Time.

6)  Provide Rewards & Incentives: Reward positive behavior during Homework Time. Try to to recognize not only their good behavior but also how well they are staying focused on their Homework and completing it. You can use a Smiley Sticker Chart, and have a Homework Party after a certain number of stickers are earned.  You can also put up a WOW Board, showing off children’s stellar work.

7)  Have Break Time Before Homework Time: Try to have a 15 to 20 minute window between the time school gets out to when Homework time begins. During this break the children can relax, have a snack and then re-focus on their work without feeling burned out.

Best of Luck having a successful Homework Time at your program. As with any new idea with children, you may want to adapt or change a few things here and there to fit the needs of your program.

The Elusive Leprechaun

The Elusive Leprechaun

It is very fascinating to me as an adult to watch how children’s eyes sparkle when they talk about magic and make believe. With St. Patrick’s Day approaching I am hear more and more talk about the Elusive Leprechaun. 1st and 2nd graders are conspiring about how to catch him in their homemade leprechaun traps and having discussions about the last time they made traps. “I saw him last year,” one would say or, “His coat got stuck in my trap,” and another would add, “He left me a gold coin!”

Meanwhile the kindergarteners are trying to find out who left such a big mess in the classroom and why the water has turned green. “It has to be the leprechaun,” they say, “We have to search for clues!”  The next morning they arrive to see tiny green footprints all over the window along with a letter enticing them to search for his treasure. They find more and more clues around the school and finally find his treasure.

Now my older students are great with the younger students. Most of them seem to no longer have the same belief in magic and make believe but they are good at letting the younger students have their fun (with the occasional snicker here and there of course.) One year to my utter astonishment I had two 5th and 6th grade students who still believed. I had accidentally misplaced one of the kindergartener’s clues to find the leprechaun’s treasure along with the leader’s “map” of where the clues were to be hidden. The wind had carried it to a small grate under our building. While the two boys were playing ball they stumbled upon the missing clue along with the map. They ran up to me very excitedly and said, “We found the leprechaun’s treasure map, he left it where we could find it so we could find his treasure.” And off they went to find their treasures ~ it was precious and inspiring to me. Maybe sometimes those older kids who we think are past believing in magic and make believe still believe but just aren’t willing to show it!!

Tiny Leprechaun Footprints

Materials needed- green tempera paint, dish soap & 2 hands.


1)       Mix 2 tbs green tempera paint with 1 tsp dish soap (for easy clean up and disposal of the evidence)

2)       Make a fist, use the pinkie and side of the palm as the base of the foot and use paint brush to cover in paint. Use your fingers or handle of large paint brush to make five toes.

Taste of Mexico Club

My inspiration behind leading a Taste of Mexico Club came about a few years back. I was traveling in Mexico seeing the local sights and decided to take a class. Since I love all things culinary I took a class called, “A Taste of Mexico.,” hosted by a chef at a local restaurant. We learned to make salsa Mexicana, guacamole, tamales, and tacos. Once we were all finished we got to consume our delicious Mexican delights. The chef then surprised us all with awards as honorary chefs. Even as a fully grown adult I was giddy as a small child when I received my award. I wanted to share my experiences with the children I work with, and thus Taste of Mexico Club evolved!

Week 1-Hands on cooking experience: Make and Taste guacamole

The ages of children in my club were 6-11, so I had to make a few preparations beforehand such as chopping the cilantro, onions, and tomatoes and placing them in separately labeled zip lock baggies. For the avocadoes I simply cut them in half and let the children take turns scooping out the avocadoes with plastic forks into a large bowl. Once all the avocadoes were scooped into the bowl I had each child take a turn at mashing the avocadoes (I used a potato masher for this, which worked out fabulously!) Next, I assigned each student a duty to add a remaining ingredient: salt, pepper, lime, cilantro, onion, and tomatoes. Once everything was all mixed together everyone got to taste their creation. I then gave everyone an award for being a “Certified Guacamole Maker.” I also gave them the guacamole recipe to take home. One of the children loved the guacamole so much she went home and told her Dad about it. That next weekend they made it together and Dad put it out for sports party he was hosting and said, “My daughter made the best guacamole ever!”

Guacamole Recipe

Serves 15-20 kids

  • 6 avocadoes
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 large sweet onions, chopped
  • ½ -1 bunch of cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • The juice of 2-3 limes
  • 1 Serrano Chile, seeded & chopped (optional)

Week 2- Piñatas Part 1

To start our week I announced that we were going to make piñatas, but first we started by learning a few facts about the history of the piñata. Each child was given a medium sized balloon. We used newspaper strips & liquid starch to completely cover our balloons. (Liquid starch is hard to find these days – I scoured Target and Ralphs to no avail. My most consistent source for liquid starch is Pavilions.) Try to encourage the children to wipe away excess starch from their strips with their fingers, as the strips can easily tear if too wet. It also will not cover the balloon as well. Once complete allow the piñatas to completely dry. I like to keep them in bowls and constantly turn them when one side dries. I also try to keep a vigilant eye on them and patch any holes I see. Also, make sure the club leader makes a piñata as well to be used at the fiesta the last week.

Balloon Piñatas

  • Balloons (1 per child)
  • Newspaper strips
  • Liquid starch
  • Plastic Bowls

Week 3- Piñatas Part 2

Today we painted our piñatas. I put out green, white, yellow and green tempera paints and pencils for them to draw their design. Once completed we put them in a safe place to allow them to dry and save them for taking home Week 4.

Week 4- Fiesta Time

We had a fiesta dancing to the Mexican Hat Dance and Macarena and served quesadillas for snack. (These can easily be heated in the microwave 3-4 at a time.) I filled the leader made balloon piñata with small toys and attached a jump rope. Creating the handle can be the hardest part, but duck tape is your friend, utilize it well, otherwise not all children will get a turn at whacking the piñata. Prepare for this ahead of time by giving guidelines to the children. Ours were: 1) Each child gets 2 tries 2) Even if prizes fall out don’t grab them until the leader says go 3) Only pick up 3 prizes and then sit at the table, once everyone has 3 in their bag (and a leader has checked) then you have one more “free for all” at the prizes. Our rules worked out well but you may want to change them depending on your group dynamic. At the end of the club each child got to take home their piñata to use at their own party!

Looking for more club ideas? Check the club themes page for some more exciting themed-units!

When to host after-school clubs: daily vs. weekly models

You have several options when it comes to choosing how and when to host after-school clubs: monthly, bi-weekly, weekly, or daily. I personally feel that hosting clubs monthly is too infrequent and disrupts the continuity of the children’s enjoyment and fulfillment with their club experiences. If however, your after-school program is full of other activities I would probably adopt a bi-weekly model (having a “Club” Day every other week.) For the purposes of this article I am going on to focus two models: weekly and daily, and discuss the pros and cons of each.

Hosting clubs daily – Each club is assigned a certain day of the week.

(Ex. Mon=Art Club, T= Superheroes Club, W=Scrapbooking Club, Th=Camping Club, F=Basketball Club)


  • Many choices: this model offers children a variety of choices and attendance options.
  • Back up staffing plan: If a Staff Member is absent and lesson plans are readily available it is fairly easy to have another Staff Member to lead the club for that day.
  • More space and availability in clubs: Usually it is much easier to allow children to have their first choice club in this model. The club will be less impacted because they are not being hosted all on the same day. Also, as long as you provide sign ups well in advance of the club you can make sure there is enough materials and supervision for everyone.
  • Its their choice: For all the club planning you do there are going to be kids that are worn out from the school day and just want to relax, play basketball, or read a book at an after school program. Perhaps they are part of a sports or dance team and this is the only part of their day they have for relaxing and talking to friends. In the daily model it is the kid’s choice. They can join a club or opt out.


  • Lack of excitement: It may lack the excitement of having a “Super Club Day,” as in the weekly model.
  • Missed opportunities: If kids only attend 2, 3, or 4 days a week they may lose out on joining their first choice club.

Hosting clubs weekly- One day of the week is known as “Club Day,” all clubs are hosted that day, simultaneously.


  • Modified Day Schedules:  Hosting clubs weekly can be a huge benefit if your school or center has any type of modified school day program where the children get out of school much earlier on a weekly basis; For instance a 11:25 release time as opposed to 2:00pm release time. Having a “Club Day” can help to make modified days more enjoyable and interactive for the children. It’s a promising alternative to adding movie/video game time.
  • Very exciting environment: If you really advertise and pump up your Staff and encourage them to do the same kids will look forward to Club Day very much!
  • Allows for more programming: Since clubs will only be held once a week you have plenty of opportunity to plan other programs and activities at your program that are not club related.


  • Children may miss clubs: Some children have extracurricular activities or may only attend 2, 3 or 4 days a week. If clubs are offered only once a week many kids would lose out on having the opportunity to join a club.
  • Staff Absences: If one or more Staff is absent on Club Day it can definitely impact the program. Being in ratio becomes the main priority, meaning staff won’t be able to spread out as much. This can possibly lead to canceling one or more clubs for the day. That in itself becomes a choice that will be hard on the children ~ which club do you cancel/reschedule? Or do you cancel all clubs that day and move them to another day?
  • Limited Choices: Since all clubs are being led simultaneously there will likely need to be a limited number of spots in each club. This means kids may not get to choose their first choice club. Also, a child may not be interested in any of the clubs, and since there are only Club activities being offered that child may become bored.

Taking all of these points into consideration may help you to decide what model best fits your program. Originally, I used a weekly model myself, but due to concerns with staff absences, staying in ratio, and overall having a smaller number of staff and children a daily model has been a better fit for our program.

Do you have any other suggestions or tips on when clubs are hosted at your school? Please comment back! I’d love to hear from you.

Hawaiian Club Review

I had the pleasure of hosting one of my all time favorite clubs this past month ~ Hawaiian Club. I lived in Hawaii for several years in my childhood and recently visited the island of Kauai for this first time and absolutely loved it. It rained every day and then the sun would come out that same day. There were wild roosters walking around everywhere and the trade winds were wonderfully relaxing. I was in heaven! Upon my return, I was inspired to plan a Hawaiian Club ~ I was feeling so passionate I just had to share my experiences in Hawaii with the children in my program.

Week 1 – Hawaiian Name Art

This week was all about discovering Hawaii. The group consisted of children ages 6-12. I played some quiet Hawaiian music in the background, while I taught the children some facts about Hawaii as well as a few phrases. I taught them how to say thank you, “mahalo.” I also taught them that “Aloha” means hello and goodbye. I also found a resource online where you could find out what your name would be in Hawaiian. For instance, my name Marie would be “Malie.” After I unveiled each of the children’s Hawaiian Names we made Name Art using our newfound names. I provided the children with examples of Name Art and also challenged them to think of their own ideas. Their work was very imaginative and they enjoyed the project very much.

M=palm trees & goldfish, A=dolphins & sunset, L=flowers, waves, & clown fish, I=bamboo, E=seahorse, shells, turtle, & rainbow

Hawaiian Name Art:

  • 3×3 Construction Paper squares
  • 5×12 strip of black construction (longer  if needed)
  • Pencils and Markers
  • Name Art Samples

Week 2- Candy Sushi (Musubi)

This week we made candy sushi or musubi in this case. I was a bit pressed for time this week and while I had plans to make my rice krispie treat base from scratch I was not able to do so. Instead I used prepared rice krispie treat squares and wrapped fruit roll ups around them so it roughly resembled a spam musubi. In all actuality this worked out great because the rectangular shape of the bar was very suited for our project. The children were delighted with this activity and used a lot of creativity making their candy sushi. I also provided them with Hawaii’s Endangered Animals coloring sheets and talked to them about what it means when an animal is endangered and what can be done to protect them. This was a successful club session. I was proud of my keikis!

Candy Sushi “Musubi”

Rice Krispie Squares
Fruit roll-ups (preferably the kind with cut-outs because it gives the kids more choices for topping ans designing their sushi rolls)
Fruit by the Foot

Week 3- Tropical Necklaces and Learning the Huki-lau

This week we made Tropical Necklaces ordered from Oriental Trading Company. I also taught the children how to dance the huki-lau dance and invited the children to perform the following week for the other children/parents at the program. Today I received my first parent response on providing this club opportunity for their child. I was overjoyed and flattered at their response.

Week 4- Huki-kau Dance Performace and Luau

I felt like a nervous stage mom today as it was our performance and luau. The children danced their huki-lau dance (with a little help from me with the hand motions) and then we had our luau. The kids got to taste some Hawaiian style foods that I found at the local grocery store. Our menu included: Hawaiian rolls, macaroni salad, chicken teriyaki, pot stickers and Pineapple Guava juice. I wasn’t sure how they would like the food; in fact I was expecting there would be a lot of leftovers. I was wrong! They loved it and ate everything. I was very happy that the club was so well received and would certainly not be opposed to leading it again some time. Aloha!

Have you had any awesome club experiences? I’d love to hear your comments!

Looking for more club ideas? Check the club themes page for some more exciting themed-units!

Planning your first After School Club

Congratulations!! You have taken the first step and decided you would like to implement After School Clubs at your After School Program. Now where do you begin?

1) If time permits, schedule a Staff Clubs Planning Workshop. You can use information from my post “What are After School Clubs?” to help explain the benefits of after school clubs to your staff.

2) Give each Staff Member a piece of paper and ask them to write down several of their favorite hobbies or things the children in their center may be interested in. Their list may look like the one below:


-Harry Potter

-Hello Kitty



3) Once they have completed that task it is time for some creative brainstorming to develop their first theme. From their list have them choose one idea that is their favorite and place it in the center of the page. Now challenge them to think of games, activities, crafts & special events for that activity. I have included an example below using the theme “Harry Potter.” If possible have Resource Books, catalogs & internet available for this process.

4) Voila – Each person should now have a rough draft of the theme for their first Club. Make sure to have some type of lesson plan template available for them to plan their club idea more in depth. (Lesson Plans are very important to include in case the Club Leader is absent, another Staff Member can easily take over for that session.) Categories you may want to include on this form include: Club Name/Theme, Club Leader’s name, Location, Materials needed, Description, Age group, Ideal club size. Be sure to let your Staff know this was just en exercise and if they are not feeling their idea to go ahead and abandon it and try again. The most important tip on leading a successful club is to have the Club Leader be passionate about their club theme and the idea of sharing it with the children.

5) Finally, remind Staff to stay excited, positive, and enthusiastic about planning their first Club. Kids may not seem too excited at first, but that is only because they have never experienced After School Clubs before. After a short time, Staff, Parents & Children will come to see Clubs as a successful and fulfilling element to your after school program.

I hope this article was helpful. Please feel free to comment or share how you got After School Clubs started at your school!

If you have a great club or activity idea and would like to a guest writer or contributor at contact me

Happy Planning!


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