AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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Igniting the Fire

Professional Development for After-School Staff




Supported by a grant from the C.S. Mott Foundation, the AFT has developed Igniting the Fire: Professional Development for After-School Staff. This tool kit sheds light on why after-school programs are crucial in helping meet the needs of children; and it provides structure and guidance for educators who want to incorporate project learning (a process in which students apply what they've learned to deepen their understanding, usually ending in a product or performance) into after-school curriculum.

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Background and Research


In another era, the term "staying after school" meant remaining behind as punishment for misbehavior while the other kids went home. The concept of "after-school" has evolved and today is seen as a time when students either can get extra help or participate in a variety of enrichment activities. And as the percentage of working mothers rose, after-school programs also became a refuge to keep children off the streets in a safe and supervised environment. The AFT believes the after-school venue has great potential to enrich students academically and socially.

More Background and Research

Project Learning


Project learning is a high-engagement, flexible strategy that can bring excitement to learning. Although all activities in an after-school program will not be projects, we recommend that they be used extensively. This section highlights the different project learning practices and offers recommendations on how to keep students actively involved.

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Project Examples, Resources and Websites


This section focuses on the content areas of reading, mathematics, science and writing as well as interdisciplinary activities at various grade levels. We have included project ideas, websites, book lists, sample projects and templates to use in creating your own projects.

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Strategies for Helping Students

Best Practices

One of the most effective ways to encourage students is through the questions we ask in response to their questions or errors. Feedback on students' work or performance can motivate them to improve and excel. This section focuses on asking questions and providing feedback as two successful strategies to help students learn.

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Games and Icebreakers

School Setting

This section features several games to help students practice skills in various disciplines. The games also can be used as warm-ups during training sessions or staff meetings, closers or breaks, which means that staff can become familiar with the games before using them with students. Printable game boards are included.

Go to School Games & Icebreakers

Professional Development Modules


Included here are five modules that include explicit step-by-step presenter's guides, detailed activity descriptions, directions and special notes to support presenters. We also provide printable handouts, activities, game cards, etc., that are referred to in the modules.

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